Giovanni Coprario

Biography

Born: 1575; England   Died: June, 1626; London, England  
John Coprario was one of the leading composers of post-Elizabethan England. He was highly respected for his songs and his instrumental music, which was original and trendsetting.

He was an Englishman, born and bred, who affected an Italianized name. (Sometimes he went so far as to style himself Giovanni Coprario.) Although he signed his surname "Coprario," it was sometimes rendered "Coperario" during his lifetime. The original name seems
Read more to have been either Cooper or Cowper. He does not seem to be the John Cowper who was a chorister at Chichester Cathedral in 1575 and its choir director in 1595 and 1596.

One contemporary account says that the composer adopted his pseudonym after he spent substantial time in Italy, where the local people started calling him "Coperario." This may well be the case, but there is no evidence that he spent any time in Italy. However, he was on the Continent, in the Netherlands, at least, in 1603.

In 1606 he issued his first publication (also his earliest surviving music), Funeral Teares, written on the death of Charles Blount, the Earl of Devonshire. As early as 1607 he was engaged to write music for entertainment of a party including the King given by the Merchant Taylors' Company. At about that time he provided music frequently for Sir Robert Cecil, who became Earl of Salisbury in 1605 and Lord Treasurer in 1608. Salisbury made payments to him to cover lodgings, maintenance costs of instruments, and so forth.

In 1613 he composed the music for Campion's Songs of Mourning, Bewailing the Untimely Death of Prince Henry, which contains elegies specifically for various members of the royal family. At a happier occasion a bit earlier the same year he had written music for Campion's The Lords Masque, for the marriage of Princess Elizabeth to Elector Frederick, and accompanied the newlywed royal pair on their progress to Heidelberg. At the end of the year, he again collaborated with Campion to write three songs included in The Masque of Squires, for the wedding of the Earl of Somerset.

Coprario's other major patron besides the Earl of Salisbury was Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, until that elderly noble died in 1621. By that time Coprario also had a major position in the household of the Prince of Wales.

In 1625 Charles I appointed Coprario his composer-in-ordinary. Charles went on record as regarding some of Coprario's instrumental fantasias as "incomparable" and learned to play the bass-viol parts. Coprario did not enjoy his official appointment for long, dying within the year.

Coprario also wrote a concise and clear manual on composition, called Rules How to Compose, probably intended as teaching material for his pupil, William Lawes. Coprario was one of the first to compose for the lyra-viol. Read less
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