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The Purcell Companion is a very English book, a piece of musicological Anglicanism whose 'broad church' ethos is reflected in its insouciant mix of methods and emphases. Such heterogeneity is healthy. Yet several of the chapters are as paradoxical as Anglicanism, showing a positivistic unwillingness to speculate, yet a willingness to rest on certainties which are not quite as certain as they at first seem. No less Anglican are the intractable tensions which lurk beneath a robustly variegated surface. Most of these tensions originate in historical musicology's tendency to operate as a series of discrete streams, distinguished by methodology and emphasis and by the value placed on certain types of conclusion. All too often, the streams are separated by walls of mutual mistrust, even of incomprehension.
The most stimulating chapters in The Purcell Companion tend to be those which show a willingness to breach these walls; so it is entirely appropriate that this latest addition to the distinguished list of Faber Companions should be dedicated to the memory of one of British musicology's great wall-busters, Michael Tilmouth. The idea for the book was his, and a proposal was first floated ten or more years ago. At his death in 1987, it had progressed not much further than drawing up a table of contents and a list of contributors.
The revived Companion, edited by Michael Burden, adopts a layout and emphasis different from those envisaged by Tilmouth. Its eleven essays are distributed among five sections. The introductory section consists of just one essay, 'The Purcell Phenomenon' by Andrew Pinnock. In 'Backgrounds' there are three: Jonathan P. Wainwright looks at 'Purcell and the English Baroque', Graham Dixon at 'Purcell's Italianate Circle', and Michael Burden at 'Purcell and his Contemporaries'. Some might quibble with the inclusion, in a section entitled 'A Composer for the Church and Chamber', of a chapter on Purcell's odes. But The Purcell Companion rightly adopts a broad approach to generic definition; so Bruce Wood's 'Purcell's Odes: a Reappraisal' sits comfortably with 'Music for the Church' by Eric Van Tassel and with 'The Consort Music', in which Peter Holman discusses Purcell's instrumental practice, from the early consort music to the instrumental music for the theatre. In the fourth section, 'Purcell and the Theatre', Edward A. Langhans contributes 'The Theatrical Background' and Roger Savage 'The Theatre Music'. Finally, there are two essays under 'Purcell in Performance', with Andrew Parrott offering 'Performing Purcell', and Roger Savage providing a second revision of his well-known article 'Producing Dido and Aeneas: an Investigation into Sixteen Problems', which first appeared in Early Music (iv (1976), …