Matthew Locke, classical music composer

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Matthew Locke


Born circa 1621 in Exeter, Matthew Locke was an important composer during mid-17th century in England. His music, in defiance of the preconceived notions of early Baroque music, was reflective of the turbulent times he lived in. Today, he is mostly known for his instrumental music, but his vocal and theater music is no less important or worthy of consideration.

He received his musical education as a choirboy at Exeter under the tutelage of Edward Gibbons. At the age of eighteen, he travelled to the Netherlands where it is possible he served at the court of Prince Charles, who had been exiled during the English Civil War. It is also likely during this time that Locke converted to Roman Catholicism, the preferred religion of his patron.

Following his return to England in 1651, Locke began to take the English stage by storm. He collaborated with Christopher Gibbons in 1653 on the music for the masque Cupid and Death by John Shirley. Three years later, he was one of five composers to help produce what is considered the first English opera, The Siege of Rhodes, with the playwright William Davenant. In addition, Locke provided music for the revivals of the plays of William Shakespeare.

Returning from exile, Charles II was restored to the English throne in 1660 and Locke was named private composer-in-ordinary to the King. When the King married Catherine of Braganza two years later, he became her private organist, performing in the chapels and in her apartment with a small ensemble of chamber players. In 1665, the English court left London to escape the Black Death that was then spreading through the city and relocated in Oxford. There, Locke began a fruitful relationship with the university's music school and composed his finest sacred vocal music.

In 1673, Locke published Melothesia, a volume of keyboard music containing also a detailed treatise on playing from a figured-bass. It was the first of its kind to be written in English. Locke died in August 1677 after which his duties as Composer for the Violins were taken over by a young family friend, Henry Purcell.

Composer Title Date Action
Matthew Locke The Tempest 05/25/2009 Play Add to playlist
Matthew Locke Music in the Tempest 10/02/2010 Play Add to playlist