BAR-OCT, 12 Baroque Masterpieces for Piccolo (Debora Rosti)
Bodinus, Boismortier, Braun, Blavet, Delusse, Mahut, Pepusch, Quantz: Bar-Oct, 12 pieces for piccolo from baroque repertoire
(Arr. by Debora Rosti) DV 20089 36 Pages
Shipment cost not included
(b Berlin, 1667; d London, 20 July 1752). German composer and theorist. He was the son of a Protestant minister and studied music theory under one Klingenberg (probably not the son of the Stettin organist Friedrich Gottlieb Klingenberg as Hawkins stated, but perhaps an elder relation), and practice under Grosse, a Saxon organist. From the age of 14 he was employed at the Prussian court, where he remained until about the end of the 17th century. According to Hawkins he resolved to leave Germany after witnessing the execution without trial of a Prussian officer accused of insubordination ‘and put himself under the protection of a government founded on better principles’. After travelling through Holland, some time after September 1697 he settled in London, where he remained for the rest of his life; from 1707 he lived at Hooker’s (later Boswell) Court near Lincoln’s Inn Fields. He is known to have frequented the concerts of Thomas Britton at Clerkenwell, and it was probably there that he became acquainted with the poet and dramatist John Hughes, with whom he later collaborated in a number of works. His first permanent employment in London was as a viola player, and later harpsichordist at Drury Lane Theatre in 1704. His only stage work from this period was the pasticcio Thomyris, Queen of Scythia, but he was well known as a composer of instrumental music, much of it published in both Amsterdam and London, and as a performer in and organizer of public and private concerts.
In January 1708 he joined the opera company operating from Vanburgh’s Queen’s Theatre in the Haymarket. There he served as violinist, harpsichordist, and agent for the soprano Margherita de l’Epine. The German traveller Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach described a concert he attended in June 1710 at which l’Epine sang, accompanied by members of the opera house band directed by Pepusch from the harpsichord. Pepusch and l’Epine were married some time between 1718 (the traditional date, but now impossible to establish) and 1723; their only son, who died in July 1739 after showing considerable talent and promise, was baptized on 9 January 1724.
In July 1713 Pepusch, along with William Croft, was awarded the degree of DMus at Oxford; the music he submitted for this occasion, including the ode Hail, queen of islands! Hail, illustrious fair, has not survived. In 1714 Pepusch moved to Drury Lane as musical director and over the next two seasons contributed four essays in the genre of the English masque: Venus and Adonis, Myrtillo and Laura, Apollo and Daphne and The Death of Dido. These were intended as independent afterpieces, with plots that are completely self-contained, interpolate no real element of comedy, and have a tragic dénouement. In autumn 1716 he transferred to Lincoln’s Inn Fields, where he served as musical director for much of the next 15 years but he composed little of importance for the stage.
Sometime after this date Pepusch became involved with the musical establishment of James Brydges, Earl of Carnarvon, and he was replaced by John Ernest Galliard as musical director at Lincoln’s Inn Fields for the 1717–18 season. His presence at Cannons, Brydges’s estate near Edgware in Middlesex, can be documented from as early as December 1717, and he and George Frideric Handel were both there in April 1718. Although he was again active at Lincoln’s Inn Fields for the 1718–19 season, Pepusch seems to have been appointed musical director at Cannons in mid-1719 with a salary of £25 per quarter, perhaps as a consequence of Brydges’ reorganization of his household on his elevation to the title of first Duke of Chandos in April of that year. Pepusch was responsible for providing music for the duke’s chapel and chamber on a regular basis until mid-1721, presumably dividing his time between Cannons and his London house. After this date the duke cut back his musical establishment in response to financial losses, but Pepusch continued to provide occasional musicians from London until 1725, when organized musical activity at Cannons seems to have ceased.
Pepusch provided two new works for the 1723–4 season at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, The Union of the Three Sister Arts and a revision of Betterton’s The Prophetess, or The History of Dioclesian, and presumably conducted the band for the famous series of pantomimes between 1723 and 1730 featuring the theatre owner John Rich as Harlequin and music by Galliard. He was almost certainly in charge for the opening night of John Gay’s famous satire The Beggar’s Opera on 29 January 1728, for which he probably composed the overture and may have arranged the airs (although the printed bass lines do not reflect his elegance and technical skill). A sequel, Polly, was published in 1729, but censorship prevented its performance on stage until after Pepusch’s death. Pepusch probably retired from the theatre at the end of the 1732–3 season and subsequently concentrated primarily on his antiquarian interests.
In 1735, when he moved to Fetter Lane, Pepusch reorganized the Academy of Ancient Music (of which he had been a founder-member in 1726) as a seminary for the musical instruction of young boys. In December 1737 he was made organist of the Charterhouse, and in 1745 (the year before his wife died) he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, to whom he delivered a paper ‘Of the Various Genera and Species of Music Among the Ancients’. Throughout his career he was much sought after as a teacher, his pupils including Boyce, Benjamin Cooke, J.H. Roman, John Travers, George Berg, James Nares and Ephraim Kellner. After his death Travers and Kellner shared with the Academy of Ancient Music their master’s extensive and important library of books and music, among which was the collection of virginal music now known as the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book.
Largely as a result of Burney’s estimate of him, posterity has tended to look upon Pepusch as an academic pedant who opposed Handel’s cause in England. He was certainly the most learned musical antiquarian of his day, but to regard him only in this way is to ignore the lively theatre music and the elegant English cantatas, which are mostly carefully composed, but by no means dry. And though the success of The Beggar’s Opera contributed to Handel’s difficulties in promoting Italian opera for the Royal Academy, there is no indication of any personal or professional enmity between the two men. Even after 1728 Pepusch subscribed to publications of Handel’s operas, and he also arranged performances of his music by the Academy of Ancient Music.
The unprecedented popularity of The Beggar’s Opera, for which Pepusch may have supplied only the basses and an overture that uses one of the opera’s popular tunes, has tended to overshadow his own music. His earliest surviving works are mostly instrumental and include well over 100 violin sonatas and several recorder and flute sonatas. These are mostly modelled on the four-movement plan of Corelli, whose sonatas and concertos Pepusch later edited for publication in London. Particularly interesting are the manuscript sets of sonatas composed for various English violinists, each containing 16 works in as many different keys, thus anticipating (and going beyond) the similar arrangement of Bach’s two- and three-part Inventions. (Pepusch included B major in addition to the keys that Bach used.)
Most, if not all, of Pepusch’s church music was written for the Duke of Chandos. It consists mainly of verse anthems in which soloists and chorus alternate, often with quite elaborate instrumental accompaniment. The Magnificat is similarly composed, though on a larger scale, and may well have been written to celebrate the opening of the chapel at Cannons in August 1720. Some anthems exist in versions for male voices and continuo, which may reflect the economies forced upon the duke in the 1720s, or possibly performances at the Academy of Ancient Music after the boys of St Paul’s and the Chapel Royal had been withdrawn in 1731. Some of Pepusch’s most attractive vocal writing is found in the secular cantatas, written, according to Hughes’s preface to the first printed collection, ‘as an Experiment of introducing a sort of Composition which had never been naturaliz’d in our Language’. Pepusch’s cantatas are italianate in their structure of two arias separated (and usually preceded) by recitative and in the almost invariable use of the da capo form, but the music itself often tends towards the kind of English tunefulness that kept his most famous cantata, Alexis, popular for over a century. Alexis is for voice and continuo only, but most of the other cantatas include an obbligato instrument, which Pepusch combined in skilful counterpoints with the voice and bass. Many cantatas were sung as interludes in the theatre, but some at least were designed for more intimate performance. Four out of the six cantatas in the second printed volume (dedicated to the Duke of Chandos) include a part for solo recorder (see fig.2) and were probably performed at Cannons.
Pepusch’s writing in his masques is intentionally italianate, with da capo arias, secco recitatives and typical Italian instrumentation using strings and woodwind; there is hardly any use of chorus or dances. These masques, in particular the longest and most successful, Venus and Adonis, are virtually operatic presentations in miniature.
Pepusch seems to have retired from composition after about 1729 and devoted himself mainly to the study and performance of ancient music. His most important theoretical work, A Treatise on Harmony, was published anonymously in 1730, possibly at the instigation of his pupil, Viscount Paisley, and revised the following year. It represents a last-ditch attempt to restore solmization as a basis for the instruction of harmonic theory.
Pepusch’s brother Heinrich Gottfried (d 1750), an oboist employed by the Elector of Brandenburg, visited London in 1704; no compositions by him are known.