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by Guy Woolfenden

duration 13 minutes

  I Introduction and Air
  II Chaconne
  III Jig

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 Charles Hine.

Particularly memorable is the richly expressive central section of the opening Air, and the slow central Chaconne brings a mood of pathos with its plangent dissonances.

Clarinet & Saxophone Magazine


CD BCE Gordian Knots

British Clarinet Ensemble

conducted by Charles Hine



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