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John Blow has been described as “the doyen of the school of English musicians of which Henry Purcell was the most brilliant.”(1)
While Blow is chiefly famous for his operatic masque Venus and Adonis, and for his many church anthems, he wrote well over 100 secular songs, duets and trios, with and without instrumental settings; many of them appeared in Amphion Anglicus, published by Henry Playford in 1700. Others had previously been published in song collections like The Theater of Music, a substantial collection of songs by many contemporary composers, published in four volumes over the period 1685 – 1687 by Henry Playford and Robert Carr.
It has been said of John Blow that “during his lifetime his renown approached that of Purcell …..his position as the most important composer among Purcell’s contemporaries is unquestionable; his true stature approaches that of Purcell himself more closely than has been generally acknowledged.”(2)
As Peter Holman has pointed out, “2008, the 300th anniversary of the death of John Blow, is a good moment to reassess the music of an important English composer.” (3)
(1)Shaw, Watkins: ‘Blow, John’ in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, London, 1980.
(2) Wood, Bruce: ‘Blow, John, §3: Works’ Grove Music Online (Accessed 16 February 2008)
(3) Holman, Peter: John Blow 1649-1708, in NEMA, The Early Music Yearbook 2008, Ruxbury Publications, Hebden Bridge, 2008
For soprano (d'-b''), two recorders and continuo
The present piece, And is my Cavalier return'd? (which has the heading A SONG with FLUTES), is among those many songs in Amphion Anglicus, and is unusual in having recorders as the obbligato instruments. It is possible that they were intended to remind the listener of the military sound of fifes.
To speculate on which campaign the 'Cavalier' is due to return from, brings a salutary reminder of the politically troubled times that Blow lived in. Had Myrtilla's beau been slogging it out in Ulster in July 1690 against James II’s rebel army, or perhaps in Flanders' field in the summer of 1691 against the French? The reference to 'barbarous Sun and Dust' is a reminder that planned campaigns usually took place in summer.
After a brief instrumental introduction the voice and recorders alternate in a sort of dialogue.
After voice and instruments have portrayed Myrtilla's trembling, the war is suggested in clarion like arpeggios and trumpet calls, before a fmal rhythmic passage for voice alone as Myrtilla entices her beloved to winter with her.
Référence marque : BLO 4