Purcell and Gershwin?
“At first,” writes Jay Bernfeld, “it seemed like the type of clumsy pianotop cohabitation that keeps plaster busts of Mozart in eternally uneasy company with plaster Tchaikovskys, but my 3 a.m. state of mind had already begun searching the parallels between the two: I had already picked up on the similarity in their melodic and harmonic styles (both were renowned for their harmonic daring though separated by hundreds of years!). Justly famous for their brilliant theater music, both composers found greater satisfaction in their “serious” work. Each left one landmark opera—Purcell his Dido and Aeneas and Gershwin his singular labor of love Porgy and Bess. If London adored the Orpheus Britannicus, New York reveled in the infectious beat of its golden boy, Gershwin. Sadly, both composers were dead before their fortieth birthday leaving devoted and doting publics bereft. And how can one ignore the undying popularity shared by the two!” These adaptations for voice and violas da gamba help reveal, in their own fantastic, peculiar way, the timeless qualities of these two great composers.