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The Music of Mr. Wesley: Manuscripts of Works by Charles Wesley (1757 – 1834)

Leon Robbin Gallery
January 15, 2004
April 30, 2004



Charles Wesley (1757-1834) was the elder son of the first Charles Wesley, the famous writer of hymns, who discouraged the younger Charles from a musical career through his childhood and adolescence. Something of an infant musical prodigy, Charles the younger learned composition principally from William Boyce, and among his contemporaries in London was the Irish organist and composer John Worgan, who very likely also had an influence on him. His brother Samuel, a composer of rather greater note, called him an “obstinate Handelian” because of his conservative style of writing. The manuscripts shown here well illustrate the output of his period of secular choral writing in the 1780s. All were purchased on the Robbin Endowment Fund.
–based largely on the entry in Grove Music Online

Items in the Exhibition:

Glee 4. voices, Bristol 6th of Octr

[1787] 3 pages, oblong folio. Signed (initials) and dated at end.
Subtitled: “On Mr. Pope’s Grotto. compos’d of marbles, spars, gems, ores, and minerals, (at Twickenham)” and with the notes in Wesley’s hand “This was Perform’d at the Antient amateur set in Harley St.” and “This Glee is Publish’d at ye request of Mrs. N:” Probably meant to be accompanied by instruments doubling the four vocal parts, with added harmony “figured” for the bass line in the normal way.

Sonnet the words by Mr. Cowley

[London, December 21, 1784] 3 pages, oblong folio. Signed (initials) and dated at end.
Scored for high voice, with cembalo and figured bass accompaniment.

ODE, on the Birth Day of Portia. Perform’d at the Fete on Thursday Evening. compos’d 24th June [17]86. CW.

19 pages, oblong folio. Signed (initials) and dated.
In three parts. A fairly lengthy instrumental introduction is followed by a vocal segment (scored for high voice, with cembalo and figured bass accompaniment), which is in turn followed by the concluding “Chorus of Virgins,” two treble vocal parts accompanied by cembalo and various instruments. The unknown Portia was, if we are to believe the rather fulsome text, an accomplished poet.

Music that doth our senses charm

[n.p., n.d., but probably London, 1780s] 4 pages, oblong folio.
A working manuscript of a piece conceived for four voices to be accompanied by doubling instruments and a figured bass.

Cantata Hautboy and Bassoon Obligati, compos’d Oct. 24th 1787 at the request of An: Shepherd, Rev. Canon of Windsor, and Plum: Professor in the university of Cambridge. CW. London.

18 pages, oblong folio. Signed (initials) and dated.
With the note on page [2] “Compos’d for Mrs. B: at the request of Ano: Shepherd. DD &c &c &c.” In four parts, each for one or more voices with varied instrumental accompaniment. The pastoral idyllic character of the work can be gathered from the opening text of each section: “The God of Love had lost his Bow,”“Tell me shepherds have you seen,” “They shew’d the Goddess in the Grove,” and “Foolish shepherds don’t deceive.”

In gentle slumbers let me rest

[n.p., n.d., but probably London, 1780s] 3 pages, oblong folio.
A working manuscript of a piece conceived for high voice with cembalo and figured bass accompaniment.