Spanning his short creative life, Purcell’s Songs are a constant feature in his output. In between official Odes, the semi-operas and instrumental music is a profusion of wonderfully intimate, sometimes bawdy and explicit songs. Written for his circle of friends the texts are from a variety of sources – Shakespeare and Dryden understandably loom large among the poets whose words were set by Purcell. In 1698 his songs were published complete in Orpheus Britannicus.
Purcell composed only one true opera, and the form known as ‘semi opera’ was the most popular in England at the time. In these works the actors did not sing. Musical interludes either of vocal numbers or instrumental music punctuated the action. The second half of this release contains examples of the instrumental music Purcell provided for Dioclesan and Timon of Athens.