English Early Keyboard Music:
John Christopher Smith

John Christopher Smith (born Johann Christoph Schmidt; 1712, Ansbach – 3 October 1795, Bath) was an English composer who, following in his father's footsteps, became George Frideric Handel's secretary and amanuensis.

He was the son of Johann Christoph Schmidt (John Christopher Smith Sr., d 1763), Handel's first copyist in London. Schmidt, known to Handel from Halle, was summoned from Germany in 1716. He brought his family to London around 1720.

Smith Jr. studied mostly with Thomas Roseingrave but had a few lessons from Handel and Johann Christoph Pepusch. Later he became Handel's secretary, musical assistant and amanuensis, when blindness prevented Handel from writing or conducting. The last year when Handel conducted performances of his oratorios was 1752.

Handel fell out with Smith Sr. in the 1750s, but remained on good terms with the son. From 1753 to the composer's death in 1759, Smith conducted Handel's oratorios. Handel bequeathed to Smith the keyboard instruments in his house at 25 Brook Street and his manuscripts.

There was interest in reproducing Handel's music mechanically, using, for example, clocks. After Handel's death, Smith was involved with John Langshaw in a project to transcribe pieces by the composer for barrel organ.

In 1760, he married Martha Coxe, through whom he became step-father to William Coxe.

After the success of his oratorio Paradise Lost in 1760, he became artistic director of the Covent Garden Royal Theatre, a position that he was forced to relinquish due to health reasons in 1772. When granted an annual pension by the King in 1774, Smith retired to Bath.

When his wife died in 1785, he moved to Carlisle Street in London's Soho, where he died in 1795. A blue plaque stands on the site.

Smith wrote and conducted a number of successful operas and oratorios.

Among his other works are five volumes of harpsichord music (1732–1765):

Suites de pièces pour le clavecin, Op. 1 (John Walsh senior, 1732); 6 suites
Suites de pièces pour le clavecin, Op. 2 (John Walsh senior, 1735); 6 suites
Six Suits of Lessons for the Harpsicord, Op. 3 (John Walsh junior, 1755)
A Collection of Lessons for the Harpsicord, Op. 4 (John Walsh junior, 1757)
XII Sonatas for the Harpsichord, Op. 5 (John Walsh junior, 1765)

He also wrote a book of hymns (1765), a funeral service (1772) for the dowager Princess of Wales, who was his harpsichord pupil, and two cantatas.

ND / Diversity Website / Jan 23

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