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|John||Coprario • Coperario • Cooper|
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The first publication of Coprario was in 1606, a collection of 7 lute songs “Funeral Tears for the Death of the Right Honorable the earle of Devonshire”; in 1607 he composed several songs for a banquet staged for king James I Stuart by the Merchant Taylors Guild. In 1613 he published another books of 7 lute songs “Songs of Mourning: Bewailing the Untimely Death of Prince Henry” (for his former pupil, a Stuart prince; set to lyrics by colleague Thomas Campion, qv), participated in the wedding Masques (an English, pre-operatic genre of stage music) for king James I’s daughter Elisabeth Stuart and prince Frederick V, Elector of the Rhine palatinate, accompanying their triumphal bridal party all the way to Heidelberg, and back in London wrote three songs for the Earl of Somerset’s Masque. His unpublished vocal works include 21 Italian villanellas, one 5- and two 2-part Madrigals, a few more masque songs and a song setting of a poem by John Donne. His only known Anthems (a mainly religious or panegyric genre) were published in distinguished company in William Leighton (qv)’s 1613/14 “The Teares or Lamentacions of a Sorrowfull Soule”. Shortly after he was patronized by Edward Seymour and had his brilliant student, William Lawes (qv). Yet most of his works are instrumental, mainly for bowed strings, but none was published during his life; yet the circulation of manuscript copies attests to his success, even posthumously to the end of the XVIIth century, confirmed by Thomas Mace qv and Christopher Simpson (qv) naming Coperario in 1676 viz. 1667 as one of England’s famous instrumental composers. He was a prolific composer, especially of fantasias (a genre made dominant in English chamber music by William Byrd (qv), in various approaches, e.g. Thomas Lupo (qv) more lyrical and Alphonso Ferrabosco jr. (qv) constructed in careful melodic lines and balanced form), some ninety in various numbers of parts — often various registers, such as Treble, te,or and Bass — being extant (for Viols: 8 a2, 10 a3, 4 a4, 49 a5, 8 a6). Further he wrote suites for consort, and a treatise “Rules how to compose”, hand-written before 1617, a practical manual with original musical examples. His fantasias for viols show the progress of idiomatic instrumental writing, but more important are his four consort suites, both for their novel medium of one or two violins with bass viol and organ (although the music for the organ is merely a reduction of that allotted to the other three instruments), and for their development of the concept of the suite: each consists of a Fancy [i.e. Fantasy, by way of Introduction], an Almane [i.e. Allemande] and a Galliard [= gagliarda or gaillarde], but his stylized dances are no longer meant to be danced and contain irregular asymmetrical strains.
His “A maske”, set by Giles Farnaby qv, is to be found in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book.
Coprario was most probably born as John Cooper, but soon begun to use the beter-known Italianate surname (also as Giovanni Coperario) by 1601. His youth, family life and education are undocumented, but he probably was privately apprenticed, like many English contemporaries, in a wealthy household. Indeed the first evidence of his carreer is from 16 april 1603, when the household of sir Robert Cecil, Secretary of State to the crown, paid him £3 prior to a journey to the Low Countries, as later before other trips to the continent (notably Germany); in May 1608 he was himself paid for the teaching of a boy, named George Mason. There is no concrete evidence for the theory that he visited Italy before 1604 and adopted the name Giovanni Coperario, which he would then have kept after returning home; the story nonetheless persists (in 1662 Thomas Fuller even wrote he was an Italian), and he may well have been there, quite possibly also studying; while troughout the Ancien Régime musicians travelling to foreign employ commonly “naturalized” their names, in England exoticism was such that it paid to do the inverse, especially Italianize, given the obvious.success of the Italian musical families Ferrabosco, Lupo and Bassano both at court and in major private (aristrocratic) households. Cooper served at the English court from 1605 to 1626 as lutenist, viol (= viola da gamba) player and composer, and taught the future Stuart King Charles I and also Henry Lawes (qv) and William Lawes (qv). In the service of Queen Anne from 1605, by 1608 he was also in the private service of Sir Robert Cecil, since 1605 created 1st Earl of Salisbury, since 1608 Lord High Treasurer. Through 1612 John tought Prince Henry Stuart (d. 1613). In 1616–17 he traveled in Europe. He became the favorite and directed a specially created group of musicians when in the service (since 1618) of Prince Charles Stuart, who once enthroned (Charles I) made him Composer in Ordinary (his first salaried court position; also Musician for Lute and Voices) from 1625 through his death in 1626.