Arne's Cantata -
'It might be wondered why such an elaborate piece of music came to be performed at the dedication of what was afterall, a minor rural spring, when a more simple musical offering such as that of Holcombe Ingleby, some one hundred and fifty years later, would have sufficed. The following item offers an explanation:
The Secular Cantatas of Thomas Arne
Thomas Arne was one of the most talented musicians and composers to emerge in eighteenth century England. Although intended by his father for a career in Law, Arne applied himself to the study of music, and he quickly emerged as one of England’s most promising lyric composers.
In 1745 Jonathan Tyers contracted Arne to compose vocal music for the concerts at the Vauxhall Gardens. Since there were few places where secular, English vocal music of artistic merit was performed in a public setting, Tyers decision was both novel and important for the future development of English song.
The concerts at Vauxhall were of the highest standards, and the orchestra that was formed there each summer boasted the best performers from London and elsewhere. For Arne, the association (with Vauxhall) proved to be one of the most significant in his career. The audiences at Vauxhall came to expect a greater level of sophistication in their music and although Arne may have been torn between the expectations of writing for public tastes and his own artistic desires when he composed songs for Vauxhall Gardens, his early Cantatas show no evidence of his “writing down” to his Vauxhall audiences.
The success of Arne’s works in this period would seem to be due to melodies that are highly vocal in nature and his “remarkable sensitivity to the poetry”. While all of the texts (of his Cantatas) have pretensions to classical themes, all appear to be from the eighteenth century. The sentiments of these texts are decidedly Dionysian, and they appear to be suited to a male singer (tenor range). Wine, lighthearted merrymaking and lovemaking are not only celebrated, but are prescribed. Wine, in particular becomes a recurring motive……….
The publication of these works in full score reveals Arne’s mastery in matters of orchestration*….Arne recognised that his Vauxhall audiences expected far more vocal showmanship in longer works such as Cantatas. This shift in his vocal style has traditionally been ascribed to the period of the 1760’s on the authority of Charles Burney, but it most probably began from 1755 and became particularly apparent in the next decade. .adapted from The secular solo Cantatas of Thomas A Arne (1710-78). *From 1745-1750 while he was apprenticed to Dr Arne, Charles Burney was given the task of orchestrating Arne’s works.
The foregoing raises an interesting question:
Did Dr Arne base his Cantata on pre-existing practices and embellish them or did he invent the practice of mixing the spring water with spirits which the Subscribers then adopted?
A recording of Reffley Spring by Thomas Arne can be downloaded from:
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