Archive for July 24th, 2012

by Allan Fish

(UK 1995 152m) DVD1/2

A nation of babbling backseat cab drivers

p  Mike Bluett  d  Tony Palmer  w  John Osborne, Charles Wood  ph  Nic Knowland  m  Henry Purcell  md  John Eliot Gardiner  art  Nigel Talano  cos  John Gibbs

Michael Ball (Henry Purcell), Simon Callow (Charles II), Lucy Speed (Nell Gwyn), Robert Stephens (Sir John Dryden), John Shrapnel (Samuel Pepys), Rebecca Front (Mary II), Corin Redgrave (William III), Letitia Dean (Portsmouth), Terence Rigby (Capt Cooke), Murray Melvin (Shaftesbury), John Fortune (Edward Hyde),

When I first saw Tony Palmer’s film of Henry Purcell’s life it was in its maiden TV broadcast, Christmas Day 1995.  If nudged into thinking what Purcell meant to me then, it would have probably been as the composer of the piece reworked electronically for the opening to Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, a film I still was yet to see due to its withdrawal by the director.  But I’d seen clips, I’d got the CD score.  I was enamoured. 

            I could be forgiven for my ignorance, in part because of my youth but largely because so little is known of him, except that he wrote nearly a piece a week for the last fourteen years of his life and died at the same meagre age as Mozart a century later.  When John Osborne, the great playwright of the fifties and sixties, came to write his piece in Purcell he was approaching his own end, and what he created would amount to three requiems in one.  A requiem not only to himself and his first love, the theatre, not only to Purcell and his too long neglected genius, but to England itself. (more…)

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