Samuel Wesley was widely regarded as one of the finest organists of his generation and yet he was never able to acquire a major post and spent most of his life in financial impoverishment, often having to rely on the assistance of friends and supporters such as Vincent Novello. When William Boyce visited the Wesley household in Bristol and heard the eight-year-old Samuel play, he said to his father “Sir, I hear you have an English Mozart in your house”. In 1778 they moved to London and he and his equally gifted brother, Charles, began to give a series of subscription concerts at their home in Marylebone. An injury to his skull, the result of an accident at the age of twenty-one, left him for the rest of his life subject to recurring bouts of depression and doubts about the validity of the music profession. And yet, in spite of all this adversity, his music, as demonstrated in these four short pieces, has a deftness and lightness of touch which betokens a much sunnier disposition. Samuel Wesley was a fervent advocate of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, publishing an edition of the Well-Tempered Clavier
as well as one of the Trio Sonatas, in an arrangement for three hands. English organs of the period rarely had an independent pedal board. The set of Twelve Short Pieces
and a Full Voluntary
from which these four little gems are taken was published in 1815 and is for manuals only. Numbers 8 and 9 acquired the titles of ‘Air’ and ‘Gavotte’ in an arrangement published by John E West in 1905.
from notes by Stephen Westrop © 2000