Pepusch, John Christopher (actually, Johann Christoph)

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Pepusch, John Christopher (actually, Johann Christoph)

Pepusch, John Christopher (actually, Johann Christoph), German-born English composer; b. Berlin, 1667; d. London, July 20, 1752. He was taught by Klingenberg (theory) and Grosse (organ). He had a position at the Prussian court in 1681–97, and then went to Holland. He was in London by 1704, where he was active as a violist and harpsichordist at Drury Lane Theatre; later as a composer, adapting Italian airs to English operas and adding recitatives and songs. In 1710 he founded (with Needier, Gates, Galliard, and others) the Academy of Ancient Music, famous for the revival of 16th-century compositions. Having received the D.Mus. degree from Oxford in 1713, he served as music director to James Brydges (later the Duke of Chandos) at Cannons. He wrote the masques Venus and Adonis (1715), Apollo and Daphne (1716), and The Death of Dido (1716), the ode The Union of the Three Sister-Arts (for St. Cecilia’s Day; 1723), and arranged music to the ballad-operas The Beggar’s Opera, Polly, and The Wedding. In 1730 a fortune brought him by marriage with Marguerite de l’Epine rendered him independent. From 1737 until his death he was organist of the Charterhouse. Pepusch was a learned, though conservative, musician who enjoyed high renown in England. His various odes and cantatas and his instrumental concertos and sonatas are of slight importance, and his name is preserved in music history mainly for his original music and some arranged numbers in The Beggar’s Opera. He publ. a Treatise on Harmony (London, 1730; 2nd ed., rev, 1731).


H. Fred, The Instrumental Music of J.C.P. (diss., Univ. of N.C., 1961); J. Williams, The Life, Work and Influence of J.C. P. (diss., Univ. of York, 1976).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kaun/Dennis McIntire