William Crotch

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Portrait of William Crotch (undated), Norfolk Museums Collections
William Crotch playing the organ, aged 3½, in an illustration from The London Magazine, April 1779
Crotch painted "View from Hurley Bottom" (1806) at 5 p.m. on 30 August, according to his inscription.

William Crotch (5 July 1775 – 29 December 1847) was an English composer and organist.

Life[edit]

William Crotch was born in Norwich, Norfolk, to a master carpenter. Like Mozart, he showed early musical talent as a child prodigy, playing the organ his father had built.[1] At the age of two he became a local celebrity by performing for visitors, among them the musician Charles Burney, who wrote an account of his visits for the Royal Society.[2] The three-and-a-half-year-old Crotch was taken to London by his ambitious mother, where he not only played on the organ of the Chapel Royal in St James's Palace, but for King George III. The London Magazine of April 1779 recorded:

He appears to be fondest of solemn tunes and church musick, particularly the 104th Psalm. As soon as he has finished a regular tune, or part of a tune, or played some little fancy notes of his own, he stops, and has some of the pranks of a wanton boy; some of the company then generally give him a cake, an apple, or an orange, to induce him to play again...[3]

Crotch was later to observe that this experience led him to become a rather spoiled child, excessively indulged so that he would perform.

He was for a time organist at Christ Church, Oxford, from which he was later to graduate with a Bachelor of Music degree.

His composition The Captivity of Judah was played at Trinity Hall, Cambridge on 4 June 1789: his most successful composition in adulthood was the oratorio Palestine (1812). He may have composed the Westminster Chimes in 1793, which are played by Big Ben each time it strikes the hour.

In 1797, Crotch became Heather Professor of Music at Oxford University, and in 1799 he acquired a doctorate in music. While at Oxford, he became acquainted with the musician and artist John Malchair, and took up sketching. He followed Malchair's style in recording the exact time and date of each of his pictures, and when he met the artist John Constable in London in 1805, he passed the habit along to the more famous artist.

In 1822 he was appointed to the Royal Academy of Music as its first Principal, but resigned ten years later.[4] Among his notable pupils were William Sterndale Bennett, Lucy Anderson, Stephen Codman, George Job Elvey, Cipriani Potter, and Charles Kensington Salaman. See: List of music students by teacher: C to F#William Crotch.

In 1834, to commemorate the installation of the Duke of Wellington as chancellor of the University of Oxford, Crotch penned a second oratorio, The Captivity of Judah. The 1834 work bears little resemblance to the oratorio he wrote as a child in 1789.

He spent his last years at his son's house in Taunton, Somerset, where he died suddenly in 1847. He was buried in the churchyard of St Peter and St Paul in Bishop's Hull, just outside Taunton.[5]

Crotch Crescent, a street in New Marston, Oxford is named after him.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Rennert (1975)
  2. ^ Burney (1779)
  3. ^ The London Magazine, April 1779.
  4. ^ Temperley, Nicholas, and Heighes, Simon. "Crotch, William". Grove Music Online (subscription required)
  5. ^ Rennert (1975)

Sources[edit]

  • Burney, Charles (1779). "Account of an Infant Musician". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. 69 (1779): 183–206. doi:10.1098/rstl.1779.0018. JSTOR 106418.
  • Rennert, Jonathan (1975). William Crotch, 1775-1847: Composer, Artist, Teacher. Lavenham: Terence Dalton. ISBN 978-0900963612. JSTOR 960437. (registration required)

Further reading[edit]

  • Snowman, Janet (2010). "The left and right hands of the eighteenth-century British musical prodigies, William Crotch and Samuel Wesley". Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition. 15 (1–2): 209–252. doi:10.1080/13576500903201792. PMID 20391154. S2CID 205779680.

External links[edit]