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Blow, John
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Biography
Blow, John

(Born; Newark, bap. 23 Feb 1649; Died; Westminster, 1 Oct 1708). English composer. He was trained as a Chapel Royal chorister and then worked as organist of Westminster Abbey, 1668-79. In 1674 he both became a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal and succeeded Pelham Humfrey as Master of the Children; from 1676 he was also an organist there. Henry Purcell served an apprenticeship under him and many others were influenced by his teaching. The 1680s and 1690s were his most productive years as a composer. While still active at the Chapel Royal (where he was named official composer in 1700), he was Almoner and Master of the Choristers at St Paul's Cathedral in 1687-1703, and in 1695 he returned to Westminster Abbey as organist, succeeding Purcell.

Blow was the most important figure in the school of musicians surrounding Purcell and a composer of marked individuality. His music uses a wide range of idioms and reflects his interest in structure. Foremost in his sacred output are Circa; 100 anthems, mostly verse anthems (some with instrumental movements); the powerful coronation work God spake sometime in visions (1685) combines features of both types. Blow also wrote several services and Latin sacred works. Most of his odes were written for court occasions; among the others are works for St Cecilia's Day such as Begin the song (1684). The highly original and poignant miniature opera Venus and Adonis (1685), also for the court, was his only dramatic work. A well-known part of his output was his secular vocal music, comprising Circa; 90 solo songs and several duets, catches etc; the Ode on the Death of Mr Henry Purcell (1696), a duet with instruments, is notable for its expressiveness. Blow's instrumental works include organ voluntaries and some 70 harpsichord pieces.

Dramatic music: Venus and Adonis, masque (by 1685).

Sacred vocal music: 12 services; Circa; 100 anthems, incl. God spake sometime in visions (1685); Latin works.

Secular vocal music: over 20 court odes; 10 odes for other occasions; over 120 songs, duets and trios, incl. Ode on the Death of Mr Henry Purcell, duet (1696); catches.

Instrumental music: Circa; 30 org voluntaries; over 70 hpd pieces (some grouped in suites); 3 pieces for strs; sonata.

Groves Dictionaries, MacMillan Publishers Limited, UK

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