Purcell, Henry and Eccles, John: Don Quixote.
3 parts, 1694 – 96.
Facsimile: Printed scores, Samuel Briscoe.
Introduction by Curtis Price
Thomas Durfey’s ambitious dramatisation of Cervantes’s Don Quixote was issued as three separate plays. Parts 1 and 2, with a mixture of music by Henry Purcell and John Eccles, were produced in May and July 1694 at the theatre in Dorset Garden, despite ‘violent hot weather’. Both parts were very successful. Part 3, however, was a failure. It had its première at Drury Lane in November of 1695. With music by various composers it did, nevertheless, include some fine music, notably Purcell’s ‘From rosy bowers’.
While adorned with less lavish scenery, the Don Quixote trilogy was obviously designed to emulate the so – called semi-operas, as the spoken drama revolves round the numerous musical scenes. The first two parts were probably intended as a cheap substitute for the annual spring extravaganza – the last of which, The Fairy-Queen (May 1692), had put a severe financial strain on the theatre company.
In this facsimile volume the music is reproduced from copies held by Richard Macnutt, Robert Spencer, the Royal College of Music, the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and Magdalene College, Cambridge. Parts 1 and 2 were printed using movable type, whilst the final part, issued in January 1696, was engraved on copper plates.
Curtis Price has written a very informative introduction to the plays and it is fascinating to see the various methods and styles of reproduction used by a music publisher in the seventeenth century.