Charles Dickens (7, Feb 1812-9, Jun 1870)
Anthony Trollope (24, April 1815 - 6, Dec 1882).
Thomas Tallis (c.1505 -1585)
The early life of Thomas Tallis is shrouded in obscurity, but his musical career was of seminal importance to English music, spanning the period of the Reformation and the first generation of Anglican church worship. Tallis was appointed organist to the Benedictine Priory at Dover in 1530, and to the Augustinian Abbey at Waltham in 1538, but with the dissolution of the monasteries he was forced to look for employment elsewhere. His reputation was already such that he was appointed a gentleman of the Chapel Royal in 1542, and he remained in Royal service until his death, skilfully negotiating the treacherous religious controversies that dominated the mid sixteenth century. Tallis' choral works spanned both the older Latin motet style, masses, and the English anthems that became popular in Anglican services, using a form of counterpoint which relied on harmonic invention and chordal movement rather than the complex polyphony fashionable on the continent. When it suited, however, Tallis' polyphony was the equal of his contemporary Palestrina, as heard in his 40 part motet Spem in Alium, written for Queen Elizabeth's 40th birthday. His organ and instrumental music was more experimental, but marked the beginning of a flourishing interest in such forms at the Elizabethan court. Such was Elizabeth's favour that she granted Tallis and his student William Byrd a 20 year monopoly over the printing of sacred music in England; together they composed a series of anthems of the
finest quality, still popular in the best of Anglican services today. Musical Links: Canon 'Misere Nostri' Motet 'Spem in alium' Anthem 'If ye love me' Recommended Recordings: The Complete English Anthems, The Tallis
Scholars, Peter Phillips (Gimell Records), 1 disc Spem in Alium and other sacred music, The Tallis Scholars, Peter Phillips(Gimell Records), 1 disc -
John Dowland (1563 - 1626)
One of the great pioneers of English instrumental music and song, John Dowland was born in London, though little is known of his early life. He was apprenticed as a professional lutenist to Sir Henry Cobham, ambassador to the French court from 1580, before returning to England to be awarded his BA from Christ Church, Oxford, in 1588. Nine years later he published his 'First Booke of Songes or Ayres', which met with immediate success, and broke new ground, both as the first collection of English lute songs, and for the way in
which he abandoned earlier forms of song writing associated with the madrigal. Because of suspicions over his Catholic faith Dowland worked for many years abroad at the court of Christian IV of Denmark, until he secured a post as one of James I's lutenists in 1612. By this time Dowland's reputation had been further enhanced by the publication of his 'Lachrimae, or Seaven Teares' in 1607 for five viols and lute, a work which was immediately acclaimed as an instrumental masterpiece. Dowland's last years were spent composing
various devotional works, but his fame as a virtuoso lutenist and composer had spread throughout Europe.
Recordings: A Dowland discography Societies: John Dowland Society
Orlando Gibbons (1583 - 1625)
Gibbons, famous today as the favourite composer of Glenn Gould, was born in Oxford to a musical family. As a boy he sung in the choir at Kings College, Cambridge, where he was later to read for his B.Mus. He quickly found fame as one of the finest keyboardists of his generation, becoming a gentleman of the Chapel Royal in 1605, and organist there a few years later. In 1623 he was appointed organist at Westminster Abbey, and performed at the funeral of James I, but succumbed to apoplexy just a few weeks later. Gibbons was an extraordinarily versatile composer, writing not only keyboard works, but fantasias for viols, madrigals (of which the most famous is his sublime 'The Silver Swan'), and sacred choral music. He was instrumental in developing the use of the organ as a means of choral accompaniment, while his virtuoso keyboard works
were of a quality unmatched in Europe. His English choral anthems, in which sections for full choir alternate with solo voice and instrumental accompaniment, inaugurated a genre of sacred music that was later taken to new heights by Purcell and Handel.
Recommended recordings: A Gibbons discography
Henry Purcell (1659 - 1695)
Purcell was born in Westminster and his early musical life was, perhaps, inspired from tales of his father's singing at the coronation of King Charles II. His musical gifts were quickly recognised and consequently he was appointed organist of Westminster Abbey in 1680, and organist of the Chapel Royal in 1682. From these
years onwards he was also responsible for composing music for the 'twenty-four violins', the King's band of
stringed instruments, as well as large-scale odes for royal occasions. His consummate skill was appreciated by both the Catholic James II and the Dutch Protestant William III; under the latter Purcell increasingly turned his attention to the theatre, producing four large scale operatic works between 1690 and 1695. His last great royal commission was the Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary in March 1695, set to the lines of the English Book of Common Prayer. Eight months later Purcell himself died of tuberculosis, and the music was used for his own funeral service in Westminster Abbey. Purcell's genius was spread across a wide range of forms, from song, to instrumental odes, to sacred choral works and music for the theatre, in many cases collaborating with gifted literary contemporaries, such as the poet laureate Nahum Tate. In all of these he moulded the latest
fashionable styles from Italy and France into a peculiarly English form: rich in chromatic harmony, and with cadences that exploited the beauty of the English language.
Recommended Recordings: The Complete Odes and Welcome Songs,
The King's Consort (Hyperion Records), 8 discs.
Dido and Aeneas, English Camber Orchestra, Sir Anthony Lewis (Decca Legends), 1 disc.
Frideric Handel (1685 - 1759)
Almost certainly the greatest foreign-born British composer, Handel moved to England in 1710, becoming a naturalised subject of the British Crown in 1727. He was born in Halle, where he recieved his early musical
education, before touring Italy in his early twenties. The impending union of the British crown and the electorate of Hanover saw Handel sent to London in 1710, where an enthusiastic reception persuaded him to make Britain his home. In 1712 he recieved a pension from Queen Anne, and remained in royal service for the best part of half a century, becoming perhaps the most significant court composer in British history. Under the influence of English poetry, and of English national and religious life, Handel's artistic conception matured and gained the dignity and grandeur seen in his greatest odes and oratorios. His fame by his death was universal, and he was buried not far from Purcell in Westminster Abbey. Handel's first major English work was his magical Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne, which was heavily influenced by the music of Purcell. As he developed his knowledge of English poetry, he came to set a number of English works to music, including John Milton's L'Allegro and il Penseroso. Handel's reputation by the accession of King George II was such that he was invited to write the coronation anthems, the first of which, Zadok the Priest, has been used at the coronation ceremony of every British monarch since. Handel's later life was dominated by the composition of his secular and sacred oratorios including his most famous work, Messiah, which contains numerous fine
examples of Handel's talent for word-painting. One of Handel's last major commissions was his Music for the Royal Fireworks in 1749, commemorating the end of the War of the Austrian Succesion, the rehearsal of which alone attracted an audience of over 12,000. Handel's huge musical output, from keyboard suites to opera, choral works and concerti grossi, is testament to a musician of unusual genius.
Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792)
Joseph William Turner (1775-1851)
John Steell (1804–1891) -
J S Mill