Thursday, April 7, 2016

Reappropriating J.E. Galliard's Music 1, A Short Biography

Every bassoonist has played a sonata by John Ernest Galliard at least once in their career. Many have been exposed to the International Edition of his bassoon sonatas of 1733, and they are commonly heard at a beginner bassoon recital. Though I encourage the use of this material as a teaching aid, I am disappointed to find that few see these works as appropriate artistic material for a mature performer. If seen through the lens of a modern bassoonist, the Galliard sonatas are easy pieces, if a bit quirky. If one were to contextualize them, however, they would see that they were a product of an important theatrical composer in early 18th Century London. In the next posts on the subject, let us reappropriate the Galliard sonatas.


A short biography

Mr. John Ernest Galliard (1686/87-1747)


John Ernest Galliard was born to the family of a French wig-maker in Zell. From an early age he studied the flute and oboe with Pierre Mar√©chal, a court musician. By 1698, Galliard had joined the court orchestra and in 1702 was taking composition lessons in Hannover under the tutelage of Agostino Steffani and G.B. Farinelli. In 1706, when the Zell orchestra was disbanded, Galliard earned a position as a musician in the court of Prince George of Denmark, Queen Anne’s Consort. In 1710, he succeeded G.B. Draghi as organist at Somerset House and began to accrue a reputation as a fine oboist and composer.

Galliard was said to have learned English exceptionally quickly and his 1742 translation of Tosi’s Opinioni de’ cantori antichi e moderni was an important addition to the musical literature in England. Hawkins, in a footnote in his General History, remarks that Galliard was in all likelihood the translator of Raguenet’s Parall√®le of 1709 as well as the appended Critical Discourse detailing the early history of opera in London, a theory with which modern scholars agree.1

In 1712, Galliard partnered with John Hughes to create Calypso and Telemachus2, the last of the Italianate operas to be fully performed in English. Unfortunately, though the music and libretto were of a decent quality, the pro-Italian faction with the opera-going public saw to it that Calypso failed in its first run.3 For a time he performed at the Haymarket theatre (Handel’s Teseo of 1713 included a difficult oboe solo written specifically for Galliard) before becoming the house composer to John Rich’s company at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and later Covent Garden. For Rich, he produced a series of masques and pantomimes stretching a period of over twenty-five years. Some of these works include Pan and Syrinx4; Decius and Paulina5; Circe6; The Necromancer, or Harlequin Dr. Faustus7; Apollo and Daphne, or the Burgomaster Tricked8; The Royal Chace, or Merlin’s Cave9; and The Happy Captive10.

Despite living a “retired and studious life”11, Galliard was a central figure in London’s musical circles. He was a founding member of the Academy of Vocal Music (later the Academy of Ancient Music)12 and the Royal Society of Musicians. Galliard’s notable published compositions include a collection of sonatas for the recorder (1711); the score to Calypso and Telemachus, without recitatives; Six English Cantatas after the Italian Manner (1716); and six sonatas for the bassoon (1733).

In his works, the variety of form and style displayed is that of a minor master. Though he recognized himself as rank below the international level of Handel, Bononcini, and Geminiani (and rightly so), Galliard absorbed and emulated the styles popular over his lifetime to great success. As an author, Galliard made an important singing treatise accessible to the English and has greatly helped modern scholars understand the effectiveness of the earliest operas of 18th century London.


1. See Stoddard Lincoln, "J. E. Galliard and a Critical Discourse," Musical Quarterly LIII, no. 3 (1967), 347-364.
2. Premiered May 24 1712 at the Queen’s Theatre. Libretto by John Hughes. Performed entirely in English.
3. John Hawkins, “A General History of the Science and Practice of Music,” Vol. 5 (London: T. Payne, 1776), 188.
4. Premiered 14 January 1718 at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Libretto by Lewis Theobald.
5. Premiered 22 March 1718 at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Libretto by Lewis Theobald.
6. Premiered 11 April 1719 at Lincoln’s Inn Fields.
7. Premiered 20 December 1723 at Lincoln’s Inn Fields.
8. Premiered 14 January 1726 at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Libretto by Lewis Theobald.
9. Premiered 23 January 1736 at Covent Garden Theatre. Libretto by [Ambrose?] Phillips. Performed as an afterpiece to The Distressed Mother. This piece was an updating of Jupiter and Europa (Premiered 25 January 1723 at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Music by John Ernest Galliard.) containing revisions and added material. The song With Early Horn became a standalone hit, launched the career of the tenor John Beard, and was published in Calliope, or English Harmony (1739).
10. Premiered 16 April 1741 at the Little Theatre in the Haymarket.
11. Hawkins, “General History,” 188.
12. Galliard directed the first performance of the Academy of Vocal Music in 1726.

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