Daniel Bacheler


Born: March 16, 1574 Died: January 29, 1619
Though in our own time the name of John Dowland has become the emblem of English lute playing, Daniel Bacheler may claim to be his equal; Dowland's own son Robert called Bacheler "the right perfect Musition." Born the fifth of ten children in a Buckinghamshire farmhouse, Bacheler apparently showed musical talent at an early age. At seven, he became a musical apprentice to his uncle (who happened to be Queen Elizabeth's dancing-master in Westminster). At 15 Bacheler entered the service of Francis Walsingham, the English secretary of state. Bacheler's earliest surviving music was copied, probably by the composer himself at age 16, into a set of partbooks for Walsingham's courtiers; this music already shows Bacheler's stylistic mastery. His esteem among the English nobility is also evident in his participation in Philip Sydney's funeral: Bacheler was riding the knight's warhorse! In 1590, Bacheler joined the household of Robert Deveraux, the Earl of Essex (who married Sydney's widow), and he probably continued to serve Essex up to the Earl's execution in 1601. It was in this decade (Bacheler's third) that a song of his, which set one of the Earl's sonnets, was sung for Queen Elizabeth herself.

Lady Essex proceeded to her third husband, and Bacheler proceeded to his third and most spectacular musical appointment. He traveled with his Lady to the court of Queen Anne, made her particular acquaintance, and was inducted into royal service. Bacheler was not even appointed as a court lutenist (the kind of position dour Dowland sought in vain for so many years); he was brought into her court as a groom of the Queen's privy chamber, at an extraordinary salary of four to eight times a mere lutenist's pay. He played music and wrote it, attended Queen Anne, and sometimes served as a royal secretary. In 1607 he applied for, and was awarded a coat of arms -- three dragons' heads, the symbol of Anne's native Denmark. Bacheler composed at least 50 pieces of lute music while in the Queen's service, and seems to have continued experimenting stylistically, and growing technically, until quite late in his life. It may have been a court epidemic of smallpox that claimed Bacheler's life in 1619. He was buried close to the Queen's Greenwich property, and his brothers and nephew fought bitterly over the "considerable property in several dioceses" he had accumulated by the time of his untimely death.

There are 18 Daniel Bacheler recordings available.

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