Fancy on a Catch of Michael Wise
theme [ 1 ] ascribed to Michael Wise, one of a number of associates of
Purcell and Blow, is drawn from The Catch Club or Merry Companions
being a Choice Collection of the most Diverting Catches for three and Four
voices Compos'd by the late Mr. Henry Purcell, Dr. Blow & c.,"
title in the old fashion of writing, "Iudith and Holifernes." The text
reads: "When Iudith had laid Holifernes in Bed, / She pull'd out his
Falchion [ 2 ], and cut off his Head, / The reason is plain,
he'd have made her his Whore, / So she cut of his Head as I told you
before." The round answers "as I told you before" repeatedly if sung long
The beheading of Holofernes by Judith is found in the
Book of Judith, which is included in the Septuagint, the
Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christian versions of the Bible, but
excluded by Jews and Protestants. The characters of this small
drama, like Salome and John the Baptist, attracted artists to its
gory simplicity. Thomas Tallis' motet Spem in alium is drawn
from the text. Scarlatti's oratorio, La Giuditta (1693),
Juditha triumphans (1716), Mozart's La Betulia Liberata (1771), and Honegger's oratorio,
Judith (1925), all tell the
tale. Pictorial artists too took up the story, from the bronze by
Donatello to paintings by Lucas Cranach the Elder, Botticelli,
Michelangelo, Titian, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Rubens, through Klimt
and later artists.
The mention of "whore" is not only a reference to the
story, but the fact that many of the catches published together by
this group of English composers associated with Purcell celebrate
smoking, drinking and bawdy carousing, alongside more serious
sentiments and political statement. Even so, the story is dramatic,
and for this the ornamentation and dotted rhythms of this fantasia underscore that.
The entire work is here,
an MP3 file [ circa 2' 20" ]
The score for Fancy on a Catch of Michael Wise is available as a free
PDF download, though any major commercial performance or recording of the
work is prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the
graphic below for this organ score.
Fancy on a
[ 1 ] The short round in the Catch Book is as
[ 2 ] A broad-bladed
slightly curved sword of medieval times.