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William Byrd and His Contemporaries: Essays and a Monograph

Philip Brett
Joseph Kerman
Davitt Moroney
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Pages: 266
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  • Book Info
    William Byrd and His Contemporaries
    Book Description:

    Throughout his distinguished career, Philip Brett wrote about the music of the Tudor period. He carried out pathbreaking work on the life and music of William Byrd (c.1540-1623), both as an editor and a historian. He also studied other composers working during the period, including John Taverner, Thomas Tallis, Orlando Gibbons, and Thomas Weelkes. Collecting these influential essays together for the first time, this volume is a tribute to Brett's agile mind and to his incomparable skill at synthesizing history and musical analysis. Byrd was a prominent court composer, but also a Catholic. Besides important instrumental music and English songs, he wrote a great deal of sacred music, some for his Protestant patrons, and some for his fellow Catholics who celebrated mass in secret. Ranging from the report of Brett's findings on the Paston manuscripts, an unpublished round-table paper that he delivered a few months before his untimely death, to his monograph-length study of Byrd's magnum opus,Gradualia,the essays collected here consider both sacred and secular music, and vocal and instrumental traditions, providing an intimate glimpse into what was unique about Byrd and his music. Elegantly written, with the particular brilliance for which Brett was known, this book opens a fascinating window onto one of the most fruitful periods of English musical history.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93283-8
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xii)
    Joseph Kerman and Davitt Moroney
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. CHAPTER ONE William Byrd: Traditionalist and Innovator
    (pp. 1-7)

    Sixteenth-century Europe produced a number of composers who possessed enormous technical facility and breath of vision. They are on the whole, however, a rather distant lot—especially those of the religious tradition represented by Gombert, Clemens, Palestrina and Lassus. This may explain why the early music movement has made a greater fuss over the more personal and intimate music of the subsequent century and a half, inaugurated most notably by Claudio Monteverdi, a character almost as colorful as his operatic music.

    William Byrd (1540–1623) is clearly different from the European giants—even Victoria, who, though he also came from...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Homage to Taverner in Byrd’s Masses
    (pp. 8-21)

    Byrd’s settings of the Ordinary of the Mass are a special phenomenon in sixteenth-century music. For one thing, there are only three of them: set beside the dozens of mass settings by each of his Continental peers, these works take on extra significance as the single response of a great composer to the traditionally most important genre. For another thing, they are the only sixteenth-century English works of any consequence to have been published without any identification—no title page, colophon or date—other than the composer’s name. Not until Peter Clulow made his definitive bibliographical study of the original...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Facing the Music
    (pp. 22-30)

    Every so often in early music circles there occurs an event which sparks off discussion and prompts one to think about the nature of our endeavors to re-create the music of the past. Such an event for me was the attention suddenly thrown on Alessandro Striggio’s 40-part motet,Ecce beatam lucem. It is almost too easy to accomplish my original assignment, a review of Hugh Keyte’s 1980 edition of the work.¹ The only mistake here is the halving of note values; otherwise the edition is good, straightforward and accurate, full of discussion about the problems surrounding the work, and ingenious...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Edward Paston: A Norfolk Gentleman and His Musical Collection
    (pp. 31-59)

    The musician of the present day owes a great deal to the generations of collectors through whose energy and enthusiasm so much music of the past has been preserved. The heyday of the British musical collector was the Victorian era,¹ when historical values began to assume a measure of the importance attached to them today. Although the musical life of the Elizabethans was in many ways more vital than that of the Victorians, the collector appears to have been a much more unusual figure in their times, and the lack of sufficient records makes him all the more difficult to...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Musicae Modernae Laus: Geoffrey Whitney’s Tributes to the Lute and Its Players
    (pp. 60-65)

    In May 1586 the house of Christopher Plantin in Leiden published the first English emblem book, Geoffrey Whitney’sA Choice of Emblemes and other devices. The author had followed or accompanied his patron, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, to the Netherlands on that famous and ill-fated expedition, and had eventually taken up residence at the university in Leiden.¹ In the preface Whitney explains that he was persuaded by friends to publish the book which he had presented to Leicester in manuscript shortly before the earl embarked for the Netherlands in December 1585. For the printed version, Whitney secured commendatory verses...

  10. CHAPTER SIX The Two Musical Personalities of Thomas Weelkes
    (pp. 66-77)

    In preparing a study of Byrd’s sacred and secular settings of English words I have approached the works of his contemporaries from a special point of view which at times, I believe, reveals their achievements in a different light. Among them there is no more intriguing figure than Thomas Weelkes, who by and large practiced one style in his madrigal publications and another, much closer to that of the older master, in his Anglican services and anthems. Until recently commentators have tended to view these two major parts of Weelkes’s output in isolation from each other; but the challenge of...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN English Music for the Scottish Progress of 1617
    (pp. 78-99)

    To contemplate the musical institutions of any society is to reach some understanding of its attitude to the art.¹ More imaginatively, it is to gain some sense of the composers’ environment, and particularly of such elusive matters as musical traditions and shared artistic assumptions—a sense that leads inevitably to a finer perception of the music itself. The preeminence of the Chapel Royal and of the King’s Musick in Tudor and Stuart England has long been recognized. The archival researches of this century have demonstrated how sporadic and uneven, by comparison, were the maintenance and achievements of other establishments both...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT Word Setting in the Songs of Byrd
    (pp. 100-120)

    The vocal music of William Byrd consists of the Latin masses and motets, a comparatively small amount of Anglican church music and a substantial body of “secular” compositions. Among the latter, settings of psalms and spiritual texts abound, but they were designed for a secular context and rarely taken over for church use; their musical style confirms their nonliturgical character. The numbers of works involved, though approximate on account of doubtful attributions and incomplete sources, are nevertheless instructive: there are three masses and about 180 motets; the Anglican works comprise two complete services, two evening services, some smaller liturgical items...

  13. CHAPTER NINE William Byrd: New Reflections
    (pp. 121-127)

    As a musician, Byrd was both a product and a shaping force of the Elizabethan age—“Brittanicae Musicae parens,” as one eulogist put it. “He belonged to the generation of Sidney, Hooker and Nicholas Hilliard, not that of Shakespeare, Dowland and Bacon,” Joseph Kerman has said. “He was as impervious to late Elizabethan elegance, Euphuistic or Italianate, as he was to the subsequent Jacobean ‘disenchantment.’ ”¹ An equally important Elizabethan literary figure with whom Byrd can be compared is the poet Edmund Spenser.

    Spenser and Byrd played important roles in building and enhancing the culture of the Elizabethan court, the...

  14. CHAPTER TEN Prefaces to Gradualia
    (pp. 128-230)

    Gradualiais primarily a collection of pieces proper to Mass at most of the chief feasts of the Roman Catholic calendar, as the composer emphasizes in rather precise descriptions of the contents in each unit of his great work, in book 1 of 1605 and book 2 of 1607. For the feasts in book 1 and the majority of feasts in book 2, Byrd provided settings of the introit, gradual, alleluia (or tract), offertory and communion. With few exceptions, the settings for each feast are all in the same clef-combination and mode; extra pieces, if supplied, usually consist of an...

    (pp. 231-234)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 235-252)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 253-253)