Thomas Arne (1710-1778)

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01Introducing Dr Arne2010030820140414

Donald Macleod introduces the life and work of Arne.

Eighteenth Century Britain: Majesty, Music and Mischief

Donald Macleod introduces us to Dr Arne, musical prodigy, unscrupulous businessman and bad husband; composer of some of Britain's most enduring music including Last Night of the Proms favourite, 'Rule Britannia'.

Thomas Arne is remembered today, if he's remembered at all, by just a handful of popular songs. Even so, these are some of Britain's most enduring melodies. 'Rule Britannia' has its annual outing at the Last Night of the Proms, and his setting of Shakespeare's 'Where the bee sucks' remains the best known of the very many versions of that song. The lasting appeal of these tunes gives us just a hint of the fame and popularity he enjoyed as one of London's most successful stage composers in the 18th century. He had a knack for entertaining the city's well-to-do middle-classes, and wasn't afraid to pander to their more low-brow tastes if that was what put bums on seats.

His friends and colleagues, while full of praise for his art, scorned his ungentlemanly character. His self-cultivated image as a 'man of pleasure' was combined with an unscrupulous head for business that Arne inherited from his father. We can all too easily imagine him drooling with anticipation, as he took under his wing yet another talented young actress, dreaming of the riches her voice might bring him. His reputation as a lecher and a bad husband did him no favours, though, and rather tarnished his professional career.

History has not been kind to his memory. The masques and plays that served as vehicles for his music were not designed for posterity and much of his legacy has been lost. Plus, he had the misfortune to live and work alongside England's brightest musical genius, George Frederick Handel, whose brilliance consigned a whole generation of British composers to shadowy obscurity. Nevertheless, even though his story is full of missing chapters, Arne is revealed as one British music's most vibrant characters.

Thomas Arne is remembered today, if he's remembered at all, by just a handful of popular songs.

Even so, these are some of Britain's most enduring melodies.

'Rule Britannia' has its annual outing at the Last Night of the Proms, and his setting of Shakespeare's 'Where the bee sucks' remains the best known of the very many versions of that song.

The lasting appeal of these tunes gives us just a hint of the fame and popularity he enjoyed as one of London's most successful stage composers in the 18th century.

He had a knack for entertaining the city's well-to-do middle-classes, and wasn't afraid to pander to their more low-brow tastes if that was what put bums on seats.

His friends and colleagues, while full of praise for his art, scorned his ungentlemanly character.

His self-cultivated image as a 'man of pleasure' was combined with an unscrupulous head for business that Arne inherited from his father.

We can all too easily imagine him drooling with anticipation, as he took under his wing yet another talented young actress, dreaming of the riches her voice might bring him as much as any other sorts of pleasures.

His reputation as a lecher and a bad husband did him no favours, though, and rather tarnished his professional career.

History has not been kind to his memory.

The masques and plays that served as vehicles for his music were not designed for posterity and much of his legacy has been lost.

Plus, he had the misfortune to live and work alongside England's brightest musical genius, George Frederick Handel, whose brilliance consigned a whole generation of British composers to shadowy obscurity.

Nevertheless, even though his story is full of missing chapters, Arne is revealed as one British music's most vibrant characters.

(1/5) Donald Macleod introduces us to Dr Arne, musical prodigy, unscrupulous businessman and bad husband; composer of some of Britain's most enduring music including Last Night of the Proms favourite, 'Rule Britannia'.

Arne: When Icicles hang

The Folger Consort

Delos D/CD1003, track 26

Arne: Overture No.7 (Overture to Comus)

Collegium Musicum 90, conducted by Simon Standage

Chaconne CHAN 0722, tracks 23-25

Arne: Fame's an Echo (Comus)

Arne: Not on Beds of Fading Flow'rs (Comus)

Julianne Baird (soprano), Colin Tilney (harpsichord)

Dorian DOR90105, tracks 7 & 8

Arne: Artaxerxes (Act 1, Scenes 1-6)

Christopher Robson (Artaxerxes, countertenor), Ian Partridge (Artabanes, tenor), Patricia Spence (Arbaces, mezzo-soprano), Richard Edgar-Wilson (Rimenes, tenor), Catherine Bott (Mandane, soprano), Philippa Hyde (Semira, soprano), Colin Campbell (bass), Charles Gibbs (bass), The Parley of Instruments, conducted by Roy Goodman

Hyperion, CDD22073, CD1, track 1-15.

02A Man Of Ill Repute2010030920140415

Donald Macleod on Arne's differing attitudes to the public and to his friends and family.

Arne knew exactly what his public wanted and he gave it to them. It was a shame, then, he couldn't extend this same sensitivity to his friends and family. Presented by Donald Macleod.

Thomas Arne is remembered today, if he's remembered at all, by just a handful of popular songs. Even so, these are some of Britain's most enduring melodies. 'Rule Britannia' has its annual outing at the Last Night of the Proms, and his setting of Shakespeare's 'Where the bee sucks' remains the best known of the very many versions of that song. The lasting appeal of these tunes gives us just a hint of the fame and popularity he enjoyed as one of London's most successful stage composers in the 18th century. He had a knack for entertaining the city's well-to-do middle-classes, and wasn't afraid to pander to their more low-brow tastes if that was what put bums on seats.

His friends and colleagues, while full of praise for his art, scorned his ungentlemanly character. His self-cultivated image as a 'man of pleasure' was combined with an unscrupulous head for business that Arne inherited from his father. We can all too easily imagine him drooling with anticipation, as he took under his wing yet another talented young actress, dreaming of the riches her voice might bring him. His reputation as a lecher and a bad husband did him no favours, though, and rather tarnished his professional career.

History has not been kind to his memory. The masques and plays that served as vehicles for his music were not designed for posterity and much of his legacy has been lost. Plus, he had the misfortune to live and work alongside England's brightest musical genius, George Frederick Handel, whose brilliance consigned a whole generation of British composers to shadowy obscurity. Nevertheless, even though his story is full of missing chapters, Arne is revealed as one British music's most vibrant characters.

(2/5) Arne knew exactly what his public wanted and he gave it to them. It was a shame, then, he couldn't extend this same sensitivity to his friends and family. Presented by Donald Macleod.

Arne: Rise, Glory, rise (Rosamond)

Emma Kirkby (soprano), the Academy of Ancient Music, directed by Christopher Hogwood

Oiseau Lyre 4361322, track 5

Arne: Alfred (end of Act III)

Jennifer Smith (Eltruda, soprano), Christine Brandes (Emma, soprano), David Daniels (Prince Edward, countertenor), Jamie MacDougall (Alfred, tenor), Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Philharmonia Chorale, conducted by Nicholas McGegan

Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, 75605513142, tracks 22-24

Arne: Symphony No.4 in C minor

Cantilena, conducted by Adrian Shepherd

Chandos, CHAN8403, tracks 4-6

Arne: Artaxerxes (Act I, Scenes 7-14)

Christopher Robson (Artaxerxes, countertenor), Ian Partridge (Artabanes, tenor), Patricia Spence (Arbaces, mezzo-soprano), Richard Edgar-Wilson (Rimenes, tenor), Catherine Bott (Mandane, soprano), Philippa Hyde (Semira, soprano), Colin Campbell (bass), Charles Gibbs (bass), The Parley of Instruments, conducted by Roy Goodman

Hyperion, CDD22073, CD1, track 16-23.

03Irish Adventures2010031020140416

Donald Macleod on Arne's success in Dublin, which was followed by bad fortune in London.

Donald Macleod follows the composer to Dublin, where he hoped to capitalise on Handel's recent success there, but finds Arne's knack for making enemies catching up with him on his return to London.

Thomas Arne is remembered today, if he's remembered at all, by just a handful of popular songs. Even so, these are some of Britain's most enduring melodies. 'Rule Britannia' has its annual outing at the Last Night of the Proms, and his setting of Shakespeare's 'Where the bee sucks' remains the best known of the very many versions of that song. The lasting appeal of these tunes gives us just a hint of the fame and popularity he enjoyed as one of London's most successful stage composers in the 18th century. He had a knack for entertaining the city's well-to-do middle-classes, and wasn't afraid to pander to their more low-brow tastes if that was what put bums on seats.

His friends and colleagues, while full of praise for his art, scorned his ungentlemanly character. His self-cultivated image as a 'man of pleasure' was combined with an unscrupulous head for business that Arne inherited from his father. We can all too easily imagine him drooling with anticipation, as he took under his wing yet another talented young actress, dreaming of the riches her voice might bring him. His reputation as a lecher and a bad husband did him no favours, though, and rather tarnished his professional career.

History has not been kind to his memory. The masques and plays that served as vehicles for his music were not designed for posterity and much of his legacy has been lost. Plus, he had the misfortune to live and work alongside England's brightest musical genius, George Frederick Handel, whose brilliance consigned a whole generation of British composers to shadowy obscurity. Nevertheless, even though his story is full of missing chapters, Arne is revealed as one British music's most vibrant characters.

(3/5) Donald Macleod follows the composer to Dublin, where he hoped to capitalise on Handel's recent success there, but finds Arne's knack for making enemies catching up with him on his return to London.

Arne: Where the bee sucks.

Catherine Bott (soprano), The Parley of Instruments, directed by Peter Holman

Hyperion, CDA67450, track 22

Arne: Alfred, Act 1 Trio - 'Let not those who love complain'

Jennifer Smith (Eltruda, soprano), David Daniels (Prince Edward, countertenor), Jamie MacDougall (Alfred, tenor), Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Philharmonia Chorale, conducted by Nicholas McGegan

Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, 75605513142, track 9

Arne: Trio Sonata No.3 in Eb

Collegium Musicum 90

Chandos, CHAN0666, tracks 10-12

Arne: Artaxerxes (Act II complete)

Christopher Robson (Artaxerxes, countertenor), Ian Partidge (Artabanes, tenor), Patricia Spence (Arbaces, mezzo-soprano), Richard Edgar-Wilson (Rimenes, tenor), Catherine Bott (Mandane, soprano), Philippa Hyde (Semira, soprano), Colin Campbell (bass), Charles Gibbs (bass), The Parley of Instruments, conducted by Roy Goodman

Hyperion, CDD22073, CD1, track 24-33, CD2, tr-1-6.

04At The Pleasure Gardens2010031120140417

Donald Macleod on the effect on Arne's career of his bad treatment of his estranged wife.

Arne's shabby treatment of his estranged wife only confirmed people's already low opinion of his character - a sickness that seemed to be infecting his professional career too. Presented by Donald Macleod.

Thomas Arne is remembered today, if he's remembered at all, by just a handful of popular songs. Even so, these are some of Britain's most enduring melodies. 'Rule Britannia' has its annual outing at the Last Night of the Proms, and his setting of Shakespeare's 'Where the bee sucks' remains the best known of the very many versions of that song. The lasting appeal of these tunes gives us just a hint of the fame and popularity he enjoyed as one of London's most successful stage composers in the 18th century. He had a knack for entertaining the city's well-to-do middle-classes, and wasn't afraid to pander to their more low-brow tastes if that was what put bums on seats.

His friends and colleagues, while full of praise for his art, scorned his ungentlemanly character. His self-cultivated image as a 'man of pleasure' was combined with an unscrupulous head for business that Arne inherited from his father. We can all too easily imagine him drooling with anticipation, as he took under his wing yet another talented young actress, dreaming of the riches her voice might bring him. His reputation as a lecher and a bad husband did him no favours, though, and rather tarnished his professional career.

History has not been kind to his memory. The masques and plays that served as vehicles for his music were not designed for posterity and much of his legacy has been lost. Plus, he had the misfortune to live and work alongside England's brightest musical genius, George Frederick Handel, whose brilliance consigned a whole generation of British composers to shadowy obscurity. Nevertheless, even though his story is full of missing chapters, Arne is revealed as one British music's most vibrant characters.

(4/5) Arne's shabby treatment of his estranged wife only confirmed people's already low opinion of his character - a sickness that seemed to be infecting his professional career too.

Presented by Donald Macleod.

Arne: Cymon and Iphigenia

Philip Langridge (tenor), David Owen Norris (harpsichord), Jennifer Langridge (cello), Tristan Gurney (violin), Malcolm Layfield (violin)

Signum SIGCD101, track 19

Arne: Sonata No.3

Ewald Demeyere, (harpsichord)

Accent ACC21145, tracks 7-9

Sleep, gentle Cherub, sleep descend (Judith)

Julianne Baird (soprano), Colin Tilney (harpsichord)

Dorian DOR90105, tracks 8

Arne: Artaxerxes (Act III, Scenes 1-5)

Christopher Robson (Artaxerxes, countertenor), Ian Partridge (Artabanes, tenor), Patricia Spence (Arbaces, mezzo-soprano), Richard Edgar-Wilson (Rimenes, tenor), Catherine Bott (Mandane, soprano), Philippa Hyde (Semira, soprano), Colin Campbell (bass), Charles Gibbs (bass), The Parley of Instruments, conducted by Roy Goodman

Hyperion, CDD22073, CD2, track 7-17.

05 LASTA Lost Legacy2010031220140418

Donald Macleod asks whether history been fair on Arne and his legacy.

Arne has often been written off as an unsavoury character who failed to capitalise properly on his talent, but today Donald Macleod explores how much of this composer's story remains untold.

Thomas Arne is remembered today, if he's remembered at all, by just a handful of popular songs. Even so, these are some of Britain's most enduring melodies. 'Rule Britannia' has its annual outing at the Last Night of the Proms, and his setting of Shakespeare's 'Where the bee sucks' remains the best known of the very many versions of that song. The lasting appeal of these tunes gives us just a hint of the fame and popularity he enjoyed as one of London's most successful stage composers in the 18th century. He had a knack for entertaining the city's well-to-do middle-classes, and wasn't afraid to pander to their more low-brow tastes if that was what put bums on seats.

His friends and colleagues, while full of praise for his art, scorned his ungentlemanly character. His self-cultivated image as a 'man of pleasure' was combined with an unscrupulous head for business that Arne inherited from his father. We can all too easily imagine him drooling with anticipation, as he took under his wing yet another talented young actress, dreaming of the riches her voice might bring him. His reputation as a lecher and a bad husband did him no favours, though, and rather tarnished his professional career.

History has not been kind to his memory. The masques and plays that served as vehicles for his music were not designed for posterity and much of his legacy has been lost. Plus, he had the misfortune to live and work alongside England's brightest musical genius, George Frederick Handel, whose brilliance consigned a whole generation of British composers to shadowy obscurity. Nevertheless, even though his story is full of missing chapters, Arne is revealed as one British music's most vibrant characters.

(5/5) Arne has often been written-off as an unsavoury character who failed to capitalise properly on his talent, but Donald Macleod explores how much of this composer's story remains untold.

Arne: The Street Intrigue

The Deller Consort

Vanguard, 08503971, track 28

Arne: Elegy on the death of Mr Shenstone

The Hilliard Ensemble

Harmonia Mundi, HM901153, T17

Arne: Ode upon dedicating a building to Shakespeare

Emma Kirkby (soprano), The Parley of Instruments, conducted by Roy Goodman

Hyperion CDA66237, track 6

Arne: Piano Concerto in A major

Paul Nicholson (piano/director), The Parley of Instruments Baroque Orchestra

Helios CDH55251, tracks 10-13

Arne: Artaxerxes (Act III, Scenes 6-11)

Christopher Robson (Artaxerxes, countertenor), Ian Partridge (Artabanes, tenor), Patricia Spence (Arbaces, mezzo-soprano), Richard Edgar-Wilson (Rimenes, tenor), Catherine Bott (Mandane, soprano), Philippa Hyde (Semira, soprano), Colin Campbell (bass), Charles Gibbs (bass), The Parley of Instruments, conducted by Roy Goodman

Hyperion, CDD22073, CD2, track 18-25.