Best known for his Anglican church music, keyboard music and English songs, Maurice Greene left a sizable but still virtually unexplored corpus of vocal chamber music on Italian texts. These cantatas, chamber arias, chamber duets and settings of Anacreon’s Odes, totalling 37 works, are equal in quality to the best of Greene’s other music and are unquestionably the most musically rewarding works within their respective genres by any English contemporary of Handel.
Greene’s seven chamber arias – today, we would call them ‘concert arias’ – include a set of six that appears to have been custom-written for Faustina Bordoni, the great Venetian diva, during her visits to London in 1726–28, since (among other things) they all showcase her ‘trademark’ note: the E in the top space of the treble clef that particularly thrilled opera-goers. The obbligato violin part for all of them was probably written for the violinist and composer Mauro D’Alay, her constant companion and reputed lover. All six works are substantial and full of character and expression as well as melodiousness and contrapuntal finesse. They show a composer at the peak of his inspiration and ambition.