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About Nicholas Lanier
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(portrait of Nicholas Lanier by Anthony van Dyck in Kunsthistorisches Museum)
Nicholas Lanier, sometimes Laniere (baptised at Greenwich 10 September 1588 – 24 February 1666) was an English composer, singer, lutenist and painter.
Nicholas Lanier was the son of John Lanier, who was the son of Nicholas Lanier the Elder. He was first taught by his father, John, who played the sackbut. In 1613 he composed a masque for the marriage of the Earl of Somerset jointly with Giovanni Coperario and others. He also wrote music and made sets for Ben Jonson's The Masque of Augurs and Lovers Made Men.
In the 1610s, Lanier was appointed as a lutenist to the King's band. He also sang and played the viol.
From 1625 he made a series of visits to Italy to collect paintings for the King, including most of the art collection of the Dukes of Mantua. During this time he heard the new Italian music being written by the likes of Claudio Monteverdi. This led to him being one of the first English composers to introduce monody and recitative to England.
In 1626, Lanier became the first to hold the title Master of the King's Musick. During the Commonwealth of England he lived in the Netherlands, but returned to resume his duties in 1660.
There is only one painting which can be identified as being by Lanier, a self portrait in the music faculty of Oxford University.
Lanier died in 1666 in East Greenwich.
- Solo songs
- A. Bring away this sacred tree
- B. Weep no more my wearied eyes
- Come, thou glorious object of my sight
- Do not expect to hear
- Fire, fire
- I was not wearier
- I wish no more
- Like hermit poor
- Love and I of late did part
- Mark how the blushful morn
- Neither sighs, nor tears
- No more shall meads be deck’d with flowers
- Nor com’st thou yet (Hero’s complaint to Leander)
- Hero and Leander, according to Roger North, writing in his (first) "Musicall Grammarian", was composed shortly after Lanier’s return from his travels in Italy, 1625-28. The stylistic features of the cantata would support this claim. North also states that "The King was exceedingly pleased with this pathetick song, and caused Lanneare often to sing it, to a Consort attendance while he stood next, with his hand upon his shoulder." In his second "Musical Grammarian" North once more comments on the cantata and quotes the opening measures, set in the bass clef. Taking North’s statements at face value, Peter Holman (Director of The Parley of Instruments) has prepared a reconstruction of Hero and Leander for baritone and strings.
- O Amantissime Domine
- Of thee kind boy, I ask no red and white
- Qual musico gentil
- Silly heart forbear
- Stay, silly heart
- Thou art not fair for all thy red and white
- Collin, say, why sit’st thou so
- I prithee keep my sheep for me
- Shepherd in faith I cannot stay
- Tell me shepherd
- Part songs
- A. Amorosa pargoletta [à 3]
- B. Amorosa pargoletta [solo voice with theorbo]
- Misera pastorella
- A. No, no, I tell thee no [à 3]
- B. No, no, I tell thee no [solo voice with thoroughbass]
- Sweet, do not thus destroy me
- Though I am young
- Young and simple though I am
- Instrumental music
- Almond [Allemande]
- Symphonia, G minor
- Symphonia, G major
- [Canon:] Thus, thus at last [from Self Portrait]
- [Arrangements:] Have you any work for the sowgelder, ho [from Wilson] In guilty night (The Witch of Endor) [from Ramsey]
- [Poetry by Lanier:] An Imperfect Ode, to his Sacred Majesty, for the New Year, 1665
- See also: Lanier’s "Nor com’st thou yet" (Hero’s complaint to Leander, no. 12) arranged by Peter Holman for baritone voice with string ensemble
- From: Nicholas Lanier: The Complete Works. Edited by Gordon J. Callon (Boethius Editions, XI). Hereford, England: Severinus Press, 1994. [Printed Feb. 1997.]
- Lanier was also a visual artist. Only surviving painting that can be identified: Nicholas Lanier. Self Portrait. (Collection of the Faculty of Music, Oxford University. Reproduced courtesy of the Heather Professor of Music, Oxford University.) It has been suggested that Lanier’s Self Portrait was presented to the Oxford Music School, c. 1642-44, when he was in Oxford with the court; if so his canon "Thus, thus at last" may date from this time.
- Two books of prints (visual art) by Lanier survive: Lanier, Nicholas.] Maschere delineato di Julio Romano ex, Coll:ne NLanier . Lva E.381-423-1964; E.392-1964 (pressmark 95D.140). [Lanier, Nicholas.] Prove prime fatti a l’aqua forte da N: Lanier a L’età sua giovenile di sessanta otto Anni 1656. Lva E.381-423-1964; E.392-1964 (pressmark 95D.140).
Nicholas Lanier (1588-1666) was the most prominent member of a large family of French and Italian musicians in the service of the English court since the middle of the sixteenth century. He received a position as one of the lutes in the King’s Music, 12 January 1615/16. Previously (c. 1605-13) he had held a position as a domestic musician in the household of Robert Cecil. At court, in addition to his position as lutenist, Lanier was a singer, and performer on the viol. He was the first to hold the position of Master of the King’s Music, from at least as early as 1626 until his death (with a hiatus during the Civil War and interregnum), and he served as first Marshall (for life) of the Corporation for Regulating the Art and Science of Music.
As a composer, Lanier was recognized in his own day, and is chiefly remembered now, as one of the composers who introduced the new style of Italian monody to seventeenth-century English music. He was an important composer of music for court masques, especially those of Ben Jonson. Indeed, if we are to take Jonson’s remarks at face value, he was the first English composer to write music for a masque that was sung throughout, and thus may be considered the beginning of a sort of opera in England-Jonson, in his introductory stage directions to Lovers Made Men (1617/1640), states, "the whole Masque was sung (after the Italian manner) Stylo recitativo, by Master Nicholas Lanier; who ordered and made both the Scene, and the Musicke." Jonson also mentions Lanier (along with Lanier’s uncle, Alfonso Ferrabosco) as composer of music for his Masque of Augurs. He was a poet: many of the lyrics to his songs are probably his own, and at least one of his poems was set to music by another composer. He served as representative and agent of Charles I in the purchase of a large portion of the extraordinary art collection of the Dukes of Mantua. This purchase, which has been described as "the greatest single coup in the history of collecting by any purchaser, prince or patron", took Lanier to Italy (mainly in and near Venice) off and on for about three years (1625-28) and was the means by which he came into direct contact with the new Italian music. Lanier was both a painter and a print maker, producing several paintings and two books of prints. As Ben Jonson noted in the remark quoted above, Lanier provided scenery for Lover’s Made Men. He evidently developed a reputation for knowledge of specialized painting techniques. Theodore de Mayerne, writing about 1630, comments on a recipe for "amber varnish" given to him by Lanier. He describes Lanier as "a superb musician and art lover". De Mayerne states that Lanier "says that he had learned this and obtained the recipe from signora Artemisa, the daughter of Gentileschi". It has also been suggested that during the interregnum Lanier supported himself by painting forgeries in imitation of masterworks. Sanderson, Graphice (1658), writes: "It is said that Laniere in Paris, by a cunning way of tempering his Colours with Chimney Soote, the Painting becoms duskish, and seems ancient; which done, he roules up and thereby it crackls, and so mistaken for an old Principall, it being well copied from a good hand."
Life information from: Gordon J. Callon, "Introduction", Nicholas Lanier: The Complete Works..., ix-xiii.
Select Bibliography (very limited):
- Callon, Gordon J. "Songs with Theorbo by Charles Colman and his Contemporaries in Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Broxbourne 84.9 and London, Lambeth Palace Library MS 1041," Journal of the Lute Society of America, XXIV (1991), pp. 15-51.
- Emslie, MacDonald. "Nicholas Lanier’s Innovations in English Song", Music and Letters, XLI (1960), 13-27.
- Graham, F. Lanier. "The Earlier Life and Work of Nicholas Lanier (1588-1666), Collector of Paintings and Drawings." M.A. Thesis, Columbia University, 1967.
- James, Susan E. "Nicholas Lanier: A Greenwich Notable, Part I 1588-1612", Journal of the Greenwich Historical Society, I (1992), 51-60.
- James, Susan E. "Nicholas Lanier: A Greenwich Notable, Part 2 (1613-1625)", unpublished typescript [for publication in the Journal of the Greenwich Historical Society, II (1993)].
- Spink, Ian. English Song, Dowland to Purcell. London: B.T. Batsford Ltd., 1974.
- Spink, Ian. "Lanier in Italy", Music and Letters, XL (1959), 242-252.
- Wilson, Michael I. Nicholas Lanier: Master of the King’s Musick. Aldershot, Hampshire: Scolar Press, 1994.
- Songs with Theorbo (ca. 1650-1663): Oxford, Bodleian Library, Broxbourne 84.9, London, Lambeth Palace Library, 1041. Edited by Gordon J. Callon. (Recent Researches in the Music of the Baroque Era, 105). Madison: A-R Editions, Inc., 2000.
Nicholas "The Younger" Lanier's Timeline
September 10, 1588
September 10, 1588
Name: Nicholas Lannyer
February 24, 1666
Greenwich, Greater London, UK