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It was perhaps inevitable that the 1995 tercentenary commemorations of Purcell's death would yield a rich legacy of publications devoted to his life and music. And because the circle of scholars actively engaged in Purcell research is far from vast, it was predictable, as well, that there would be some overlap among the important essays, books and editions that have emerged. Purcell Studies, a collection of essays edited by Curtis Price, is an interesting case in point.
Price claims in the preface that 'this book offers . . . a selection of the latest scholarly research', and while that is undeniably true, it is also fair to say that it shares some of its material with other recent studies. For example, portions of Bruce Wood's comprehensive investigation into mutual influences among the odes of Purcell and Blow - in this volume entitled '"Only Purcell e're shall equal Blow"' - are given only slightly different emphasis in his 'Purcell's Odes: a Reappraisal', found in The Purcell Companion, edited by Michael Burden (London & Boston, 1995, pp. 200-253). Wood's essay, in turn, shares material with Martin Adams's contribution to Purcell Studies, entitled 'Purcell, Blow and the English Court Ode'. Some, no doubt, will find it ironic that Adams has already found fault with a few of Wood's findings in his review of The Purcell Companion (Music & Letters, lxxvii (1996), 267). This is but one example of the rather complex interrelationships among the many recent publications devoted to the composer.
There is nothing wrong with overlap, of course, even within a single volume, as is often the case in Purcell Studies. What is less expected, perhaps, is that the overlap should from time to time yield quite different interpretations of the same evidence. When such differences of opinion are openly acknowledged, or simply identified through editorial intervention in a footnote, I find it a healthy situation; when they are not, some confusion can arise. Still, on the whole I think Price was correct in his decision ' . . . to …