Brown, Geoffrey Ernest (1977) The organ music of Samuel Wesley. Masters thesis, Durham University.
Like his elder brother Charles, Samuel Wesley (1766-1837) was an infant prodigy who had an oratorio to his credit by the time he was eight. He was generally considered to be the greatest organist in England, being famed especially for his extemporisations. However, the organ held a minor place in his output as a composer until he became acquainted with the music of J.S. Bach, which he worked untiringly to introduce to the British public. In the early 1800s Wesley began to write a series of voluntaries, published as his Opus 6, which were conceived on a scale grander than had previously been attempted. Although he reversed the general trend towards increasing the number of movements in the voluntary, he enlarged the dimensions of those that remained, gave them a greater impression of serious purpose, and accorded the fugue a status greater even than that which it had enjoyed in the time of Handel and Stanley. In the last twenty years of his life, while continuing to write grand voluntaries in the manner of Opus 6, Wesley also wrote organ music in smaller forms. Prominent among these more varied works are the short pieces, as he called them, miniatures which show his genius quite as clearly as the larger works. In 1774 the eight-year-old Wesley presented his oratorio to William Boyce: in 1837, just before he died, he played to Mendelssohn. Thus Wesley's life encompassed great changes in musical taste. That he was able to steer a straighter stylistic course through these changes than many of his lesser contemporaries may be attributed to his tendency to stand back from the immediate developments of his day and draw inspiration from older sources, notably polyphony and J.S.Bach; but the latter source particularly was also to be an inspiration to many of the most progressive composers for the next hundred years and more.
|Master of Arts
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