William Byrd The English Renaissance of Music

"[Byrd's] substantial volume of high quality compositions in every genre of the time makes it easy to consider him the greatest composer of the Renaissance"
  • Born in London, England, around 1539/40 (no accurate data)
  • Lived in London most of his life, but moved to Stondon Massey, Essex in 1593
  • Early life in London mostly unknown
  • A pupil and protégé of the organist and composer Thomas Tallis
  • A devoted Catholic, wrote many songs for the chuch
  • Had a monopoly with Thomas Tallis over importing, printing, publishing, and sale of music
  • Works include Roman Catholic Church Music, (Cationes sacrae, 1575, Cationes sacrae, books 1 and 2, 1589 and 1591, Gradualia, two books, 1605 and 1607), Anglican Church Music (Songs of Sundrie Natures, 1589, Psalmes, Sonets, & Songs of Sadnes and Pietie, 1588), and Instrumental Music (My Ladye Nevells Booke, 1591)
  • His patrons included Edward Somerset, 4th earl of Worcester
  • Used illusionism in his work, often worked with triplets, a surprise to the ear and a delight that makes the music come alive
  • Also incorporated humanism in his work, showcasing human emotions and friendships along with dedicating multiple pieces of music to Lady Nevill

My Ladye Nevels Grownde

  • Part of My Madye Nevells Booke, a collection of music by Byrd
  • Published in 1591
  • Would be seen performed in a concert hall
  • This was one of the first English virginal music, and introduced calligraphy into musical works
  • The piece features a virginal, a piano-like instrument that is unable to change dynamics (volume) and tone. The piece has a simple triple 3/2 time signature, at a upbeat, fast tempo. With a rich, harmonic structure that changes keys often, especially at the beginning, the piece starts off introspective and melancholic. The middle section's fast-moving triplets, which almost seems to float above the other sounds, have a layered and mesmerizing feel to them, while the ending is fluid, dynamic, and resolves effortlessly.
  • Linked to secularism, as instead of being religious it's dedicated to Lady Nevill
  • It's written very differently from the rest of the pieces in his book, which made it very interesting. It features a strong and weak beat and a key signature different from the rest of the mostly marches and ballad pieces.
Music from Ladye Nevells Booke


"William Byrd." Britannica Academic, Encyclopædia Britannica, 24 Feb. 2012. academic.eb.com/levels/collegiate/article/18398. Accessed 2 Dec. 2016.

"My Ladye Nevells Booke of Virginal Music (Byrd, William)." Petrucci Music Library. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2016.

Byrd, William. My Ladye Nevels Grownde. Elizabeth Farr. NAXOS of America, 2016. Youtube. Web. 5 Dec. 2016.

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