Pepusch, John Christopher



Eminent theorist and composer; born in Berlin. His father was a poor Protestant minister and could only afford to give his son a year's tuition under Klingenberg in theory, and Grosses in organ playing. At fourteen the boy went to the court at Berlin, where he continued to teach and study until about 1697, when he left the court and went to Holland, and hence to London in 1700. He was immediately engaged at Drury Lane, first as violinist, then as accompanist and composer, in which capacity he arranged the music for a number of plays. In 1710 he founded the Academy of Ancient Music for the study of a lost art in which he was always deeply interested, and from 1734 to 1737 devoted most of his time to that institution. He was for a number of years director of music at Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre, where were played his masques, Venus and Adonis: Apollo and Daphne; The Death of Dido; and The Union of the Three Sister Arts; as well as the operas, Polly, and The Wedding. But more important than any was Gay's Beggar's Opera, in 1727 or 1728, for which he arranged the music from old English and Scotch ballads, and popular songs of the day. Meanwhile he had married the noted singer Margarita de 1'Epine, and in 1724 joined Dr. Berkeley's unsuccessful project of forming a college in the Bermudas. Pepusch, who had been made Doctor of Music by Oxford in 1713, realized that he lacked variety in his compositions, and consequently devoted himself to teaching the theory of music. He attempted to revive Guide's system of solmization by hexachords. In 1737 he became organist of Charter House, where he remained until his death, and where he lies buried, with a tablet near by, erected in 1757 by the Academy of Ancient Music. His last works were theoretical An Account of the Three Ancient Genera, and a Short Account of the Twelve Modes of Composition and their Progression in Every Octave. He scored his favorite, Corelli's sonatas, and also composed twenty-four sonatas for violin and bass as an introduction to them. Twelve cantatas, in two sets, published about 1716, contained his best composition, See, from the Silent Grove. Dr. Pepusch's knowledge was vast and his teaching excellent, but his works did not add much new material to the science of music.