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Arne, Thomas Augustine
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Thomas Augustine Arne

(born London, bap. 28 May 1710; died there, 5 March 1778). English composer. Son of an upholsterer, he was probably encouraged in his musical career by his violin teacher Michael Festing. In 1732-3 he and his sister Susanna (later Mrs Cibber) were associated with musicians, including Henry Carey and J.F. Lampe, who aimed to establish an Italian-style English opera. After the success of his masque Dido and Aeneas (1734), Arne was engaged at Drury Lane Theatre, where he was to produce his works until 1775. In 1737 he married the singer Cecilia Young, who appeared in his next production, Comus (1738); influenced by Handel's Acis and Galatea, it was his most individual and successful work. Also popular was the masque Alfred (1740) (including 'Rule, Britannia'). While in Dublin in 1742-4 Arne produced his oratorio The Death of Abel (1744) and music by Handel. His dialogue Colin and Phoebe established him as a leading composer at the London pleasure gardens; during the next 20 years he published annual song collections. Among his next major works were a miniature English opera buffa, Thomas and Sally (1760), the oratorio Judith (1761) and an English opera seria to a Metastasio libretto, Artaxerxes (1762), the first and only such work to achieve lasting fame. After his masque The Arcadian Nuptials (1764) Arne's career declined; L'Olimpiade (1765; now lost), his only Italian opera, was a failure. But his last years saw the production of many of his best works, notably Shakespeare Ode (1769), the masque The Fairy Prince (1771) and the afterpiece May-day (1775); he also wrote catches and glees for concerts at Ranelagh House.

One of the most significant English composers of his century, Arne write over 80 stage works and contributed to some 20 others. His essentially lyrical genius is obvious also in his instrumental music.

Dramatic music: Comus, dialogue opera (1738); Alfred, masque (1740) (incl. 'Rule, Britannia'); Thomas and Sally, opera buffa (1760); Artaxerxes, opera (1762); Love in a Village, pasticcio (1762); The Fairy Prince, masque (1771); c50 other stage works (most inc.); contributions to other composers' works.

Vocal music: The Death of Abel (1744); Judith, oratorio (1761); sacred works; secular odes and cantatas; songs, many in Lyric Harmony (1746), Vocal Melody (1749-64); catches, canons, glees.

Instrumental music: overtures (2 sets); trio sonatas; kbd concertos and sonatas.

© Groves Dictionaries, MacMillan Publishers Limited, UK

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