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The Consort Music of William Lawes, 1602-1645

The Consort Music of William Lawes, 1602-1645

John Cunningham
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 374
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  • Book Info
    The Consort Music of William Lawes, 1602-1645
    Book Description:

    William Lawes is arguably one of the finest English composers of the early seventeenth century. Born in Salisbury in 1602, he rose to prominence in the early 1630s; in 1635 he gained a prestigious post among the elite private musicians of Charles I (the "Lutes, Viols and Voices"). With the outbreak of civil war in 1642, Lawes took arms in support of the king; he died during the Siege of Chester in September 1645. This book is divided into three sections. The first is a contextual examination of music at the court of Charles I, with specific reference to the abovementioned arcane group of musicians; much of Lawes's surviving consort music appears to have been written to be performed by this group. The remainder of the book deals with William Lawes the composer. The second section is a detailed study of Lawes's autograph sources: the first of its kind. It includes 62 black and white facsimile images, and complete inventories of all the autographs, and presents ground-breaking new research into Lawes's scribal hand, the sources and their functions, and new evidence for their chronology. The third section comprises six chapters on Lawes's consort music; in these chapters various topics are examined, such as chronology, Lawes's compositional process, and the relationship between Lawes's music and the court context from which it arose. This book will be of interest to scholars working on English music in the Early Modern period, but also to those interested in source studies, compositional process and the function of music in the Early Modern court. JOHN CUNNINGHAM is a Research Associate at the School of Music, University of Leeds.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-825-4
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xv)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xvi-xvii)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xviii-xxii)
  6. Editorial Conventions
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
  7. CHAPTER 1 The ‘Lutes, Viols and Voices’
    (pp. 1-22)

    Charles I was one of the greatest patrons of the arts to sit on the English throne. His reign began on 27 March 1625, after the death of his father, James I; the first time an adult male had directly succeeded to the English throne since Henry VIII in 1509. Born in 1600, Charles was William Lawes’s senior by two years. By the time Lawes gained a post in the royal household in 1635 Charles had been ruling without parliament for six years. The so-called ‘personal rule’ lasted until 1640, by which time Charles – largely through a mixture of ineptitude...

  8. CHAPTER 2 The Autograph Manuscripts
    (pp. 23-91)

    William Lawes’s consort music largely survives in manuscript sources; none of it was published during his lifetime. Eight autograph sources have survived. A comprehensive survey of Lawes’s hand is lacking, although useful comments on many of the autograph sources can be gleaned from various monographs, articles, essays and modern editions.¹ The autographs mostly contain instrumental music, which is usually more difficult to date than vocal music that one can often link to specific events such as masques or plays. The sources vary in material, function, date, and states of completeness (complete inventories in Appendix 1):

    1 GB-Lbl, Add. MS 17798:...

  9. CHAPTER 3 The Music for Lyra-Viol
    (pp. 92-125)

    Although its repertoire includes music by some of the finest English composers of the early seventeenth century, the definitive account of the lyra-viol and its music has yet to be written.¹ As with composers such as Coprario, Ferrabosco II and Simon Ives, music for lyra-viol forms a significant part of Lawes’s surviving output; this music is, however, understudied.² The main reasons for this neglect seem to be because the solo repertoire is considered trivial³ and because much of the ensemble music is lost or survives incomplete.

    Over a quarter of a century ago, Frank Traficante described music for the lyra-viol...

  10. CHAPTER 4 The Royall Consort
    (pp. 126-149)

    The Royall Consort is a large and diffuse collection, the parameters of which are difficult to define. Perhaps begun as early as the 1620s, the collection was apparently well received by contemporaries. Playford also published some dances from the collection inCourt-Ayres(1655) andCourtly Masquing Ayres(1662), and parts of the collection are found in manuscript sources until the 1680s.¹ Murray Lefowitz was first to recognize that the Royall Consort survives in two versions, known today as the ‘new’ (Tr–Tr–B–B with continuo) and the ‘old’ (Tr–Tr–T–B with continuo).² Since then David Pinto has...

  11. CHAPTER 5 The Viol Consorts
    (pp. 150-176)

    Lawes’s music for viol consort is an impressive testament to his ability to compose flexible and imaginative pieces within a contrapuntal framework, and perhaps best illustrates how he was able to transform traditional genres by applying his own compositional language and style. Thirty-three pieces for viol consort survive by Lawes (16 five-part and 17 six-part). They include fantasias, pavans, aires and (two six-part) In Nomines: many can be ranked with those of Orlando Gibbons, Ferrabosco II and Jenkins as among the best in the repertoire.

    Generally speaking, the viol consort fantasia can be seen as having developed along two main...

  12. CHAPTER 6 The Fantasia-Suites
    (pp. 177-212)

    ‘Fantasia-suite’ is a relatively modern term, first brought into common currency by Helen Joy Sleeper in the 1930s to describe a somewhat hybrid genre first developed at the English court by John Coprario.¹ The model established by Coprario consisted of three movements: a fantasia, an alman and a galliard (usually ending with a common-time ‘close’), scored for one or two violins, bass viol and organ. Twenty-three fantasia-suites by Coprario survive complete: fifteen for one violin, eight for two.² They appear to have been composed in the household of Prince Charles (later Charles I) in the early 1620s, and represent several...

  13. CHAPTER 7 The Harp Consorts
    (pp. 213-248)

    The thirty-piece collection Lawes composed ‘For the Harpe, Base Violl, Violin and Theorbo’ is best known today as the Harp Consorts. This titling may be somewhat anachronistic; the earliest source referring to the collection as the ‘Harp Consort’ is Henry Playford’s Sale Catalogue of 1690.¹ The Harp Consorts are unique in the English consort music repertoire. They are the only (relatively) complete extant consort music with a part specifically composed for the harp. Despite containing some of his finest instrumental writing, Lawes’s harp consorts remain in relative obscurity.² This situation arises from two main issues: the partially incomplete harp parts;...

  14. CHAPTER 8 The Suites for Two Bass Viols and Organ
    (pp. 249-272)

    Lawes’s development of formal structures to accommodate elaborate divisions is perhaps best observed in his pieces for two bass viols and organ. Seven survive, one of which is incomplete.¹ Both autograph scores (GB-Ob, MS Mus. Sch. B.2) and parts (GB-Ob, MSS Mus. Sch. D.238, D.240 and D.229) have fortunately survived. In the string partbooks the pieces appear to be arranged into suites: a suite in g (pavan and two aires); then four pieces in C, although it is unclear whether Lawes intended these as two pairs – Pavan {104} and Alman {105}, and Aire {106} and Corant {107} – or as one...

  15. CHAPTER 9 Conclusions
    (pp. 273-277)

    Much of the music discussed in this book dates from after Lawes’s appointment to the ‘Lutes, Viols and Voices’ (LVV), and strongly suggests (1) that the music was composed for members of that group and (2) that although Lawes did not hold an official place as a composer, composition was one of his duties. Between 1625 and 1642 there were three official composer posts associated with the LVV. The first was held (until 1642) by Thomas Ford. Alfonso Ferrabosco II held the second, replacing Coprario in 1626. After his death in 1628 Ferrabosco was replaced by his son Henry. Henry...

  16. APPENDIX 1 Source Descriptions
    (pp. 278-318)
  17. APPENDIX 2 Index of Watermarks
    (pp. 319-323)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 324-336)
  19. Discography
    (pp. 336-338)
  20. Index of Lawes’s Works Cited
    (pp. 339-341)
  21. General Index
    (pp. 342-352)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 353-353)