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Thomas Lupo is most notable for his instrumental consort fantasias and fantasy-airs (especially consisting of short dance-like sections, e.g. for two trebles and a pair of equal basses, a scoring continued by John Jenkins, William Lawes and Christopher Simpson), for two to six voices (“parts”), for Strings and sometimes a Basso Continuo (such as a Chamber organ) — 12 for six parts, 35 for five parts; few works survive (13 Fantasias for four parts and 24 for three parts), but many anonymous scores from the court may also be his. It is mostly contrapuntal in a textural style reminiscent to the Italian madrigal (sometimes even transcribed madrigals), especially the pieces for five and six voices imitated the style of Luca Marenzio while those for three and four parts are often more experimental, notably using combinations rare in other composers of the time, such as three basses together, or three trebles together. His dance music includes pavanes, galliards and Almands (i.e. allemandes); as composer for the royal violins he wrote or arranged many dances for the Jacobean masques (a precursor genre of opera), which also influenced his Fantasias.
Furthermore he produced sacred vocal music.
Thomas’s grandfather Ambrose Lupo was one of the Italian Jews who introduced the violin to the English court in 1540, from which is spread to aristocratic households, and next town bands and theatres; his son Joseph, a string player and composer from Venice came first to Antwerp, and then to London where Thomas was probably born and baptised on 7 August 1571. Aged 16 In 1588 he joined the violin consort at the Tudor court under Queen Elizabeth I (evidently he was not paid for his service until 1591) and remained in this position, or variants thereof, all his life. During the Jacobean era, since James I succeeded in 1603, Thomas served in the households of both his sons and presumed heirs, Stuart Princes of Wales — both music students of Alfonso Ferrabosco II, becoming the first royal princes skilled in bowing and ensemble playing — Henry (after 1610) and Charles (after 1617, when Lupo wrote most of his preserved works) when the violin graduatated from just dance music to more refined, contrapuntal mixed consort — with viols and/or organ, not unlike Italian sonatas then — as well. While James’ royal court was organized in single-instrument family consorts (shwams, flutes, recorders, violins — Charles, as Prince of Wales, outdid him artistically with a singled mixed ensemble that combined the skills of prominent musicians, including Engalnds four leading composers: Lupo (violinist like John Woodington and the Frenchman Adam Vallet), keyboard player Orlando Gibbons, Ferrabosco and John “Coprario” Cooper (both viol players), as well as singers and lutenists (such as Robert Johnson and the Italian Angelo Notari). They seized the opportunity to write for novel mixed ensembles (“broken consorts”), some of which started great traditions; another novelty for England developed by Lupo and Gibbons was grouping fantasias by key into Setts (suites). When Charles succeeded James as king in 1627, his musicians were easily integrated into the royal music, as many had long held concurrent posts there, in Lupo’s case in the violin band — as his father and gradfather before him — and since 1619 its official composer, mainly of dance music.
A surviving record from 1627 indicates that for financial reasons Thomas signed away £100 of his future income to pay off creditors though his wife violently attempted to stop him.
He died probably in London, in December 1627. When Ferrabosco died in 1628 as lost of Charles’ fab four, it took a decade till William Lawes championed contrapuntal music with Violins again, but they can rightfully be called the fathers of instrumental English Baroque, which would culminate in Henry Purcell.
This contribution is based on the inlay booklet written by director Peter Holman of the Parley of Instruments for their Hyperion-recording (CDA66395; The English Orpheus series, volume 4) of “Music for Prince Charles. Fantasias and dances by Orlando Gibbons & Thomas Lupo” and the Wikipedia article which refers to the same Holman’s lemma on him in Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy