Faà di Bruno, Giovanni Matteo [Horatio, Orazio] 83

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Forbes, John

(d Aberdeen, Nov 1675). Scottish music publisher. He was a stationer at Aberdeen, where he began publishing in 1656. In 1662 he and his son John (b Aberdeen; d Aberdeen, late 1704 or Jan 1705) were appointed official printers to the town and university by Aberdeen town council. They immediately ventured into music printing, presumably with town council backing; their first musical publication was Songs and Fancies: to Thre, Foure, or Five Partes, both Apt for Voices and Viols (1662, 2/1666, 3/1682), which was Scotland’s first secular printed music book. Its presentation and contents now appear old-fashioned, resembling London madrigal partbooks around 1600; it is prefaced by a short ‘Exposition of the Gamme’, lifted almost word for word from Morley’s A Plaine and Easie Introduction of 1597. The three editions vary slightly in content; altogether they contain 77 different songs, of which there are 23 by Dowland and his English contemporaries, six other English anonymous partsongs, ten ballad tunes, six Italian songs by Gastoldi with English texts, seven ‘new English-Ayres’ from recent Playford publications and, most importantly, 25 Scottish items, 16 from the 16th century. Curiously, only the cantus partbook was ever issued; it seems likely that Forbes was printing with sales to burgh music schools in mind (the Aberdeen music school is mentioned on the title-page). As music-school pupils mostly had unbroken voices, a preponderance of cantus copies would be required; other voice parts were perhaps supplied by Forbes in manuscript to individual order. The 1666 and 1682 editions also exist in impressions marked ‘on sale in Edinburgh’. Only one copy of the 1662 edition is extant (now in US-SM).

In 1666 Forbes issued the first edition of the so-called Aberdeen Psalter, Psalm Tunes to Four Voices; it contains 14 metrical psalm tunes and one polyphonic psalm setting, ‘Bon accord in reports’. The latter had originally appeared in the 1625 Psalter, also printed in Aberdeen and possibly the work of Andrew Melvill, doctor of the music school at the time. This collection, too, seems to have been aimed at the educational market. It was reprinted as The Twelve Tunes, for the Church of Scotland in 1671 and 1706. In 1681 the firm issued Festival Songs, or Certain Hymns Adopted to the Principall Christian Solemnities.

After the death of the younger John Forbes the business passed, in January 1705, to his widow Margaret, then in December 1710 to his son-in-law James Nicoll. Nicoll issued the fourth and fifth editions of the Aberdeen Psalter in 1714 and 1720.



W. Kennedy: Annals of Aberdeen (London, 1818), i, 263–6; ii, 193

C.S. Terry: ‘John Forbes’s “Songs and Fancies”’, MQ, xxii (1936), 402–19

K. Elliott and H.M. Shire, eds.: Music of Scotland, 1500–1700, MB, xv (1957, 3/1975)

K. Elliott: Music of Scotland, 1500–1700 (diss., U. of Cambridge, 1960), i, 260–64, 333–40

K. Elliott: ‘Scottish Music of the Early Reformed Church’, Transactions of the Scottish Ecclesiological Society, xv/2 (1961), 18–32

H.M. Shire: Song, Dance and Poetry of the Court of Scotland under King James VI (Cambridge, 1969), 255–7

D. Johnson: Music and Society in Lowland Scotland in the Eighteenth Century (London, 1972), 166–70


Forbes, Sebastian

(b Amersham, Bucks., 22 May 1941). Scottish composer. He was the elder son of the viola player Watson Forbes. He was a choirboy at Hampstead Parish Church before studying at the RAM (1958–60) and at Cambridge (1960–64), where he was a bass in King’s College Chapel Choir. After working as a BBC music producer in London (1964–7, during which time he founded the Aeolian Singers), he taught at the University of North Wales until 1972. He then joined the staff at Surrey, and in 1981 he became professor of music. Additionally he has held posts as organist in London and at Trinity College, Cambridge.

Like others of his generation, Forbes was much inspired by the modernist composers promoted by the BBC Third Programme under William Glock. The Concertante (1963) shows the clear influence of Schoenberg and Messiaen; later works point to Gerhard (with whom he had a single lesson), but his range of reference is impressively wide. A meticulous craftsman, his best music is formally ingenious with a fluency borne of subtle harmonic plotting. While he has addressed most genres, his music tends to be most characteristic when, as in the vocal works and String Quartet no.4 (based on his choral cycle This is England), he is responding to specific poetic images.


(selective list)


Orch: Pageant of Paul, suite, 1962–3, rev. 1967; Chaconne, 1967, rev. as Sinfonia 1, 1989; Essay, cl, orch, 1970; Sym. in 2 Movts, 1972; Sinfonia 2, 1979; Sinfonia 3, 1990

Chbr: Pf Qnt, 1959–61; Concertante, cl, bn, vn, va, pf, 1963; Pf Trio, 1964; Theme and 4 Variations, 5 vc, 1964; Antiphony, vn, pf, 1965; Partita, cl, vc, pf, 1966; Str Qt no.1, 1969; Str Qt no.2, 1969; Serenade, cl, pf trio, 1970; Sonata for 14, 1975; Sonata for 21, 1976; Sonata for 9, 1977; Sonata for 8, 1978; Sonata for 16, 1979; Sonata for 10, 1980; Str Qt no.3, 1981–2; Sonata for 17, 1987; Str Qt no.4, 1996

Org: Sonata, 1968; Haec dies, 1969; Ite, missa est, Deo gratias, 1970; Tableau, 1971; Capriccio, 1972; Sanctus, 1983; Reflections, 1998

Other solo: Episodes, pf, 1965; Mosaics, hpd, 1974; 4 Fantasies: vc, 1974, vn, 1975, db, 1977, va, 1979 (arr. as Vn Fantasy no.2, 1979); Triple Canon, tpt, digital delay, 1988; Sonata-Rondo, pf, 1996


Op: Tom Cree (1, S. Conn), 1970–71

Choral: 3 sequences of Carols, 1967–8 rev. 1971, 1989; Res Miranda, 1980; Voices of Autumn (8 Jap. tanka), chorus, pf, 1975; Aedis Christi no.1, 1980; This is England, 1981; Aedis Christi no.2, 1984; Seasonal Roundelay, 1984; This World of Wales, chorus, pf, 1989, Bristol Mass, chorus, org, 1991; Hymn to St Etheldreda, chorus, org, 1995; madrigals, anthems, motets, etc.

Solo: 4 Songs (Anon., R. Herrick, W. Shakespeare), Mez, vn, pf, 1964; Crete Songs (M. Beckwith), Bar, va, pf, 1966; 4 Psalms, S, org, 1968, arr. S, str; 4 Shakespeare Songs, Bar, pf, 1968; Death’s Dominion, T, 6 insts, 1971 (M. Langenheim); Miniature Love Songs, T, pf, 1971 (Anon., R. Mannyng of Brunne, J. Sketton, T. Wyatt); 3 Latin Lyrics, T, lute, 1973


Principal publishers: Chester, Novello, OUP, Stainer & Bell, Associated Board


‘The Chamber Music’, ‘The Orchestral Music’, ‘Conclusion’, Alan Rawsthorne, ed. A. Poulston (Hindhead, 1986), 5–38, 86–145, 146–7

‘“Forgotten Treasure?”: Rawsthorne’s Second Violin Concerto’, Creel, ii/1 (1992), 7–28

‘Rawsthorne’s First Violin Concerto: a Classic Example of his Style’, Creel, iii/1 (1994), 7–28


P. Radcliffe: ‘Sebastian Forbes’, MT, cx (1969), 483–5

A. Orga: ‘Sebastian Forbes: a 50th Birthday Profile’, MT, cxxxii (1991), 234–7, 290–92


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