Fancy on a Catch of John Blow - (2011)
theme is drawn from The Catch Club or Merry Companions being a Choice
Collection of the most Diverting Catches for three and Four voices Compos'd
by the late Mr. Henry Purcell, Dr. Blow & c. with the full title, "A
Three-Voice Catch on the Battle at Hailbron by Mr. Herbert, set to Musick by
Dr. I. Blow." The text for this round
[ 1 ] reads: "Come
here's a good Health to Prince Lewis the brave / That has bury'd cy Turks in
the Save, / For drinkers of Water a suitable Grave, / Both the old and the
new Turk, are here overthrown, / Now my Jolly, Jolly Comrades have at the
fair Town, / With our Bombs of old Hock will we batter it down, / The
Danube, the Danube's our Slave once again, / A greater than Xerxes has
thrown in his Chain, / And the Heydelburg Tun shall close the Campain."
Throughout the time in which Blow and his students, Purcell and Clarke, were
organists at Westminster Abbey, there were repeated wars with the Ottoman
Empire, which explains this text about the "Turks." The Heidelberg Tun is
the massive wine vat contained within the cellars of Heidelberg Castle. The
most recent vat was made in 1751, long after this catch was composed, and is
used for special occasions, and includes a dance floor.
[ 2 ] Hock refers
to the English's understanding of German wine, as distinct from others.
catch is noted in the Catch Club with its own ground bass, which
underpins the ornamented lines of the catch melody itself. Blow was reputed
to have employed "crudities" in some of his compositions according to
Charles Burney's contemporary History of Music, with the frustration
at attempting to explain one, he wrote "Here we are lost." For this some
awkward passages and odd voice leading may be found within the fancy in
homage to Blow's adventuresome spirit.
The entire work is here,
an MP3 file [ circa 3' 00" ]
The score for Fancy on a Catch of John Blow is available as a free
PDF download, though any major commercial performance or recording of the
work is prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the
graphic below for this organ score.
Fancy on a Catch of John Blow
[ 1 ] The lengthy round with the "thorough bass"
notated underneath it is as follows:
[ 2 ]
Mark Twain writes humorously in A Tramp Abroad, "Everybody has heard
of the great Heidelberg Tun, and most people have seen it, no doubt. It is a
wine-cask as big as a cottage, and some traditions say it holds eighteen
hundred thousand bottles, and other traditions say it holds eighteen hundred
million barrels. I think it likely that one of these statements is a
mistake, and the other is a lie. However, the mere matter of capacity is a
thing of no sort of consequence, since the cask is empty, and indeed has
always been empty, history says. An empty cask the size of a cathedral could
excite but little emotion in me. I do not see any wisdom in building a
monster cask to hoard up emptiness in, when you can get a better quality,
outside, any day, free of expense."