Fancy on a Michael Wise


Fancy on a Catch of Michael Wise - (2011)    

for organ


The 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.," with the 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 enough.


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), Vivaldi's  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 Michael Wise




[ 1 ]     The short round in the Catch Book is as follows:



[ 2 ]     A broad-bladed slightly curved sword of medieval times.