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Synthesizing styles: international influence on organ music in Restoration England

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Following the Restoration of the English monarchy in 1660, musical culture gradually began to thrive under the support of royal patronage and the emerging middle class. The newly crowned Charles II brought with him a love of French music acquired

Following the Restoration of the English monarchy in 1660, musical culture gradually began to thrive under the support of royal patronage and the emerging middle class. The newly crowned Charles II brought with him a love of French music acquired during his time in exile at the court of his cousin, the young Louis XIV. Organ builders, most notably Bernard Smith and Renatus Harris, brought new life to the instrument, drawing from their experience on the Continent to build larger instruments with colorful solo stops, offering more possibilities for performers and composers. Although relatively few notated organ works survive from the Restoration period, composers generated a niche body of organ repertoire exploring compositional genres inspired by late 17th-century English instruments.

The primary organ composers of the Restoration period are Matthew Locke, John Blow, and Henry Purcell; these three musicians began to take advantage of new possibilities in organ composition, particularly the use of two-manuals with a solo register, and their writing displays the strong influence of French and Italian compositional styles. Each adapts Continental forms and techniques for the English organ, drawing from such forms as the French overture and récit pour le basse et dessus, and the Italian toccata and canzona. English organ composers from the Restoration period borrow form, stylistic techniques, ornamentation, and even direct musical quotations, to create a body of repertoire synthesizing both French and Italian styles.

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2014