Personalities | Thomas Augustine Arne | Classical Era | Classical

English composer

Arne was the son of an upholsterer in Covent Garden. As a Roman Catholic in a largely Protestant country, he had no access to the usual opportunities for advancement as a musician through a church appointment. In the 1730s, he became involved with putting on English-language opera performances in London, earning a reputation as a skilful theatre composer; he was also active in the music for the pleasure gardens. His numerous theatre works include masques (notably Comus, 1738, and Alfred, 1740), operas (including Thomas and Sally, 1760) and incidental music, and among his songs are many delightful and popular Shakespeare settings (for example ‘Where the bee sucks’). In 1762 he wrote the fine Artaxerxes, an English opera in the Italian style, for which he translated the libretto from the Metastasio original. Reportedly not the most agreeable of men, Arne had a fine gift for the setting of English words and a fresh melodic style very much his own.

Recommended Recording:
Artaxerses, soloists, Parley of Instruments (dir) Roy Goodman (Hyperion)

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