In 1995, when the musical world
celebrated the tercentenary of the death of Henry Purcell, Guy
Woolfenden was researching the songs of Purcell for The
Wives’ Excuse, a rarely performed play by Thomas Southerne,
and was once again reminded of the wit, exuberance and pathos of
Purcell’s theatre music.
As there is, of course, no original
clarinet music by Henry Purcell, he decided to celebrate this important
anniversary by giving clarinettists a treat and fulfilling a commission
by the Clarinet and Saxophone Society of Great Britain. The music is
inspired by, and draws on the music that Purcell wrote for The
Gordian Knot Unty’d (1691). The last movement is a Jig in
which Purcell ingeniously incorporates the tune Lilliburlero
as a ground bass.
Gordian Knots is
dedicated to the memory of Peter Woolfenden, the composer’s brother,
who sadly died during its composition.
The first performance took place in
Finland in July 1995 with the British Clarinet Ensemble, directed by