Music – William Byrd

Born 1543 ; died 1623. Probably a Lincolnshire man, since he was organist of Lincoln Cathedral at twenty. At twenty-six he became a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, and for about thirty years lived at Harlington, ten miles out of London. ` It is thought that he chose this retired village as his residence in order that he might escape difficulties in connection with his duties created by the fact that he adhered staunchly to the unreformed doctrines . . . yet regular attendance at the Chapel Royal must in these circumstances have taxed Byrd’s energies, more particularly because the journey lay across the dangerous Hounslow Heath’ (Fellowes). Later he settled near  Ongar, in Essex, becoming something of a country gentleman, and securing the right to bear arms. Byrd’s work is nearly all of the finest quality. It falls into three classes—Church Music, Secular Choral Music, and Keyboard Music. Byrd was the founder of the English Madrigal School. A new recognition of the value of Byrd’s compositions has lately come about, and some British musicians are now not hesitating to claim for him a status equal to that of Palestrina, formerly considered to stand head and shoulders above every composer of the period. Certainly Byrd’s biggest things, like those of Palestrina, have the quality of sublimity that marks the really great mind.

FURTHER READING. W. Barclay Squire’s article in Grove’s Dictionary ; Fellowes’ William Byrd. A Short Account of his Life and Work ; also a chapter in the same author’s English Madrigal Composers ; Sir W. H. Hadow’s William Byrd, 1623-1923; passages in Walker and in Davey, in Bridge’s Twelve Good Musicians and Anderton’s Early English Music.

PRINTED MUSIC. All the CHORAL MUSIC secular and sacred, apart from actual Church Music, is edited by Fellowes (Stainer & Bell, 3 vols., each 17s. 6d separate pieces from 3d. to Is. 4d.). Some is also published in the notable ` Old English Edition’ of G. E. P. Arkwright, of which a list should be obtained by students of this and the next period (Joseph Williams). The CHURCH MUSIC is in course of publication for the Carnegie Trustees by the Oxford University Press. Some of the KEY-BOARD Music has been edited by Bantock (Album of Selected Pieces by Byrd, Novello, 4s. ; Three Dances, Novello, 2s. 6d.); Pauer (Byrd album in `Old English Composers’ Series, Augener, 4s.), and Fuller-Maitland and Barclay Squire (Fourteen Pieces, Stainer & Bell, 3s. 6d.).

GRAMOPHONE. Lullaby, my sweet little Baby (H. M. V. ; on back is Weelkes’ Sing we at Pleasure), printed copy, Stainer & Bell, 4d ; (ask for the `first part’ of the piece, which is in two movements, the first of which is that recorded ; or get the whole thing, 9d.). Some of the Virginals music, as played by Mrs. Gordon Woodhouse, will be available by the time this book is published.