Cooke, Thomas Simpson (DNB00)

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COOKE, THOMAS SIMPSON (1782–1848), musical composer, was born in Dublin in 1782, and received his first musical instruction from his father. Subsequently he became a pupil of Giordani, and in 1797 was engaged as leader of the band in the Crow Street Theatre. After some years he ventured to appear in a new capacity, as a dramatic singer, choosing for his first appearance the part of the Seraskier in Storace's ‘Siege of Belgrade.’ His success was such as to warrant his representing the same part in London at the Lyceum Theatre on 13 July 1813. On 14 Sept. 1815 he began his long connection with Drury Lane Theatre, appearing in Linley's ‘Duenna.’ For many years he held the post of principal tenor, and from about 1821 the direction of the music was placed in his hands. For some time he appeared alternately as a singer and as orchestral leader. He was a member of the Philharmonic Society, and occasionally appeared as leader of the band at its concerts. He belonged also to the Royal Academy of Music, though he was not one of the original members. From 1828 to 1830 he was one of the musical managers of Vauxhall Gardens. For many years he sang in the choir of the Bavarian Chapel, Warwick Street, Regent Street. These various engagements were of course quite subsidiary to his work as musical director of Drury Lane. The arrangement of all the musical compositions produced there during some twenty years was entrusted to him, and in days when the composers' intentions were entirely subordinated to popular effect, such arrangements entailed not a little trouble upon the director. The adaptation of prominently successful foreign operas to the English stage was held to involve as a matter of course the composition of more or less suitable numbers to be inserted according to the exigencies of public taste. Among the mass of operas and plays with incidental music which were produced during his directorship it is extremely hard to disentangle his original compositions from those which he borrowed, with a merely general acknowledgment, from all kinds of sources. The following list, taken with some alterations from Grove's ‘Dictionary of Music,’ contains the names of the more important productions in which he had a larger or smaller share:—‘Frederick the Great,’ an operatic anecdote, 1814; ‘The King's Proxy,’ 1815, both written by S. J. Arnold [q. v.]; ‘The Count of Anjou,’ 1816; ‘A Tale of other Times’ (in collaboration with Bochsa), December 1822; ‘Abu Hassan,’ adapted from Weber's opera of the same name, April 1825; ‘The Wager, or The Midnight Hour,’ a pasticcio adapted from Mrs. Inchbald's ‘Midnight Hour,’ November 1825; ‘Oberon, or the Charmed Horn,’ another adaptation from Weber, 1826; ‘Malvina,’ February 1826; ‘The White Lady,’ adapted from Boieldieu, with several interpolated songs, &c., October 1826, i.e. two months before the opera was produced in a more complete form at Covent Garden; ‘The Boy of Santillane,’ 1827; ‘Isidore de Merida, from Storace, 1828 (an overture and two songs by Cooke); ‘The Brigand,’ and three songs in ‘Peter the Great,’ 1829; ‘The Dragon's Gift,’ 1830; ‘The Ice Witch’ and ‘Hyder Ali,’ 1831; ‘St. Patrick's Eve,’ 1832. For Macready's productions of ‘The Midsummer Night's Dream,’ 1840; ‘Acis and Galatea,’ 1842; ‘King Arthur,’ 1842, &c., Cooke ‘arranged’ the incidental music, relying, in the case of the two last, chiefly upon the compositions of Handel and Purcell; in ‘King Arthur’ he drew upon Purcell's other works to a large extent, sacrificing some of the best numbers in the composer's score. One of his last works for the stage was ‘The Follies of a Night’ (Planché), 1845. Of all his compositions, one song alone, ‘Love's Ritornella’ from ‘The Brigand,’ achieved a lasting success. From about 1830 onwards he had given a good deal of attention to glee composition, and several of his productions in this branch of art gained prizes at the catch and glee clubs. ‘Six Glees for Three and Four Voices’ were published in 1844, and others singly. As early as 1828 he published a treatise entitled ‘Singing exemplified in a Series of Solfeggi and Exercises, progressively arranged,’ and he subsequently became a widely popular singing master. Among his many distinguished pupils the most eminent is Mr. Sims Reeves, whose first London appearance was made under Cooke's auspices. In 1846 he was appointed leader at the Concerts of Antient Music, succeeding John Fawcett Loder in that capacity. He died at his house in Great Portland Street, 26 Feb. 1848, and was buried at Kensal Green.

[Grove's Dict. of Music; Gent. Mag. 2nd ser. xxix. 559; Quarterly Musical Mag. x. 371, &c.]

J. A. F. M.