William Boyce

boyceComposer: William Boyce
Date of Birth: baptised on 11 September 1711
Date of Death: 7 February 1779
Nationality: English
Period/Era/Style: Early Classical era/Later Galante era
Contribution(s): Boyce was an English composer and organist and is widely regarded as one of the most important English-born composers of the 18th century. Boyce is known for his set of eight symphonies, his anthems and his odes. He also wrote the masque Peleus and Thetis and songs for John Dryden’s Secular Masque, incidental music for William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Cymbeline, Romeo and Juliet and The Winter’s Tale, and a quantity of chamber music including a set of twelve trio sonatas. He also composed the British and Canadian Naval March “Heart of Oak”. The lyrics were later written by David Garrick for his 1759 play Harlequin’s Invasion.

Boyce was largely forgotten after his death and he remains a little-performed composer today, although a number of his pieces were rediscovered in the 1930s and Constant Lambert edited and sometimes conducted his works. Lambert had already launched the early stages of the modern Boyce revival in 1928, when he published the first modern edition of the Eight Symphonies (Bartlett and Bruce 2001). The great exception to this neglect was his church music, which was edited after his death by Philip Hayes and published in two large volumes, Fifteen Anthems by Dr Boyce in 1780 and A Collection of Anthems and a Short Service in 1790.

On the 7 February 1779 Boyce died from an attack of gout. He was buried under the dome of St Paul’s cathedral.

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