Chiasmus and Reversal in the Works of Henry Purcell
Lecture by Dr Alon Schab
The concept of temporal reversal seems to have occupied English composers throughout the seventeenth century.
In some cases reversal is applied to general structural elements (like scoring and musical form, creating overarching structures that somewhat resemble later 'arch' forms). In other cases, however, as in Purcell's trio sonatas, reversal permeates the very foundation of contrapuntal technique. Thus, the allocation of imitative material to the various parts, as well as the disposition of imitative material along time, are directly dictated by a small number of palindrome-like patterns. In my lecture I will analyse some of Purcell's fugue movements, and discuss the various ways in which identifying temporal reversal challenges our understanding of Purcell's rhetoric, his compositional process, and the identity of those who influenced his technique.
Alon Schab is a musicologist, a composer and an early music performer. He wrote his doctoral dissertation in Trinity College Dublin on the subject of 'Compositional Technique in Purcell’s Early Instrumental Works'. Since 2012 he is a faculty member in the Department of Music at the University of Haifa. He is a committee member of the Purcell Society, and the secretary of the Israeli Musicological Society. His forthcoming book The Sonatas of Henry Purcell: Rhetoric and Reversal will be published (University of Rochester Press) in June. His recent rediscovery of the 1832 ‘Israeliten’ manuscript (together with his research partner David Rees), brought to light the earliest known source of Schubert’s Psalm 92 D.953.
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