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ClassicsOnline Home » CAMPION: Lute Songs
Thomas Campion was born in London in 1567, his parents both of some financial wellbeing, though the death of his father and mother, before the boy was fourteen, left much of his education in the hands of his stepfather. Fortunately he was so well placed that Thomas was given a legal education. It was in these elevated surroundings that he came into contact with the arts, and Campion was to become a distinguished poet. These were both admired and published, and in 1594 he also set his words to music. We are uncertain as to whether he was also a lutenist, but he certainly wrote well for the instrument.
How he also became a physician is unclear, but in 1605 he was granted a MD degree, and thereafter described himself as a Doctor of Physick. Yet two years later he began a lasting relationship with the royal court of James I, that saw his work both as a poet and composer. In 1614 he had become so musically elevated that he was writing books on the theory of composition, though he was somewhat unadventurous as a composer. His major works were published as a series of ‘Bookes of Ayres', and his total output was in the form of lute-songs. The later years were blighted by his involvement, unwittingly so he stated, in the plot to murder Sir Thomas Overbury. He was exonerated, but the few ponds he left on his death shows the drop in his popularity.
The songs are beautifully crafted, the accompaniments acting as a mirror of the vocal line. It shows Campion to have been a skilled craftsman who captured an ‘English’ style of composition. His songs were varied in content, but concentrated on love and melancholy, the latter much in favour at the time. He was not devoid of humour, as the song Jack and Jone an example of his gentle wit. He could also be quite dramatic for this period, the impact of Fire, fire, fire loe have I burne. There is also great deal of sadness in his songs, heard here in Though you are young and I am olde, which suggests a somewhat sad person.
Steven Rickards and Dorothy Linell formed the Rickards Linell Duo in London in 1983 as a counter-tenor and lute duo. The duo have largely made a career outside of the UK, their tours taking them to central Europe and to the States where they have given masterclasses in Universities including Florida, California and the New World School of the Arts.
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CAMPION: Lute Songs