William Croft

On Blow’s death in 1708 William Croft succeeded him not only as the organist of Westminster Abbey, but as Master of the Children of the Chapel Royal and Composer to the Chapel Royal. Thus he was, until Handel’s rise to fame, the most eminent musician in the land. His main duties as Composer were to provide anthems and services for the Chapel Royal. The composition of odes for New Year’s Day and the sovereign’s birthday was the responsibility of John Eccles, who had been appointed ‘Master of Musick’ in 1701. It appears however, that during the period 1712 to 1715 Croft and Handel were preferred over Eccles. Thus Handel was commissioned to write a birthday ode for Queen Anne, and later a Te Deum and Jubilate celebrating the Peace of Utrecht, 1713. In the same year Croft wrote a Birthday Ode for Queen Anne, and later another for King George. Later, Croft had the two odes published in a handsome volume entitled Musicus Apparatus Academicus. This was probably a ‘vanity’ publication, but Croft attributed its production to his friends’ insistence. In his introductory remarks, after acknowledging gratitude “to that Famous University for the favourable Reception they [the odes] there met with”, he goes on to say “From that time [of their performance] forward they have lain by neglected, as having done their Work and answered the end for which they were Compos’d, and had still done so, had not the Importunity of some Friends…..prevailed with me to make them publick.” It is claimed that, as a result, this is the earliest example of a doctoral submission to survive in its entirety.


Cro 1

With Noise of Cannon

from the Ode.

a song for bass (G-e'), 2 violins and continuo

Price: £ 7.90

The Ode With Noise of Cannon is a substantial piece scored for trumpet, soloists, chorus and orchestra, of which this present edition gives the opening vocal number, scored for bass with two violins.

Croft’s Ode With Noise of Cannon Laurus Cruentas, as part of his submission for the degree of Doctor of Music at Oxford, which also required the performance of the works submitted. This performance took place at the Sheldonian Theatre on Monday July the 13th 1713. Such was the success of this performance, that a second was called for for the following Monday.

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Cro 2

Songs with Violins

for bass(F-f'), 2 violins and continuo

Price: £ 7.90

How charming is Beauty
Lost is my Love

This edition contains two songs with instruments by Croft, collected together with works by Jeremiah Clarke and others, in a manuscript in the Tenbury collection. In fact, although the first is ascribed at the end to "Mr William Croft" the second has no title and is anonymous.

The first song, How charming is Beauty, which at first sight appears rather innocuous, has in fact a sensuous, almost Bacchanalian flavour, and advocates music as the food of love. The second, Lost is my Love, is a more substantial piece in the tradition of the 'mad ' song, sung by a desperate lover. It lacks the kaleidoscopic changes of mood of the best examples of this genre, such as Purcell's Let the dreadfull Engines, but contains intriguing changes in pace and rhythm. The text is also set by William Corbett in his Op. 7 cantata, published in about 1725. However both this and the Tenbury MS contain an obscurity in the meaning of one line, possibly due to a corruption of the original text, whose author is unknown.

 While this edition is the sole responsibility of the editor, a grateful acknowledgement must be made to Dr Peter Holman for bringing these two songs to light in the first place, (when he prepared them for a recording by David Thomas), and for his generous help in making his material available to the editor

 

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Cro 3

By Purling Streams

for soprano (e'flat-g''), oboe (or flute) and continuo

Price: £ 5.00

Croft’s main output was sacred music, and apart from some celebratory Odes, he did not produce a great deal of secular music. This 'Song with a Hautboy' is one of three songs with instruments by Croft, collected together with works by Jeremiah Clarke and others in the manuscript in the Tenbury collection referred to above.

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Cro 4

Ye tuneful numbers

A Song with Symphonies

for alto/countertenor (a-c''), 2 violins and continuo

Price: £ 6.50

This work is among songs and anthems with instruments by several composers collected together in the manuscript Add. MS. 31461 in the British Library, to whom thanks are due for making this available for study. Ye tuneful numbers was prepared by Maurice Bevan for performance during the celebrations marking the tercentenary of Croft’s birth in 1978. It is Croft’s only work having a lengthy introductory symphony with a slow-fast–slow structure. It is an intriguing work, with the ‘affect’ expressed by the use of long vocal melismas and discord, reminiscent of Purcell.

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Cro 5

A Hymn to Divine Musick

for soprano (d'-g'') and continuo

Price: £ 5.00

The second edition of Henry Playford’s second book of Harmonia Sacra of 1714 is described as a collection of ‘DIVINE HYMNS/AND/ DIALOGUES:/ WITH/A THOROW-BASS for the Theorbo-Lute,/ Bass-Viol, Harpsichord, or Organ./ Composed by the Best MASTERS……very much Enlarg’d and Corrected’ and claims ‘three excellent Anthems, never before Printed, by Mr Croft, Dr Blow and Mr J. Clark’.

Before this however, Henry Playford had published in 1700 ‘Two Divine Hymns: being a Suppliment to the second Book of Harmoniae Sacrae’. These works are ‘Blest be those sweet Regions by Mr Jer. Clark’ and ‘ A Hymn on Divine Musick set by Mr. William Crofts.’ Thanks are due to the British Library for making a copy of this volume available for study.

This exquisite song shows Croft at his very best, setting the text with sensitivity, and an elegant economy of effect.

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Cro 6

A Thanksgiving Anthem - Rejoyce in the Lord

Psalm 33

Cedric Lee

for solo voices, SATB chorus, oboe and strings

Price: £ 10.80 Score and set of parts 5.00 Chorus score

Peter Holman wrote about the present work in his introduction to the CD ‘William Croft at St Paul’s’ produced under the Helios label of Hyperion records, No. CDH 55252, with the Parley of Instruments and the Choir of St Paul’s Cathedral, and John Scott, conductor.

 

“The anthem Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous was published in [1724 in Croft’s handsome two volume anthology of church music,] Musica Sacra, but had been written four years earlier for a service in the Chapel Royal on 13 November 1720. It is a fine and remarkably sophisticated work in five distinct movements, opening with a grave prelude for oboe and strings, its cadences decorated with an expressive arching phrase with a false relation at the top; it becomes the germ of an important motif in the contrapuntal first chorus, and can be heard again in the fifth movement, the duet ‘For the word of the Lord is true’.

The second movement, ‘Praise the Lord with Harp’, is a fine ground-bass movement, scored for alto, oboe, two violins and continuo. Its busy, machine-like patterns recall Purcell’s air ‘Wondrous Machine’ from the 1692 St Cecilia Ode, Hail bright Cecilia, with the evocation of the organ turned into an evocation of the harp, lute, and an unnamed ‘instrument of ten strings’.

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