Editor: Edited by Timothy Roberts
for sopranos, tenors, or soprano & tenor and continuo
These duets are drawn from Jackson's Twelve Canzonets, Op. 9 (1770), A Second set of Twelve Canzonets, Op.13, (c.1782), Twelve Pastorals, Op. 15 (1786) and one is from Six Madrigals, Op. 18 (c.1798).
The vocal duets of William Jackson are exquisite products of Britain’s ‘Age of Sensibility’ — an era also defined by the poetry of Thomas Gray, the paintings of Jackson’s friends Gainsborough and Reynolds, and Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy (1759-67) and A Sentimental Journey (1768). The Op. 9 canzonets for two voices appearing in 1770 as his have a short preface commencing:
As the greatest Part of these Canzonets were extemporary productions, and performed almost as soon as composed, I should have scarce have ventured to publish them, if they had not met with more approbation than appeared to me due to their merit. Perhaps the ease with which such familiar airs may be sung, went farther to recommend them, than a style that needs to be studied before it can be liked. As trifles only they are offered to the public, and as trifles they will doubtless be received.
Despite these modest protestations, the composer surely knew that these graceful, rococo works — combining as they do the italianate grace of J.C. Bach (12 Canzonette on texts by Metastasio, London, 1765/67) with unobtrusive contrapuntal skill — approach the “sentimental” ideal: that is, the unpretentious expression of genuine feeling. A second dozen of canzonets (Op.13) was published about a decade later, while an attractive later set of Pastorals (1786) for the same scoring is lighter in tone. In the 1790s a few more duets, now with written-out piano accompaniments rather than a mere figured bass, were included in Jackson’s Epigrams and Madrigals.