John Bull (1562 or 1563 ? 15 March 1628) was an English composer, musician, and organ builder. He was a renowned keyboard performer of the virginalist school and most of his compositions were written for this medium.
Bull was one of the most famous composers of keyboard music of the early 17th century, exceeded only by Sweelinck in the Netherlands, Frescobaldi in Italy, and, some would say, by his countryman and elder, the celebrated William Byrd. He left many compositions for keyboard, some of which were collected in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book.
His first (and only) publication, in 1612 or 1613, was a contribution of seven pieces forming part of a collection of virginal music entitled Parthenia, or the Maydenhead of the First Musicke That Ever Was Printed for the Virginalls, dedicated to the 15-year-old Princess Elizabeth, who was his student, on the occasion of her betrothal to Frederick V, Elector Palatine of the Rhine. The other contributors to Parthenia were Bull's contemporaries William Byrd and Orlando Gibbons, among the most famous composers of the age. Bull also wrote an anthem, God the father, God the son, for the wedding in 1613 of the princess and the Elector Palatine.
In addition to his keyboard compositions, he wrote verse anthems, canons and other works. His 5 part anthem Almighty God, Which By The Leading of a Star, known colloquially as the Star Anthem was the most popular Jacobean verse anthem occurring in more contemporary sources than any other.
Much of his music was lost when he fled England; some was destroyed, and some was stolen by other composers, though occasionally such misattributions can be corrected today based on stylistic grounds. One of the most unusual collections of music from the period is his book of 120 canons, an astonishing display of contrapuntal skill worthy of Ockeghem or J.S. Bach. One-hundred-sixteen of the 120 are based on the Miserere. Techniques employed to transform the simple theme include diminution, augmentation, retrograde and mixed time signatures. Some of his music in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book is of a lighter character and uses whimsical titles: 'A Battle and No Battle,' 'Bonny Peg of Ramsey,' 'The King's Hunt,' 'Bull's Good-Night.'
He is sometimes attributed with the composition of God Save the King, the British national anthem.
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