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Locke, Matthew
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Biography
Matthew Locke

(Born; ?Devon, 1621-2; Died; London, Aug 1677). English composer. He was a chorister and secondary at Exeter Cathedral, where he became friendly with Christopher Gibbons. He probably also became acquainted with Prince Charles (later Charles II) at Exeter, and may have spent some time with the royalist forces in the Netherlands. He returned to England by 1651, and two years later he and Gibbons wrote the music for James Shirley's masque Cupid and Death. Locke probably married in the mid-1650s, and in 1656 he joined with others in writing the music (all lost) for Davenant's opera The Siege of Rhodes, in which he also sang.

After the Restoration in 1660 Locke was awarded three posts at court, to which in 1662 he added that of organist to the queen (facilitated by his conversion to Roman Catholicism). He continued to write for the theatre and also (perhaps while in Oxford) engaged in a polemical exchange with Thomas Salmon over the latter's proposals for a new form of musical notation. Locke was of a vain, contentious and vindictive temperament, but his vitriolic attack on Salmon may have sprung also from his frustration at not being awarded high honours at Oxford (Salmon, an MA at Trinity College, was supported by the Oxford faculty).

Locke's importance lies in his chamber music and dramatic music, which influenced Purcell's. His consort music and other ensemble works, mainly suites and separate dances, display robust and daring melody, harmony and form, as well as a conscious preoccupation with contrasting rhythms, tempos and dynamics. Although sometimes experimental, it is the work of a gifted and inspired craftsman. His extant sacred music, while not as maturely conceived, is often of high quality. His dramatic music, best represented by Cupid and Death, the masque in The Empress of Morocco (1673) and the vocal music for Psyche (1675), shows a sure dramatic instinct, especially in the recitatives and in several of the curtain tunes.

Locke's other music includes the well-known pieces 'ffor His Majesty's Sagbutts & Cornetts', probably performed on the eve of Charles II's coronation, and Melothesia (1673), a collection of keyboard works with an important preface giving the first extant English rules for realizing a figured bass.

Dramatic music: Cupid and Death, masque, composed with Christopher Gibbons (1st version, 1653, lost; rev. 1659); music for over 10 stage works, incl. The Empress of Morocco (1673), Psyche (1675).

Vocal music: 2 services; over 30 English anthems; 15 Latin motets; sacred songs and canons; secular songs.

Instrumental music: Consort of Fower Parts, 6 suites for strings; over 40 suites and many separate pieces for strs hpd pieces, some in Melothesia (1673); org pieces; music for wind, incl. 'ffor His Majesty's Sagbutts and Cornetts'; canons.

Groves Dictionaries, MacMillan Publishers Limited, UK

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