Richard Jones

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Biography

Born: 16??   Died: January 20, 1744  
English violinist and composer Richard Jones is first heard from through the publication in 1720 of his solo cantata "While in a lovely rurall seat." By 1723, it is likely he had begun his association with the orchestra of the Drury Lane Theater in London, as his now lost masque Apollo and Daphne was given there in August of that year. John Hawkins recorded in his A General History of the Science and Practice of Music (1776) that in 1730 "Dicky" Read more Jones took over the Drury Lane orchestra as leader. Jones also taught violin in London; among his students was Michael Festing. Richard Jones worked in an era of British music dominated by George Frideric Handel and the concurrent influx of Italian musicians. The year after Jones died in 1744, Thomas Arne presented "God Save the King" at Drury Lane, establishing for all time that England needed English musicians able to serve her interests in a way foreigners could not. Jones' presumably early death -- his birthdate is not known -- prevented him from taking part in the revolution that occurred afterward among English musicians such figures as Arne, Boyce, Bond, Avison, and others. Jones to some extent imitates the Italianate music most common to the London of his day, but his work represents a kind of scrambling of Italian influences.

Jones' set of six suites, his 1732 Suits or Setts of Lessons for the Harpsichord, an additional published set of violin sonatas, the cantata mentioned above, and fragments of an opera (The Miser, or Wager and Abericock) represent all we have of Jones' music. It remains highly obscure; the first modern reprint of Suits or Setts of Lessons for the Harpsichord did not appear until 1974. Difficult, wide leaps abound in this music, reflecting Jones' work as a violinist, the instrument he played in the pit at Drury Lane. These suites do not sound anything like Handel -- the prelude to the Third Suite in B flat is a third as long as the whole suite and moves through many ideas in an almost freely associated manner. Jones' eccentricity and independence of mind are reminiscent of the thinking, if not the style, of earlier English composers such as Matthew Locke. Read less

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