Orlando Gibbons: Fantasia in C Major
Orlando’s gifts received early recognition, and at the age of 21 he was appointed organist of the Chapel Royal under the service of James I. The pinnacle of his instrumental career was his appointment as organist of Westminster Abbey in 1623. The French ambassador visiting in 1624 reported, “At the entrance, the organ was touched by the best finger of that age, Mr. Orlando Gibbons, and while a verse was played…the choristers sang three several anthems, with most exquisite voices before them.” Gibbons’ religious music was closely tied to his devout Anglican believes. He avoided Latin texts, and as a master of serious polyphonic music his full anthems have attracted particular praise. In addition, his output includes madrigals, motets, verse anthems and consort songs, all crafted with meticulous attention to text setting. Gibbons avoided excessive word painting and instead relied on expressive declamation and powerful rhythmic treatment with short passages of vocal bravura.
Orlando Gibbons: O Lord, in thy wrath rebuke me not
Orlando Gibbons suddenly died at the age of 41. Although it was initially suspected that he died of the plague, the post-mortem report details, “…we viewed the body and found it clean without any spots of any contagious matter. In the brain we found the whole & sole cause of his sickness namely a great admirable blackness & syderation in the outside of the brain. Within the brain there did issue out abundance of water intermixed with blood and this we affirm to be the only cause of his sudden death.” Orlando Gibbons left behind his wife Elisabeth and seven children. The orphaned children were placed into the care of his brother Edward Gibbons. And it was Christopher Gibbons, Orlando’s eldest surviving son, who inherited the musical gene from his father. He writes, “I was bred up from a Child to Music under my uncle.” Christopher followed in his father’s footsteps and became a noted organist and composer described as “a great master in the ecclesiastical stile, and also in consort music.”
Christopher Gibbons: Fantasia-Suite in F Major
Christopher Gibbons continued in the musical traditions practiced by his father, with his compositions described as “bold, solid, and strong, but desultory and not without a little of the barbaresque.” In his mature years, Gibbons was well established, and he is mentioned several times in Samuel Pepys’ diaries. His music has only recently been rediscovered, but we might well accord him a substantial role in the rebirth of English music following the English Civil War. In addition, Christopher Gibbons has rightly been credited for nurturing several great Restoration composers, including John Blow and Henry Purcell. If you need yet another example of the saying “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” look no further than the Gibbons family!
Christopher Gibbons: The Lord said unto my lord