Eccles, John: The Judgment of Paris (Congreve), 1701
Facsimile: Printed score, Walsh & Hare (1702)
Introduction by Richard Platt
In 1700 a group of music-loving noblemen, with Lord Halifax as the prime mover, devised a contest for an all-sung opera based on the libretto The Judgement of Paris. There were four contestants – John Eccles, Gottfried Finger, Daniel Purcell and John Weldon. Weldon’s setting was awarded the first prize, Eccles’s the second, Purcell’s the third and Finger’s the fourth, although only the settings of Eccles and Purcell were published.
The occasion allowed for lavish scoring, and the composers employed similar, conventional ways of characterising the goddesses by means of orchestral colouring, using trumpets for Pallas and recorders for Venus. Eccles uses the orchestra with dramatic effect, though unlike Weldon and Purcell, he does not end with the expected trumpets and drums, even though the music has returned to the tonic key. The sound of those instruments must be assumed to have withdrawn with Pallas and Juno, and the femininity of Venus is celebrated by the chorus accompanied only by strings.