Monday, 28 January 2013

No. 2 of Two Biographies of Maurice Greene:


The second biography of Dr. Maurice Greene is taken from the second edition of Grove (edited by J. A. Fuller-Maitland and published in 1916). It was written by the great scholar William Henry Haddow, so in spite of the dated nature of the essay and the somewhat long and complex sentences, it is still a good account of the composer’s life. For any scholarly purposes I would naturally refer the reader to the current Grove which is available online (subscription required) or in many libraries.  I present this without any notes.

GREENE, Maurice, Mus.Doc, one of the two younger sons of the Rev. Thomas Greene, D.D., vicar of the united parishes of St. Olave, Old Jewry, and St. Martin, Ironmonger Lane (or Pomary), and grandson of John Greene, Recorder of London, was born in London about 1695 or 1696. He received his early musical education as a chorister of St. Paul's Cathedral, under Charles King. On the breaking of his voice in 1710 he was articled to Richard Brind, then organist of the cathedral. He soon distinguished himself both at the organ and in composition. In 1716 he obtained (it was said chiefly through the interest of his uncle, Serjeant Greene) the appointment of organist to St. Dunstan's in the West, Fleet Street, and, on the retirement of Daniel Purcell, in 1717, was chosen organist of St. Andrew's, Holborn. He held both those places until the following year, when, on the death of Brind, he became organist of St. Paul's, and in 1727, on the death of Dr. Croft, organist and composer to the Chapel Royal. Greene had a strong admiration for the genius of Handel, and assiduously courted his friendship; and by admitting him to perform on the organ at St. Paul's, for which instrument Handel had an especial liking, had become very intimate with him. Handel, however, discovering that Greene was paying the like court to his rival, Buononcini, cooled in his regard for him, and soon ceased to have any association with him. 

In 1728, by the artifice of Buononcini, Greene was made the instrument of introducing to the Academy of Ancient Music a madrigal ('In una siepe ombrosa') as a composition of Buononcini's. This madrigal was, three or four years later, proved to have been composed by Lotti. The discovery of the fraud led to the expulsion of Buononcini from the Academy, and Greene, believing, or affecting to believe, that his friend had been unjustly treated, withdrew from it, carrying off with him the St. Paul's boys, and, in conjunction with another friend, Festing, established a rival concert in the great room called 'The Apollo' at the Devil Tavern near Temple Bar; a proceeding which gave rise to the joke, attributed to Handel, that Doctor Greene had gone to the devil.' In 1730, on the death of Dr. Tudway, Greene was elected Professor of Music in the University of Cambridge, with the degree of Doctor of Music. As his exercise on the occasion he set Pope's Ode on St. Cecilia's Day, altered and abbreviated, and with a new stanza introduced, expressly for the occasion, by the poet himself. This composition was performed at Cambridge at the Commencement on Monday, July 6, 1730. 

In 1735, on the death of John Eccles, Dr. Greene was appointed his successor as Master of the King's band of music, in which capacity he produced many odes for the king's birthday and New Year's Day. In 1743 he published his ‘Forty Select Anthems’, the work on which his reputation mainly rests. These compositions, it has been remarked, 'place him at the head of the list of English ecclesiastical composers, for they combine the science and vigour of our earlier writers with the melody of the best German and Italian masters who flourished in the first half of the 18th century'. In 1750 Greene received a considerable accession of fortune by the death of a cousin, a natural son of his uncle, Serjeant Greene, who bequeathed him an estate in Essex worth £700 a year. Being thus raised to affluence he commenced the execution of a long-meditated project, the formation and publication in score of a collection of the best English cathedral music. By the year 1755 he had amassed a considerable number of services and anthems, which he had reduced into score and collated, when his failing health led him to bequeath by will his materials to his friend Dr. Boyce, with a request that he would complete the work. Dr. Greene died on December 1, 1755, 1 leaving an only daughter Katherine, who was married to Dr. Michael Festing, Vicar of Wyke Regis, Dorset, the son of her father's friend the violinist. Greene was buried at St. Olave's, Jewry, and on May 18, 1888, his remains were removed to St. Paul's Cathedral and placed beside those of Boyce. A portrait of Dr. Greene was in the possession of Henry Festing, Esq., of Bois Hall, Addlestone, Surrey, in May 1895.

In addition to the before-named compositions, Greene produced a Te Deum in D major, with orchestral accompaniments, composed, it is conjectured, for the thanksgiving for the suppression of the Scottish rebellion in 1745; a service in C, composed 1737 (printed in Arnold's Cathedral Music); numerous anthems—some printed and others still in MS.; 'Jephthah’, oratorio, 1737; 'The Force of Truth,' oratorio, 1744; a paraphrase of part of the Song of Deborah and Barak, 1732; Addison's ode,' The spacious firmament' Florimel; or, Love's Revenge, 'dramatic pastoral, 1737; 'The Judgment of Hercules, 'masque, 1740; 'Phoebe,' pastoral opera, 1748; 'The Chaplet,' a collection of twelve English songs; ' Spenser's Amoretti,' a collection of twenty-five sonnets (1739); two books each containing 'A Cantata and four English songs' 'Catches and Canons for three or four voices, with a collection of Songs for two and three voices'; organ voluntaries, and several sets of harpsichord lessons. It must not be forgotten that Greene was one of the founders of that most valuable institution 'The Society of Musicians.'
William Henry Haddow

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