Tuesday, 22 January 2013

No. 1 of Two Biographies of Maurice Greene:


I was asked by a correspondent for a few more details about Maurice Green. Strangely, there does not appear to be a standard biography of the composer, however his name does crop up in a wide variety of musical history books. I have chosen the short portrait in Ernest Walkers once ubiquitous A History of Music in England, first published in 1907 and subsequently revised in 1923 and 1952. Another biographical essay will follow in a later post. I have presented the text without notes. However, for an extensive modern portrait, I suggest the reader peruse Roger Slade's blog. 

‘Maurice Greene, the other great anthem-writer [William Croft] of the period, was seventeen years Croft's junior, being born in 1695. In his boyhood, a chorister of St. Paul's Cathedral, he was at the age of twenty-two elected its organist; and he subsequently combined this position, after the pluralist fashion of the times, with those of organist and composer to the Chapel Royal (in succession to Croft), University Professor of Music at Cambridge, and 'Master of the King's Musick.’
In 1750 he inherited from a cousin a country estate in Essex, and, though still holding all his former offices, spent, it would appear, most of his time in collecting material for the publication in score of a representative selection of English church music a project that was interrupted by his death in 1755, but was subsequently carried out by his pupil Boyce, to whom the task was bequeathed.
In the earlier part of his life he was an intimate friend of Handel, who used frequently to play the organ at St. Paul's; but he [Greene] declined to take sides in the operatic rivalry between Handel and Bononcini until the irascibility of the former threw him, apparently against his will, into the ranks of the latter's vehement partisans. Greene's chief publication was issued in 1743, and was entitled Forty Select Anthems; but he also brought out various other music, both vocal and instrumental. Very much of his work remains, however, still in manuscript; there are numerous odes for various festal occasions, an oratorio on the subject of Jephtha, dramatic compositions, &c., &c.

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