Henry Purcell, ‘The Art of Descant’, in John Playford, An Introduction to the Skill of Musick (Henry Playford, London, twelfth edition (the first credited to Purcell: 1694)
As has been noted elsewhere, no contemporary text mentions Purcell's fantasias, but glimpses of the composer’s approach to polyphony can be seen in his contribution to this introduction to composing polyphony. The original text having been adapted by John Playford in 196? from a 161? treatise by Thomas Campion, the book had several substantial alterations made between editions. The largest of these are between the ninth edition (1679) and the tenth (1683) where the Art of Descant section is rewritten to give more of a basis in dissonance resolution, and between this and the eleventh edition, which is the edition credited to Purcell, and which devotes more time to conterpoint and less to homophonic part-writing. The relationships between this text and the compositional principles underlying the fantasias are explored in Howard (2007). A reasonably complete transcription of this edition may be found here. Errata for this transcription and additional music examples will soon be placed on our website.


Joseph Warren, ‘Memoirs of the Composers’, in William Boyce (J Warren, ed), Cathedral music, being a Collection in score of the most valuable and useful compositions for that service by the early English Masters Vol II (London, 1849), pp. 1-19
Includes a biographical sketch of Purcell, some of whose music features in Boyce’s collection. Although the sketch is only eight pages long, a quarter of it is devoted to Add 30,930, then in the posession of the editor, who notes "The whole of these Fantasias have not hitherto been noticed in any Biographical account of Henry Purcell". He also usefully gives information about the folio order, provenance and binding prior to the rebinding and reordering that we see now. Thompson (1995) first notes this text.
The Purcell Exhibits at the British Museum’, in The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular, 36/634 (December 1895) pp. 797-799.
Lists the sources of Purcell in the musem. Intriguingly, the fantasias already have a definite article: ‘No. 1 of the three-part “Fantazias.”‘.
Augustus Hughes-Hughes, ‘Henry Purcell’s Handwriting’, The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular, 37/636 (February 1896), pp. 81-83.
J. A. Fuller Maitland, ‘Foreign Influence on Henry Purcell’, in The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular 37/635 (Jan, 1896)
William Barclay Squire, ‘Purcell as Theorist’, in Sammelbände der Internationalen Musikgesellschaft 6 (1905) pp.521-567
Useful comparison of the Introduction to the Skill of Musick before and after Purcell’s substantial modifications.
J. A. Fuller Maitland, ‘Purcell’, in J. A. Fuller Maitland (ed.) Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, iii (Macmillan, London, 1904-10), pp. 849-857.
Sir J Frederick Bridge, C.V.O., ‘Purcell’s Fantazias and Sonatas’, in Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association 42nd Session (1916).
Possibly the earliest description of the source and music. Includes music examples.
André Mangeot, ‘Les Fantaisies de H. Purcell et le Quatuor de G Fauré’, Le Monde Musical, (Oct-Dec, 1925)
André Mangeot, ‘The Purcell Fantasies and their Influence on Modern Music’, Music and Letters 7/ii (April 1926)
These two articles provide thematic analyses of the G minor fantasia in four parts and draws comparisons with Fauré’s late quartets. Included in the article is 31 bars of musical example, with different phrasing and performance markings to the Warlock/Mangeot edition. Purcell’s affinity with and relevance for modern music is stressed and, when compared with Haydn, he is declared to reveal a ‘more modern nature’.
Arthur Eaglefield-Hull, ‘A New Light on Purcell’, in The Musical Times, 68/1018 (Dec 1927), pp. 1075-7
Peter Warlock, ‘The Purcell Fantasias’, letter in The Musical Times, 69/1019 (Jan, 1928), p. 58
Percy Grainger, ‘Democracy in Music’ in Malcolm Gillies and Bruce Clunies Ross (eds.), Grainger on Music (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1999)
Holds the fantazias up as exemplary ‘democratic’ music.
Arthur Eaglefield-Hull ‘The Purcell Fantasias’, letter in The Musical Times, 69/1020 (Feb, 1928), p. 158
Sometimes rather confused article reviewing the Warlock & Mangeot edition, praising Purcell's music and largely damning Warlock's edition for its textual inaccuracies, editorial decisions and artistic judgements. Warlock’s response and Eaglefield-Hull’s reply are both robust.
W. Gillies Whittaker, ‘Some Observations on Purcell’s Harmony’, in The Musical Times 75/1100 (Oct, 1934)
A discussion grounded on the sonatas and fantasias ‘for the simple reason that I am on holiday in a remote place, and have with me only the second set of Sonatas...and the String Fantasias’. He concludes that Purcell‘s style is ’peculiarly English and strangely insular’. Some of his more detailed analysis appears to be based on the (incorrect) assumption that the sonatas published in 1697 are late work.
Gerald M. Cooper, ‘The Chronology of Purcell's Work, in The Musical Times 84/1205 (July, 1943), pp. 203-204.
Denis Stevens, ‘Purcell’s Art of Fantasia’, in Music & Letters 33/4 (Oct 1952), pp. 341-345
General overview of the sources and the music, with theorising about the instrumentation, original contents of the source (a nice, but not entirely convincint argument) and compositional models.
Franklin Zimmerman, ‘Purcell and Monteverdi’, in The Musical Times, 99/1385 (Jul, 1958)
Thurston Dart, ‘Purcell’s Chamber Music;’, in Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association 85th Session (1959).
Franklin B. Zimmerman, ‘Henry Purcell: Fantazias and In Nomines, music review in Notes, Second Series 20/2 (Spring, 1963)
Glowing review of Dart’s 1959 edition
J. A. Westrup, Purcell (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1935 revised 1965)
Margaret Campbell, Arnold Dolmetsch: the man and his music??, (???, 1975)
Some (unfortunately little) information on early performances.
Franklin B. Zimmerman, Henry Purcell: A Guide to Research (Garland Publishing, New York, 1989).
Comprehensive study guide and bibliography (unfortunately published six years before the tercentenary, and thus in need of updating).
Peter Holman, Henry Purcell (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1994)
Music and source-oriented discussion. Considers compositional models and inspirations for the pieces, partly based on his belief that the reason for such an anachronistic set of pieces is probably that ‘Purcell wrote his fantasias more as composition exercises than as material for performance’
Martin Adams, Henry Purcell: the origins and development on his musical style (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1995)
Analytical approach to the music, focussing primarily on motivic analyses. Chapter six is devoted to the early instrumental music, primarily the fantasias and sonatas
Robert Shay, ‘Purcell as collector of ‘ancient’ music: Fitzwilliam MS 88’, in Curtis Price (ed), Purcell Studies (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1995), pp. 35-50.
Discussion of a source of sixteenth and seventeenth century anthems owned and partially copied by Purcell
Peter Holman, ‘Consort Music’, in Michael Burden (ed.), The Purcell Companion (Faber and Faber, London, 1995).
Ruby Reid Thompson, ‘The Fantasia in England from Alfonso Ferrabosco II To Henry Purcell’, in Journal of the Viola da Gamba Society of America 32 (1995)
Robert Thompson, ‘Purcell’s great autographs’, in Curtis Price (ed), Purcell Studies (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1995), pp. 6-34.
Detailed study of Add 30,930, including an inventory and discussion of the compilation and provenance of the source.
Robert Thompson, ‘The Sources of Purcell’s Fantasias’, in Chelys 25 (1997), pp. 88-96.
More information on concordances. Ultimately this article and the one from Purcell studies are expanded for Shay & Thompson (below)
Peter Holman, ‘Henry Purcell and Joseph Gibbs: A new source of the three-part fantasias Z732 and Z734’, in Chelys 25 (1997), pp. 97-100.
Discusses a source containing an eighteenth-century keyboard score of two fantasias, one labelled as a fugue.
David Pinto, ‘Purcell’s In Nomines: A tale of two manuscripts (perhaps three)’, in Chelys 25 (1997), pp. 101-106.
Robert Shay and Robert Thompson, Purcell Manuscripts: The Principal Musical Sources (Canbridge University Press, Cambridge, 200)
Alan Howard, Purcell and the Poetics of Artifice: Compositional Strategies in the Fantasias and Sonatas, Phd Thesis (University of London, August 2006)
This thesis, by on of the consultants for Purcell Plus, discusses the Purcell’s approach to counterpoint in terms of both the music and contemporary writings including Purcell’s own contributions to ‘The Art of Discant’ (see above). Also relevant is a discussion of the nationalist reception of Purcell and his music.


Franklin B. Zimmerman, Henry Purcell: 1659-1695 (Macmillan, London, 1967)
Maureen Duffy, Henry Purcell (1659-1695) (Fourth Estate, 1995)
Jonathan Keates, Purcell: A Biography (Pimlico, London, 1996)
These general biographies are included here for background information, but give little consideration to the fantasias themselves.


Henry Purcell (Peter Warlock, transcr., André Mangeot, ed.), Three, Four and Five Part Fantasias for Strings... (J. Curwen & Sons, London, 1927)
The first public issue of this music. Excludes the In Nomines, and involves some (silent) rearrangement for performance by string quartet. Although Warlock is credited as transcriber, Mangeot repeatedly refers to consulting the manuscript at the British Museum, and the division of labour between the two is never made clear.
Henry Purcell (Herbert Just, ed.), Fantasien für Streichinstrumente (Nagels Musik-Archiv, Celle: Book 1: Drei und vierstimmige Fantasien, 1930, Book 2: Vier- bis siebenstimmige Fantasien, 1935, both repr. Kassel, 1954)
Surprisingly, perhaps, this is much more academic than the Warlock/Mangeot edition, with a score that keeps very close to the text, adding little except translations of Purcell’s tempo markings. This is the first publication to include the In Nomines.
Henry Purcell (Cyril Frank Simkins, arr.), Fantasy on one note. Arranged for Organ, (Oxford University Press, London, 1936)
Henry Purcell (Arthur James Bramwell Hutchings, arr.), Four-part Fantasia. No. 8 for Strings... Transcribed for Organ (Stainer & Bell, London, 1939)
Henry Purcell (Fritz Rikko, ed.) Three Fantasias for Violin, Viola and 'Cello, (Weaner Levant Publications, New York, 1946)
Henry Purcell (Walter Goehr, ed.), Fantasias for Strings. Edited for String Orchestra (Universal Edition, Vienna, 1956)
Henry Purcell (Thurston Dart, ed.), Fantazias and In Nomines (Novello, 1959)
Prepared for the Purcell Society. Includes thorough critical commentary, including concordance with MSS Add 31,435 and Add 33,236.
Henry Purcell (Anthony Ford), Fantazias and In Nomines, (Edition Eulenburg, London, 1973)

Recordings and sleeve notes

The Music Society String Quartet, Purcell Fantasies (Columbia: National Gramophonic Society, 1925)
First recording from the Warlock/Mangeot edition, with Mangeot himself playing first violin. A transfer of the C minor fantasia may be downloaded from here
Zorian String Quartet, Britten: Quartet no 2 C, Op. 36; and Purcell: Fantasia upon one note (HMV 1946)
Griller Quartet, ??? (Decca, 1947-8)
Series of B sides, pairing, for example, Mozart K421 with Fantasia No. 9
Pasquer Trio, Ermend Bonnal Trio, (Pathé, 1939)
Fantasia No. 2 on reverse. The group had already performed the piece in live concert in Rome in 1937/8 (Musical Times, 79/1139, p67)
Cécile Dolmetsch, Kenneth Skeaping, Nathalie Dolmetsche, Fantasy in Three Parts No. 3 (Chantry, ??)
Leonhardt Consort, ??? (Teldec, 1967, reissued on Henry Purcell: Anthems/Instrumental Music/Songs, 1993)
Includes Fantasia No 7
English Consort of Viols, ??? (Turnabout, 1976)
Winterthur String Orchestra (Walter Goehr, Dir.), Nine Fantasias for Strings in Four Parts ???
Pro Arte Antiqua Ensemble, ?? (Supraphon, ?>1960)
Ulsamer Collegium, Fantazias for viols (Archiv, 1977)
Gottfried Reiche Consort, Music for His Majesty's Sackbuts and Cornetts (Ambitus, 1991)
Brass ensemble arrangement of two of the 3-part fantasias
Royal Consort, Purcell: The Three & Four-Part Fantasias (Globe, 1994)
Serenata of London (Barry Wilde), Purcell - String Music (IMP, 1995)
Hespèrion XX (Jordi Savall, dir.), Henry Purcell Fantasias for the Viols 1680 (Naïve Astrée, 1994)
Detailed sleeve notes by Harry Halbreich
Fretwork, Purcell: Fantazias & In Nomines (Virgin Veritas, 1995)
Includes incomplete A minor fantasia. Sleeve notes by Bruce Wood and Andrew Pinnock with some facsimile images in the sleeves.
Concentus Musicus Wien, Henry Purcell, 15 Fantasias (Archiv, 1963?, reissued Vanguard 2004)
London Baroque, Henry Purcell: The Fantasias for Viols (EMI, 1984 (? later reprinted for Virgin Veritas, 2005))
Played on violins and tenor and bass viols
London Baroque, Henry Purcell, Fantazias (Bis, 2001)
String quartet performance
Phantasm, Purcell: Fantasies for Viols (Simax, 1996)
Capella Fidicinia (Hans Grüss), Henry Purcell Fantasias for Strings (Berlin Classics, 2005?)
Accademia Strumentale Italiana (Alberto Rasi, dir.), Henry Purcell: Fantasias for the Viols (Stradivarius, 1995)
Z742 is available, as a sample track here.
Schola Cantorum Basiliensis (August Wenzinger, dir), ???, (Archiv, 1954)
Yehudi Menuhin, A Purcell Anthology: Volume 1-Instrumental Music (HMV, 1964)
Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, Purcell - Fantasias and Vocal Works, (?, 1995)
Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, For Thy Pleasure (Delos, 1996)
Contains the fantasia upon one note
La Gamba Freiburg (Ekkehard Weber, dir), Purcell: 15 Fantasies (Ars Musici, 1995)
Samples of Fantasia No. 4 and the six-part In Nomine are available as sample tracks on the artists’ website. The latter example uses five viols and an organ.
Rose Consort of Viols, Henry Purcell: Fantazias (Naxos, 1997)
London Festival Orchestra (Ross Pople), Henry Purcell... (Arte Nova, 1998)
BRISK Recorder Quartet Amsterdam, The King's Private Musick (Christophorus, 2001)
Amsterdam Loecki Stardust Quartet, Fantazia: Henry Purcell (Channel Classics, ?2001)
Two recorder consort recordings. The latter group’s interpretation of Fantasia 10 may be found here.
Onyx Brass, Pavans Fantasias and Variations: Henry Purcell, et al (Meridian, 2002)
Includes the Fantasy upon one note, along with Elliott Carter’s Fantasy on it, and a further derivative work by M. Nicholas Gryffith
The Flautadors, Phantasies, Ayres & Chaconys (Deux-Elles, 2006)
Another recorder ensemble. Includes four Purcell Fantasias and some Locke suites.
Fuoco e Cenere & Jay Bernfeld, Fantasy in Blue: Purcell & Gershwin (Alma Classique, 2006)
Includes Fantasy No 5
Ricercar Consort, Purcell - Fantazias (Mirare, 2007)



Discus, ‘Gramophone Notes’, The Musical Times, 67/1004 (October 1926), pp. 917-920
Discus, ‘Gramophone Notes’, The Musical Times, 68/1008 (Jan 1927), pp.59-60.
Reviews of National Gramophonic Society recordings (p. 919, p. 60)
W. McNaught, ‘Gramophone Notes’, in The Musical Times 77/1117 (Mar, 1936), pp. 233-4
Review of NGS set in its Columbia release
Denis Stevens, ‘Purcell on the Gramaphone’, Music & Letters, 40/2 (Apr 1959), pp. 166-171.
Reviews Wenzinger’s complete recording
Michael Tilmouth, ‘Purcell Fantazias for viols. Ulsamer-Collegium’, The Musical Times, 119/1630 (Dec, 1978)
Lucy Robinson, ‘Purcell’s fantazias: the jewel in the crown of English consort music’, Early Music 26/2 (May, 1998)
Group review including recordings by Fretwork, Phantasm, Rose Consort, Savall and London Baroque.
Miscellaneous cuttings from reviews of the Phantasm recording can be found here


Reviews or, more often, simple descriptions or listings of early concert performances of the fantasias can be found in the ‘Concerts in London’, ‘Music in the Provinces’ and ‘Music Abroad’ sections of the Musical Times. Relevant entries include:

Pennington String Quartet
Music Society String Quartet/International String Quartet
London String Orchestra
Vol 82/11 (p.278)
Macnaughten Quartet
Vol 82/11 (p.278)
Haslemere Festival (performers unnamed) Vol 68/1016 (p.939)