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However, the Archdeacon was John Aylmer, a zealous anti-papist, later appointed Bishop of London, with whom Byrd was to have more severe problems in His later years in Lincoln were marked by some disputes with the authorities. Yet independently of any disputes, he must have been waiting for an opportunity to leave. Like any young musician of talent, he hoped for a post in the Chapel Royal, but these were limited in number.

He had to wait for eight years until one became free and he could return to London. For ten years he went on receiving a much reduced salary from Lincoln in return for writing sacred music for them, presumably mostly in English. This shows his early reputation as a composer of sacred music and confirms that while in Lincoln he was not simply an organist who wrote only keyboard works. In London he was now the colleague of Tallis and Blitheman and a member of the most prestigious musical establishment in the kingdom.

Byrd held one of the posts of organist. The choir of the Chapel Royal was the largest and certainly the finest of its kind. In London and court circles he rapidly acquired powerful patrons, including several noble families, some of whom had remained attached to Roman Catholicism. Over the next thirty years the list of dedicatees of his published volumes amply establishes the powerful circles in which he moved: Queen Elizabeth , Sir Christopher Hatton , Lord Worcester , Lord Hunsdon , Lord Lumley , Lord Northampton , Lord Petre and Lord Cumberland The link with the Petre family seems to date from at least before his return to London and thus lasted over fifty years.

In he published jointly with Tallis the first volume of Cantiones sacrae , dedicated to the Queen herself, the first important edition of English music. The mastery shown by Byrd in these motets must have been acquired during the previous ten or fifteen years, and we may assume that his keyboard works written over the same period were at least as accomplished.

These compositions are all quite within the native tradition, even the last based on an Italian model that was well known in England at the time ; however, the Cantiones sacrae show that Byrd, by now fully conversant with everything his heritage could offer, was already looking further afield for inspiration. He found it especially in the music of the Italian Alfonso Ferrabosco who had settled in London, with whose music he became familiar between and But he had never been cut off from continental developments. For over six months the two Chapels lived side by side and sometimes performed together at Mass.


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Nevertheless, there is very little trace of direct Spanish influence in his keyboard music. This was musical discourse that could be argued, developed, expanded, contracted, recapitulated in varied form, and finally brought to a satisfying melodic, rhythmic and harmonic climax, thus achieving full independence from the grammatical and syntactical influences of a text such as helped shape vocal music. They clearly fascinated Byrd across his whole working life, for fifty years. Each pavan and each galliard calls for three phrases which need to be quite distinct, yet complementary.

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They extend occasionally over just four bars, but more often over eight-bar phrases, and — most comfortably of all for Byrd — over leisurely sixteen-bar paragraphs. Two splendid works even have a giant-size bar format for the phrases. They may be seen as a sort of laboratory in which he wrestled with new concepts of melodic structure supported by innovative harmonic schemes, and gave renewed life to older English ideas of rhythmic development, now extended across the three phrases of a single piece. Like Bach and Beethoven, he demonstrably put the experience thus acquired to good use in non-keyboard music.

Byrd was now at the height of his powers, had achieved social standing and recognition. He was able to exercise his genius without restraint in whatever direction he wished: vocal music to English or Latin texts; secular songs, even a few Latin songs connected with theatrical performances in Oxford; consort and keyboard music. Yet these professionally successful years were also increasingly difficult ones for Byrd personally.

In religious matters his sympathies were clearly Roman Catholic, and this was dangerous. His Catholic acquantainces now came under more intense persecution. Several Jesuits such as the brilliant Edmund Campion, and later the fine poet Robert Southwell whom he knew personally , were arrested, tortured and executed. In his manservant John Reason was arrested and briefly imprisoned. In Reason was again arrested while carrying a letter by Byrd and some suspiciously Catholic music. Finally, in May , despite his standing at court, Byrd came under direct investigation himself and his house was searched twice.

Defiance in the face of adversity, however, seems to have been a characteristic of this proud and wily man. It is clear that Byrd and his family were only protected from a worse fate by the direct protection of powerful Catholic nobles such as Lords Northampton and Petre. He continued fulfilling his duties at court. The Attorney General intervened on his behalf in and Finally, in , the Queen herself appears to have ordered the authorities to halt their harassment of Byrd.

The printing of keyboard music, unlike vocal music, entailed certain difficulties at that time, solved only twenty years later by the technique of engraving on copper plates. These difficulties no doubt dissuaded Byrd from attempting a printed keyboard anthology. He must have been fully aware that his achievement in the field was at least as revolutionary as what he had done in the areas of vocal polyphony. The Nevell manuscript brings to a close this period of four years of anthologizing his best works to date.

This manuscript provides a helpful watershed date for many works. During these same years he taught several of the most significant English composers of the next two generations and later had the satisfaction of seeing them all achieve positions of eminence:. It cannot be shown that Richard Mico c formally studied with Byrd, but he cannot have failed to be strongly influenced by the ageing master. He became a Roman Catholic and his son became a Jesuit.

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Following his problems with the authorities, Byrd left London in about and moved his family to a farm at Stondon Place in the parish of Stondon Massey, close to the Catholic family of Lord Petre in his great Essex estates. Here Byrd undertook the most ambitious and most dangerous project of his life — the composition of well over a hundred pieces specifically intended for the full annual cycle of the Roman Catholic Latin rite. This was his greatest large-scale venture and the music is of the very highest quality throughout, passionate and visionary.

He published it in three phases. First came the three settings for three, four and five voices of the Ordinary of the Mass, published between and with the greatest of discretion, and under his own name; the publisher, on the other hand, did not dare put his own name on the volumes. All these compositions were not grand works designed for public ceremonial use, but concise, intimate pieces probably intended for singing one to a part, like madrigals: sacred chamber music, suitable for singing in ceremonies in recusant households such as Ingatestone Hall, out of sight of the authorities.

A final volume of secular vocal music appeared in , confirming his desire to bring together the best of his works.

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In England, his most original contributions in the specific area of keyboard music bore fruit yet, curiously, native English composers subsequently lost a firm sense of direction. This may possibly be simply a reference to his being the oldest member of the Chapel. Each listener became deprived of all feeling, except for his hearing, as if his soul We would all have remained like that, had he not The player was the lutenist Francesco da Milano, il Divino , whose distinguished place in the history of music is partly due to his having developed a convincing musical discourse that was purely instrumental.

There are eleven such works surviving BK13, 25, 26, 27, 28, 46, 61, 62, 63 and the two impressive hexachord works BK64, Although strikingly different among themselves, they are generally different from Continental monothematic fantasias of the period, which are written in a stricter form that prefigures the fugue.

While earlier continental fantasies were not always monothematic, they did maintain a consistency of style and tone. The serious writing heard at the start is quite abandoned by the midway point. Twenty years later, Michael Praetorius borrowed from Morley for his own explanation of it Syntagma musicum , In this sort of Music the Composer not being confined to words employs all his Art and Invention solely about the bringing in and carrying on of Fuges When he has tried all the ways that he thinks fit to be used, he take another Point and does the like with it; or else for variety introduces some Chromatic Notes, with Bindings and Intermixtures of Discords; or falls into some light Humour like a Madrigal, or what else his fancy shall lead him, but still concluding with something which hath Art and Excellency in it.

Of this sort there are many compositions formerly made in England It is based on no less than fourteen different points, or themes, developed one after the other. The opening is serious, aimed at the more learned listeners and with a canon thrown in for good measure , but soon starts playing to the gallery by involving not only dance elements but also the recognisable popular Elizabethan tune Sicke, sicke and very sicke , a joke that would not have been lost on listeners of the day. It is best appreciated in the context of Elizabethan attitudes to literary, and by extension musical, styles.

Peacham stresses that the specific compositional figures used by musicians are identical to the rhetorical ones used by poets. Elisabethan poetry had a consciously high or noble style and an equally self-evident plain style. These can be exemplified if over-simplified by comparing the two kinds of discourse that Shakespeare gives to Prince Hal in Henry IV.

In the opening scene when he is in the tavern with Falstaff and his drinking companions, he puts on a verbal cloak by adopting prose speech with ordinary vocabulary; however, the minute he is alone he talks as a prince, adopting the highest form of poetry, in supple but regular ten-syllable lines, often rhymed, and using a rich vocabulary. This is not all, for in his prose speeches the ideas are less developed, and indeed are not designed for much developing, whereas in his role as poetical prince the ideas are full of gravitas, announced, developed, expanded and brought to fulfilment.


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  • The accepted characteristics of the high style were gravity, dignity, sonorousness and vehemence. Prince Hal starts in the tavern and ends up with the most severe of princely discourses. Byrd fantasies are rather similar but make the reverse journey. I my selfe being a childe have heard him highly commended who could upon a plainsong sing He often tidied them up.

    No doubt other sixteenth-century tunes are there also, but have not yet been identified. I acknowledge that the most unaccountable phenomenon I ever beheld, in the seventy-seven years, almost, that I have lived, was to see men of the most extensive knowledge and deepest reflection entertain for a moment an opinion that a democratical republic could be erected in a nation of five-and-twenty millions of people, four-and-twenty millions and five hundred thousand of whom could neither read nor write.

    My sentiments and feelings are in symphony with yours in another particular. The last eleven years of my life have been the most comfortable of the seventy-seven.

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    Keyboard Music to c1750

    I have never enjoyed so much in any equal period. Jefferson, I find, is equally happy. I have had opportunity, however, to know that the illustrious Washington was not, and that to his uneasiness in retirement great changes in the politics of this country were to be attributed, perhaps for the better, possibly for the worse. God knows.

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