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Lawes, Henry

LAWES, HENRY (1595-1662), English musician, was born at Dinton in Wiltshire in December 1595, and received his musical education from John Cooper, better known under his Italian pseudonym Giovanni Coperario (d. 1627), a famous composer of the day. In 1626 he was received as one of the gentlemen of the chapel royal, which place he held till the Commonwealth put a stop to church music. But even during that songless time Lawes continued his work as a composer, and the famous collection of his vocal pieces, Ayres and Dialogues for One, Two and Three Voyces, was published in 1653, being followed by two other books under the same title in 1655 and 1658 respectively. When in 1660 the king returned, Lawes once more entered the royal chapel, and composed an anthem for the coronation of Charles II. He died on the 21st of October 1662, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. Lawes's name has become known beyond musical circles by his friendship with Milton, whose Comus he supplied with incidental music for the performance of the masque in 1634. The poet in return immortalized his friend in the famous sonnet in which Milton, with a musical perception not common amongst poets, exactly indicates the great merit of Lawes. His careful attention to the words of the poet, the manner in which his music seems to grow from those words, the perfect coincidence of the musical with the metrical accent, all put Lawes's songs on a level with those of Schumann or Liszt or any modern composer. At the same time he is by no means wanting in genuine melodic invention, and his concerted music shows the learned contrapuntist.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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