9th Biennial Conference on Baroque Music


William Ellis and the Transmission of Foreign Music in England

Candace Bailey

For almost 100 years, scholars have commented on the foreign keyboard music in English manuscripts copied c. 1655, but they found its presence there basically inexplicable. The path by which this repertory (both Italian and French) reached England has remained an enigma, and several authors have put forth incomplete theories that depend heavily on French lutenists—although no direct links have been established, nor have any specific connections been shown. In fact, no one has been able to definitively describe how music by such composers as Frescobaldi and Chambonnières came to England.

By identifying that two of the most important sources of foreign keyboard music in England (Och MSS 1113 and 1236) were copied by the same copyist (William Ellis) in the same decade, I have been able to trace the route by which French and Italian keyboard music reached English composers. Ellis was organist at St John’s, Oxford, and also hosted the weekly music meetings documented by Anthony Wood during the 1650s and 1660s. Edward Lowe, possibly the most prominent musician in Oxford at this time, attended Ellis’s meetings and was also friends with his fellow organist, Christopher Gibbons. This paper will demonstrate that Gibbons, through an acquaintance with Froberger, served as a conduit for the transmission of two entirely new styles of keyboard music in Commonwealth England—styles that were quickly absorbed by Gibbons, Locke, and Blow, and that formed the foundation of Purcell’s keyboard music.

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Last updated on 21 March 2000 by Yo Tomita