The Theatre Career of Thomas Arne

by Todd Gilman

Hardback • 2012 • $126.00
ISBN: 978-1611494365

Paperback • 2014 • $62.99
ISBN: 978-1611495447

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This book concerns the life and theatrical career of the great native-born English composer and musician of the eighteenth century, Thomas Augustine Arne (1710-1778). Its purpose is three-fold. First, it provides a comprehensive biography and account of the performance and publication of Arne’s works during his lifetime. Although Arne’s childhood years get some attention, the book focuses on the period from 1732 to 1778, a time of great innovation for English opera and related genres. Second, it considers Arne’s social context: his relationships with the many dramatists, actors, singers, and fellow composers and instrumentalists—including many members of his own family—with whom he collaborated on the London and Dublin stages as well as at the London pleasure gardens. Third, it offers analysis of eighty musical illustrations drawn from vocal works for the theatre spanning Arne’s career, and readers can simultaneously study and listen to the musical examples provided on this web page (below) using music notation software. The audio component constitutes a crucial supplement to a study of Arne because so much of his extant theatre music cannot otherwise readily be heard. Arne was the leading figure in English theatrical music of his day. Dr. Charles Burney, the great eighteenth-century historian of music, had a high opinion of the composer, especially of Arne’s setting of Milton’s Comus (1738): “In this masque he introduced a light, airy, original, and pleasing melody, wholly different from that of Purcell or Handel, whom all English composers had hitherto either pillaged or imitated. Indeed, the melody of Arne at this time . . . forms an era in English Music; it was so easy, natural and agreeable to the whole kingdom, that it [became] the standard of all perfection at our theatres and public gardens.” Yet Burney’s greatest compliment concerns Arne as a composer of secular vocal music: “He must be allowed to have surpassed [Purcell] in ease, grace, and variety.” During his 46-year career Arne composed music for over 100 stage works—to say nothing of his myriad single songs, cantatas, and instrumental compositions. Yet despite a relative wealth of source material, scholars of theatre, drama, and music in our own time have almost completely ignored him. As a consequence, musicologists, theatre historians, and laypeople alike tend to evince a detrimentally limited sense of the magnitude of Arne’s contribution to English music and especially to the history of English opera.

About the Author
Todd Gilman is librarian for literature in English at Yale University Library.

“Dr. Gilman’s book is a superb, in-depth study of a much neglected English master. It’s packed with information, terrific music examples and fascinating quotes from Arne’s contemporaries. The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, may not know who wrote Rule Britannia but this work will set him right.” — Nicholas McGegan

Musical Examples to accompany The Theatre Career of Thomas Arne — Todd Gilman, PhD ©Todd Gilman, 2012

Download Sibelius Scorch, the free software required to view, play, customize and print the Sibelius scores (below).

Rosamond (1733)

1.1 Was ever nymph like Rosamond (printed version)

1.2 Was ever nymph like Rosamond (manuscript version)

1.3 Beneath some hoary mountain (printed version)

1.4 Beneath some hoary mountain (manuscript version)

1.5 Rise, glory, rise

The King and the Miller of Mansfield (1737)

2.1 How happy a state

Comus (1738)

2.2 Now Phoebus sinketh in the west

2.3. By dimpl’d brook

2.4 From tyrant laws and customs free

2.5 By the gayly circling glass

2.6 Sweet Eccho

2.7 Away, away, to Comus’ court repair

2.8 Fame’s an eccho

2.9 Would you taste the noontide air

2.10 Nor on beds of fading flow’rs

2.11 Preach me not your musty rules

2.12 By the rushy-fringed bank

Alfred (1740-1753)

3.1 Let not those who love complain

3.2 If those who live in shepherd’s bower

3.3 O peace thou fairest child of heav’n

3.4 From the dawn of early morning

3.5 Arise, sweet messenger of morn

3.6 See liberty, virtue, and honour appearing

3.7 Rule, Britannia

As You Like It (1741)

3.8 When daisies pied

3.9 The owl (When icicles hang by the wall)

3.10 Under the greenwood tree

3.11 Blow blow thou winter wind

Twelfth Night (1741)

3.12 Come away Death

3.13 Tell me where is Fancy bred

The Judgment of Paris (1742)

3.14 O ravishing delight/Save me from excess of joy

3.15 Gentle swain! Hither turn thee

3.16 Let ambition fire thy mind

3.17 Nature fram’d thee sure for loving

Abel (1744)

3.18 The favourite hymn of Eve

Theodosius (1744)

3.19 Hail to the myrtle shade

Cymbeline (1744)

5.1 To fair Fidele’s grassy tomb

God Save the King (1745)

5.2 God bless our noble king

The Tempest (1746)

5.3 Where the bee sucks

5.4 Behold your faithful Ariel fly

Romeo and Juliet (1750)

6.1 Ah, hapless Maid

Eliza (1754)

6.2 Ye waving woods

6.3 My fond shepherds

Cymbeline (1759)

8.1 Fear no more the heat of the sun

Thomas and Sally (1760)

8.2 Were I as poor/Grant me, ye powers

8.3 Life’s a garden

8.4 When late I wander’d

8.5 Come, come my dear girl

Judith (1761)

8.6 Be humble

8.7 O strive not

8.8 Sleep, gentle cherub

Artaxerxes (1762)

8.9 Fair Aurora

8.10 Behold on Lethe’s dismal strand

8.11 O too lovely

8.12 Monster, away!

8.13 Water parted from the sea

8.14 Tho oft a cloud

8.15 O much loved son

8.16 ‘Tis not true

8.17 For thee I live

Love in a Village (1762)

8.18 Still in hopes

8.19 Believe me, dear aunt

8.20 The traveler benighted

8.21 Go, naughty man

The Guardian Out-witted (1764)

9.1 O how great is the vexation

9.2 When from beauty

9.3 Turn hither

9.4 Pleasing tales

9.5 O Dolly

9.6 Tho oft the cock

Shakespeare Ode (1769)

11.1 Sweetest bard

11.2 Thou soft flowing Avon

King Arthur (1770)

12.1 O Peace descend

12.2 Come follow me

12.3 To virtue with rapture I bear

12.4 ‘Tis sweet the blushing morn to view

The Fairy Prince (1771)

12.5 Now all the air shall ring

Elfrida (1772)

12.6 Hark, compleating our prophetic strain

12.7 Say, will no white-rob’d son of light

May-Day, or The Little Gypsy (1775)

13.1 O spread thy green mantle, sweet May