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BOYCE: Symphonies Nos. 1-8, Op. 2


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William Boyce (1711-1779): Eight Symphonies, Op. 2

The English composer William Boyce is nowadays bestknown for his church music, anthems and services for theliturgy of the Church of England, and for the present EightSymphonys in Eight Parts, Op.2, published in 1760.

Boyce was born in London, the son of a cabinet-maker.

As a boy he was a chorister at St Paul's Cathedral underCharles King and studied the organ with Maurice Greene,to whom he was apprenticed, also serving him for sometime as a copyist. He is said to have had lessons fromJohann Christian Pepusch, the successful arranger of themusic for Gay's The Beggar's Opera, a noted theorist, aco-founder of the Academy of Ancient Music, and ascholar with a profound interest in earlier music. Pepuschmay have done much to arouse the enthusiasm of Boycefor a study of earlier music and theory, shown in anunpublished treatise, Harmonics, or an Attempt toExplain the Principles on which the Science of Music isFounded. In 1734 he was appointed organist at the Earl ofOxford's Chapel, now St Peter's, Vere Street, moving twoyears later to St Michael's, Cornhill. In 1736 hesucceeded John Weldon as second Composer to theChapel Royal, sharing the duties of second organist,under the first Composer and Organist, Greene, withwhom he was also involved in the Apollo Academy, asociety for the performance of secular music. For the nexttwenty years, at least, he conducted the Three ChoirsFestival.

Boyce gradually established a wider reputation as acomposer, particularly after the success of his Solomon,with the descriptive title, rare hitherto in England, ofserenata. This was first performed in London at theApollo Academy in 1742. During these years hecontributed music in various forms for the London stage,most significantly when employed by David Garrick, whofound Boyce more reliable than Thomas Arne. In 1749Boyce was appointed organist at All Hallows the Greatand Less, a church that served the Joiners' Company, ofwhich his father had been appointed resident beadle in1723, with a residence at Joiners' Hall, where Boyceseems to have lived until his father's death in 1752. Heretained the position at All Hallows, his responsibiltiesoften entrusted to a deputy, until his dismissal in 1758,and at St Michael's, Cornhill, for a further ten years, untilsimilar dissatisfaction led to his resignation. In 1758 hereceived official appointment as an organist of the ChapelRoyal. He had succeeded Greene as Master of the King'sMusick on the latter's death in 1755, assuming more ofGreene's former responsibilities, among them the task ofassembling the important collection Cathedral Music,being a Collection in Score of the Most Valuable andUseful Compositions for That Service by Several EnglishMasters of the Last 200 Years. This was publishedbetween 1760 and 1773, and retains a continuinginfluence on Church of England cathedral repertoire.

The Hanoverian court had largely preferred the musicof Handel for royal occasions. The latter's death in 1759left the way open for Boyce to provide the anthems for thefuneral of George II in November 1760 and for thecoronation of his successor, George III, the followingyear. There had been considerable enmity betweenHandel and Greene, perhaps the result of the latter'sappointment as Master of the King's Musick in 1727.

Boyce, however, retained great respect for Handel,remarking, of his 'borrowings' that he took other men's'pebbles and turned them into diamonds'. Charles Burneypraised him for his reverence for Handel, but also for thefact that he 'neither pillaged nor servilely imitated him'.

During his last years he limited his musical activities,while continuing to supply the necessary odes for royalbirthdays and New Year. He died in 1779, his death anoccasion for widespread mourning, and was buried at StPaul's Cathedral, where his funeral brought together thechoirs of the cathedral and of Westminster Abbey.

Boyce's Eight Symphonys in Eight Parts werepublished in 1760, collected from a number of earlierworks. The first four of the symphonies published are inthe form of three-movement Italian overtures, althoughBoyce only has a slow second movement in the first of theset. Symphony No. 1 in B flat major is taken from theoverture to the New Year's Ode, Hail, hail, auspiciousday, written for 1756. This is very much in the style of theperiod, both in general form and in the melodic andrhythmic treatment of the material, with an effective andtuneful slow movement at its heart.

Symphony No. 2 in A major is taken from another courtcomposition, the overture to the royal Birthday Ode of1756, When Caesar's natal days. The first of the threemovements is in suitably celebratory style, leading to asecond movement, Vivace, an elegant little dance. Thesymphony ends with music of similar charm.

The third of the set, the Symphony No. 3 in C major,opens in more formal baroque style. It was originally theoverture to The Chaplet, a two-act afterpiece firstmounted at Drury Lane on 2nd December 1749. This wascommissioned by David Garrick, with a libretto by MosesMendez, a well-to-do Jewish stockbroker whosePortuguese grandfather had come to London as a doctorin the service of Queen Catherine of Braganza. TheChaplet is a pastoral piece, in which two shepherdesses,the innocent Laura and the more worldly wise Pastora viefor the attentions of the shepherd Damon. LikeRichardson's Pamela, Laura refuses to grant her favourswithout marriage, a fate to which Damon finallysuccumbs, leaving Pastora to make what she can of theyoung treble Palaemon, already known to her, as ittranspires. Attention has been drawn to the composer'suse of the bassoon, in the tenor register doubling theviolin melody in the A minor second movement, an effectBoyce uses elsewhere.

Symphony No. 4 in F major was originally the overtureto The Shepherds' Lottery, a two-act afterpiece withlibretto by Moses Mendez, first staged at Drury Lane on19th November 1751. Another pastoral, this won lesspopular favour than the earlier work. The lottery of thetitle refers to the custom by which shepherds drew thenames of their respective wives from an urn on May-day.

Phyllis, the ingenue shepherdess of the drama, is anxiousthat her name be drawn by her lover Thyrsis, while themore experienced Daphne has no time for men, using theoccasion to slight the shepherd Colin, who wins the dayby refusing to draw any name at all. The symphony openswith a spritely Allegro, followed by a Vivace ma nontroppo, marked piano sempre, an instruction Boyce usesfor other such movements. In 9/8 this movement makesbold use of the wind instruments, notably when bassoonsand then horns double the violin melody. The work endswith a characteristic Gavotte.

The fifth of the set, the Symphony No. 5 in D major, istaken from the overture to the Cecilian Ode of 1739, Seefamed Apollo and the nine, with words by the versatileJohn Lockman, writer and Secretary of the BritishHerring Fishery, 'so eminently distinguished by his manycurious writings', as Faulkner's Dublin Journal wrote ofthe first performance in Dublin. It had been heard inLondon at the Apollo Academy, thus avoidingcompetition with Handel. The symphony is in the form ofa French overture, with a stately formal opening,strengthened by trumpets and drums, leading to thenecessary fugal section. This is complemented by aGavotte and a Minuet.

Symphony No. 6 in F major was the overture toBoyce's very successful Solomon, with words by EdwardMoore, a writer who frankly claimed that his literaryendeavours were undertaken 'more from necessity thaninclination'. The text is indebted not only to the Song ofSolomon but also to The Fair Circassian by the ReverendSamuel Croxall. The first of the two movements is in thecharacteristic French overture style, with a statelyintroduction, here with the ap
Facts
Item number 8557278
Barcode 747313227822
Release date 04/01/2005
Category Classical
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Performers
Composers Boyce, William
Boyce, William
Conductors Mallon, Kevin
Mallon, Kevin
Orchestras Aradia Ensemble
Aradia Ensemble
Producers Kraft, Norbert
Kraft, Norbert
Disc: 1
Symphony No. 8 in D minor, Op. 2
1 I. Allegro
2 II. Moderato e dolce
3 III. Allegro
4 I. Allegro assai
5 II. Vivace
6 III. Presto Allegro
7 I. Allegro
8 II. Vivace
9 III. Tempo di Menuetto
10 I. Allegro
11 II. Vivace ma non troppo
12 III. Gavot Allegro
13 I. Allegro ma non troppo - Allegro assai
14 II. Tempo di Gavotta
15 III. Tempo di Minuetto
16 I. Largo - Allegro
17 II. Larghetto
18 I. Andante - Spirituoso
19 II. Moderato
20 III. Jigg (Allegro assai)
21 I. Pomposo - Allegro
22 II. Largo Andante
23 III. Tempo di Gavotta
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