Henry Purcell was born in London in 1659. At the age of twenty he became organist of Westminster Abbey and was soon also appointed organist at the Chapel Royal and 'Composer in Ordinary of the King's Musick'.
Purcell's prodigious output includes almost every type of composition of his time. There are services and anthems, psalm settings, songs and catches, fantasies for strings, and more modern trio sonatas. In his last years, Purcell wrote much music for the stage - a total of about fifty such works range from collections of occasional songs inserted in plays to incidental music, the latter so extensive as to give the plays opera-like form.
Purcell is thought to have completed only one full opera, Dido and Aeneas (1689) in which Dido's final lament (click here to listen to sample 81k aiff) is very well known. As a composer of vocal music to English texts, Purcell remains unsurpassed.