The century following the restoration of the British monarchy in 1660 was filled with an outpouring of musical expression. Entertainment and spectacle were again popular after years of Puritan severity during the Commonwealth. Opera and public concerts flourished. Halls like Covent Garden and Vauxhall filled nightly with both nobility and middle class alike. Taverns offered their own entertainment -- often by the patrons themsevles -- and all self-respecting homes shared the family's musical accomplioshments with guests.
A wealth of published keyboard music by celebrated musicians of the day was available to the public. With the notable exception of Henry Purcell, most of these composers are little-known today, their fame eclipsed by that of German immigrant George Friderick Handel, who dominated musical life in London from his arrival in 1711 and who left a legacy still felt today.
The music presented on this recording was not intended for public performance, but rather for home entertainment. The intimate character of the music is suited to please the player and a small gathering of friends, rather than to dazzle a large audience from the stage.
Althought the composers are all English, much of the style is French. After his years of exile in France, King Charles II brought back with him a love of French culture that permeated court life -- but only to a point. English country dances and folk songs also hold their place in this music. The result is a charning mixture of urban sophisication and rustic simplicity.
Robert Heath has performed as organit and harpsichordist throughout North America and parts of Europe. In 1985 he co-founded the Miami Bach Society, one of the United States' most successful early music organizations. He serves as organist and director at the historic Plymouth Congregational Church in Coconut Grove, Florida.