Some of Purcell’s creative attributes have a particular appeal for me: his music is inventive and melodically interesting, and it includes many striking themes. The character of his music is joyful and often inspired by folk tunes (Scottish and Irish), yet at the same time one finds profoundly religious moods in his work. The harmonies are rich and original (sometimes one even finds parallel sevenths), and the vitality of his music is often strengthened by means of rhythmic devices, through the use of triplets and dotted rhythms.
I have used these qualities as my starting point in composing the Hommage. I have quoted three of Purcell’s themes: the clearest reference is to the ‘Dance of the Furies’ from the opera Dido and Aeneas, whose echo effects seemed to me to lend themselves very well to the use of organ manuals (Allegro, from bar 13).
The theme of the ‘Triumphant Dance’ from the same opera is concealed: quoted in the 4-foot pedal in regular crotchets, it appears here as a foundation below all the other musical activities (Più mosso, bar 69).
Purcell’s best-known theme, the ‘Trumpet Tune’, is only quoted in detail within the framework of my own theme, in bar 208, bar 212, and, split across different octaves, in bars 228 to 231.
My chief concern was to convey the sparkling quality of Henry Purcell’s music with the tools of our own modern musical vocabulary. The advice given as to the stops to be used should be read only as suggestions, depending, of course, on the organ in question. They are merely intended as indications of my thoughts on the mood of individual passages. Nor are the given metronome markings meant to be adhered to too strictly, since they too may have to be adjusted according to the acoustics of the building in which the organ is to be played.
from notes by Petr Eben © 2002
English: Julia Rushworth and Atlas Translations