Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Coperario, Giovanni

COPERARIO, GIOVANNI, whose name is also sometimes spelt Coprario (d. 1626), musician, is said to have been an Englishman, of the name of John Cooper. According to Wood, he was ‘an Englishman borne, who havinge spent much of his time in Italy, was there called Coprario, which name he kept when he returned into England, at which time he was esteemed famous for instrumental musick and composition of fancies, and thereupon was made composer to King Charles I. He was one of the first authors that set lessons to the viol lyra-way, and composed lessons not only to play alone, but for two or three lyra-viols in consert, which hath been approved by many excellent masters’ (Wood, Bodl. MS. 19 (D.) No. 106). In 1606 Coperario published ‘Funeral Teares, for the death of … the Earle of Devonshire. Figured in seaven songes, whereof sixe are so set forth that the wordes may be exprest by a treble voice alone to the lute and base viole, or else that the meane part may bee added, if any shall affect more fulnesse of parts. The seaventh is made in forme of a dialogue, and cannot be sung without two voyces.’

At the great feast given on 16 July 1607 to James I by the Merchant Taylors' Company, when John Bull and Nathaniel Giles superintended the music, Coperario was paid 12l. for setting certain songs sung to the king. In conjunction with N. Laniere [q. v.], he wrote music for a masque of Campion's, performed at Whitehall on St. Stephen's night, 1613, on the occasion of the marriage of Somerset and Lady Frances Howard; for this he was paid 20l. (Devon, Issues of the Exchequer, 1836, p. 165). He is said also (but on doubtful authority) to have been the composer of the music to the ‘Maske of Flowers,’ represented at Whitehall by the gentlemen of Gray's Inn on Twelfth night, 1613–14, and for the masque of the Inner Temple and Gray's Inn performed on the occasion of the marriage of the Princess Elizabeth and the Palsgrave, in February 1612–13. In 1613 Coperario published ‘Songs of Mourning: Bewailing the untimely death of Prince Henry. Worded by Tho. Campion. And set forth to bee sung with one voyce to the Lute, or Violl,’ and in the following year he contributed two compositions (‘O Lord, how doe my woes’ and ‘I'll lie me down and sleep’) to Sir William Leighton's ‘Teares or Lamentacions of a Sorrowfull Soule.’ Coperario was the music-master of Charles I, on whose accession he was made composer of music in ordinary, with a yearly salary of 40l. He died in 1626, and was succeeded in his post by Alfonso Ferrabosco [q. v.] No portrait of him is now known to exist, but when Vertue visited the music school at Oxford in 1732–3 he made a note that there was then in the collection a half-length of him, dressed in white (Add. MS. 23071, fol. 65). There is much music extant by Coperario, principally in the libraries of the queen, the British Museum, Christ Church and the Music School (Oxford), and the Royal College of Music. His compositions are chiefly instrumental fantasias, or ‘Fancies,’ in several parts, and show that he was a master in the art of polyphonic writing. But his importance in the history of English music lies in the fact that he must have been in Italy at the very time when the homophonic school arose, and that though his own bent was clearly towards the earlier school, yet his compositions for solo voices are written in the new manner, which was afterwards so astonishingly developed by his pupils, William and Henry Lawes. Coperario, in fact, with Ferrabosco and Laniere, forms the connecting link between Italy and England at the period when the musical drama originated.

[Grove's Dict. of Music, i. 398 b; State Papers, Dom. Ser., Charles I, App. 7 July 1626; Hawkins's Hist. of Music, iii. 372; Fenton's Observations on some of Mr. Waller's Poems (ed. 1742), p. cii; Clode's Memorials of the Merchant Taylors' Company, p. 177; information from the Rev. J. H. Mee and Mr. W. R. Sims.]

W. B. S.