Theme and Variations

Thoughts and experiences of exploring classical, jazz, and other art music.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

William Boyce (1711-1779)

The CD player has been serenading me with the symphonies of William Boyce, or, at least the eight symphonies of his Op. 2.

Something mentioned in the Wikipedia link (isn't that a great source of info?) not written in the CD liner notes is that Boyce, like Beethoven, went deaf. Unlike Beethoven, however, he did not continue to compose, but did go on to complete works of his teachers.

Generally speaking, the Baroque era is said to run from 1600 to 1750. These eight symphonies are each partially inspired or borrowed from some of Boyce's earlier works; the symphonies themselves were published in 1760. Musicologists will warn us not to take era dates as hardbound boundaries, and in this case it is good not to do so. These symphonies definitely have late or High Baroque styles. Except for the sixth of the set (which has two), the symphonies have three movements each. These are short works, with the longest being the eighth which is a little under eleven minutes long.

Most of the works have a French Overture for the first movement, followed by dance-like movements. They do not always follow the Haydnesque formula of the second movement being slow, and the third movement a minuet-and-trio form. As might be expected from the practice of borrowing from other works to make new ones, the eight symphonies have a hodge-podge of movement structure.

Listening to the CD, the works remind me of Handel's Water Music, which is also in the French Overture form. These are light works. I don't recall ever hearing them on classical music radio. Were it not for Robert Greenberg's course on the symphony, I doubt I would have heard of them at all. That would be a shame; though lately I've not been in a mode to listen to much Baroque era music, I have enjoyed these. It is also interesting to hear pre-classical era symphonies.

A YouTube search brings up several examples/movements of these works.


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