great English composer and organist; b. Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire (baptized), Feb. 23, 1649 (1648, Julian calendar); d. Westminster (London), Oct. 1, 1708. In 1660-61 he was a chorister at the Chapel Royal, under Henry Cooke; he later studied organ with Christopher Gibbons. His progress was rapid, and on Dec. 3, 1668, he was appointed organist of Westminster Abbey. In 1679 he left this post and Purcell, who had been Blow’s student, succeeded him. After Purcell’s untimely death in 1695, Blow was reappointed, and remained at Westminster Abbey until his death; he was buried there, in the north aisle. He married Elizabeth Braddock in 1674; she died in 1683 in childbirth, leaving 5 children. Blow held the rank of Gentleman of the Chapel Royal from March 16, 1674; on July 23, 1674, he succeeded Humfrey as Master of the Children of the Chapel Royal; was Master of the Choristers at St. Paul’s (1687–1703); in 1699 he was appointed Composer of the Chapel Royal. He held the honorary Lambeth degree of D.Mus., conferred on him in 1677 by the Dean of Canterbury. While still a young chorister of the Chapel Royal, Blow began to compose church music; in collaboration with Humfrey and William Turner, he wrote the Club Anthem (“I will always give thanks”); at the behest of Charles II, he made a two-part setting of Herrick’s poem “Goe, perjur’d man.” He wrote many secular part-songs, among them an ode for New Year’s Day 1681/82, “Great sir, the joy of all our hearts,” an ode for St. Cecilia; 2 anthems for the coronation of James II; Epicedium for Queen Mary (1695); Ode on the Death of Purcell (1696). Blow’s collection of 50 songs, Amphion Anglicus, was publ. in 1700. His best- known work is Masque for the Entertainment of the King: Venus and Adonis, written c. 1685; this is his only complete score for the stage, but he contributed separate songs for numerous dramatic plays. Purcell regarded Blow as “one of the greatest masters in the world.” Fourteen large works by Blow, anthems and harpsichord pieces, have been preserved; 11 anthems are printed in Boyce’s Cathedral Musick (1760–78). Selected anthems are publ. in Musica Britannica, 7. The vocal score of his masque Venus and Adonis was publ. by G.E.P. Arkwright in the Old English Edition (No. 25; 1902); the complete score was publ. by the Editions de l’Oiseau Lyre, as ed. by Anthony Lewis (Paris, 1939).
B. Wood, J.B.’s Anthems with Ordì, (diss., Cambridge Univ., 1977).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire