Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/83

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ANTHEM.
71
 

as old as the time of Gibbons. Sir F. Ouseley has done good service to the cause of church music and the memory of our 'English Palestrina' by his recent publication of a 'Collection of the Sacred Compositions of Orlando Gibbons.' In this interesting and most valuable work will be found (besides several 'full' anthems, and other matter) not less than twelve 'verse' anthems, some of which have solos; none of these are contained in Boyce's 'Cathedral Music,' and all may probably be reckoned among the earliest known specimens of this kind of anthem. The employment of instruments in churches as an accompaniment to the singers dates as far back as the 4th century, when St. Ambrose introduced them into the cathedral service at Milan. Later on, some rude form of organ began to be used; but only to play the plainsong in unison or octaves with the voices, as is now often done with a serpent or ophicleide in French choirs. It seems to be beyond doubt that the use of some kind of instrumental accompaniment in churches preceded that of the organ. During our 'first period' it would seem that anthems when performed with any addition to the voices of the choir were always accompanied by such bow instruments as then represented the infant orchestra. 'Apt for viols and voices' is a common expression on the title-pages of musical publications of this age. The stringed instrument parts were always in unison with the voices, and had no separate and independent function, except that of filling up the harmony during vocal 'rests,' or occasionally in a few bars of brief symphony. Before the Restoration, according to Dr. Rimbault, 'verses' in the anthems 'were accompanied with viols, the organ being used only in the full parts.' The small organs of this period were commonly portable; a fact which seems to indicate that such instrumental aid as was employed to support the singers was placed in close proximity to them: an arrangement so natural, as well as desirable, that it is surprising to find it ever departed from in the present day.

Second Period, 1650-1720.—Pelham Humphrey, Wise, Blow, Henry Purcell, Croft, Weldon, Jeremiah Clarke. Such great changes in the style and manner of anthem-writing are observable in all that is here indicated, that a new era in the art may be said to have begun. Traceable, in the first instance, to the taste and fancy of Humphrey and his training under Lulli, this was still more largely due to the renowned Purcell, whose powerful genius towers aloft, not only among his contemporaries, but in the annals of all famous men. The compositions of this period are mostly distinguished by novelty of plan and detail, careful and expressive treatment of the text, daring harmonies, and flowing ease in the voice parts; while occasionally the very depths of pathos seem to have been sounded. The following may be mentioned as specimens of the above masters. 'Hear, O heavens' and 'O Lord my God,' Humphrey; 'Prepare ye the way' and 'Awake, awake, put on thy strength,' Wise ; ' I was in the Spirit,' and 'I beheld, and lo!' Blow; 'O give thanks,' 'God, Thou hast cast us out,' and 'O Lord God of Hosts,' Purcell ; 'God is gone up,' 'Cry aloud and shout' (from 'O Lord, I will praise Thee'), and 'Hear my prayer, Lord,' Croft; 'In Thee, O Lord' and 'Hear my crying,' Weldon; and 'I will love Thee' and 'O Lord God of my salvation,' Clarke. While all these pieces are more or less excellent, several of them can only be described in the language of unreserved eulogy. As the 'full' anthem was most in vogue in the former period, so in this the 'verse' and 'solo' anthem grew into favour. It seems to have been reserved for Purcell, himself through life a 'most distinguished singer,' to bring to perfection the airs and graces of the 'solo' anthem.

During this period instrumental music began to assume new and individual importance, and to exercise vast influence upon the general progress of the art. Apart from the frequent employment of instrumental accompaniments by anthem composers, the effect of such additions to the purely vocal element upon their style and manner of writing is clearly traceable from the time of Pelham Humphrey downwards.

Some interesting notices[1] of this important change and of the general performance of anthems in the Chapel Royal may be gleaned from the diaries of Pepys and Evelyn. To quote a few: Pepys, speaking of Christinas Day there in 1662, says, 'The sermon done, a good anthem followed with vialls, and the King came down to receive the Sacrament.' Under the date Nov. 22, 1663, recording his attendance at the chapel, the writer says, 'The anthem was good after sermon, being the fifty-first psalme, made for five voices by one of Captain Cooke's boys, a pretty boy, and they say there are four or five of them that can do as much. And here I first perceived that the King is a little musical, and kept good time with his hand all along the anthem.' Evelyn, on Dec. 21, 1663 [App. p.523 "1662"], mentions his visit to the chapel, and records it in the following important passage:—'One of his Majesty's chaplains preached; after which, instead of the ancient, grave, and solemn wind music accompanying the organ, was introduced a concert of twenty-four violins between every pause, after the French fantastical light way, better suiting a tavern, or playhouse, than a church. This was the first time of change, and now we no more heard the cornet which gave life to the organ; that instrument quite left off in which the English were so skilful!'

The development of the simple stringed quartet of Charles the Second's royal band was rapid and important. Purcell himself wrote trumpet parts to his celebrated 'Te Deum,' and in 1755 Boyce added hautboys, bassoons, and drums to the score. Handel's Chandos anthems were variously instrumented; amongst them, in addition to the stringed quartet, are parts for flutes, oboes, bassoons, and trumpets; though all these instruments are not

  1. I am indebted for these to the kindness of my friend Dr. Binsbault.