Elegant and polished, the music of Maurice Greene has only recently recovered from the negativity of Burney's contemporary criticism. Greene's musical language, like that of Handel, is founded on the Italian style inherited from Corelli, and though an inconsistent genius, his gifts for melody rank him alongside Thomas Arne and Boyce in the front rank of English Baroque composers.
Greene was born in London on 12 August 1696 to a wealthy family, the youngest of seven children. He is thought to have been trained in the choir of St Pauls' Cathedral, and took up his first appointment as organist at St Dunstan-in-the-West in 1714. In February 1718 he also took the position of organist at St Andrew's, Holborn and a month later became organist at St Paul's.
While at St Paul's, Greene became friendly with Handel, a frequent visitor to the Cathedral, though they later had an acrimonious falling out. At this time, he composed many large-scale anthems for the annual Festival of the Sons of the Clergy, and married Mary Dillingham, a cousin of Jeremiah Clarke.
In addition to his cathedral activities, Greene worked as a teacher and counted Boyce and Stanley among his pupils. He was also heavily involved in secular music making as a founder member of the Castle Society and the Academy of Ancient Music. In 1738, Greene also helped establish the Fund for the Support of Decay'd Musicians and their Families which later became the Royal Society of Musicians.
Upon Croft's death in 1727, Greene became organist and composer of the Chapel Royal, though Handel, as the royal family's favourite, was still called upon to compose for special events. In 1730, Greene's Ode on St Cecilia's Day opened the new Senate House in Cambridge and shortly after, he became an honorary professor of music. By 1735, having also been appointed Master of the King's Musick, Greene held every major musical post in the land.
His reputation established, Greene published much of his extant music and also composed oratorios and other dramatic works. Around 1750 his health began to decline and he resigned many of his posts. His last years were spent gathering together a collection of church music, a task that Boyce later completed, and he died on 1 December 1755.
Although chiefly remembered for his church music, Greene also wrote keyboard music and songs, and wrote imaginatively for large-scale choral and orchestral forces. His greatest works include the Ode for St Cecilia's Day and the anthems Lord, let me know mine end and O clap your hands.