Article

William Byrd

Kerry McCarthy

in Music

ISBN: 9780199757824
Published online June 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0076
William Byrd

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William Byrd (b. c. 1540–d. 1623) was the most versatile and prolific of English Renaissance composers. His musical career lasted nearly six decades, and more than 500 of his works have survived. He composed in almost every genre of his day: Latin motets and masses, vernacular sacred music, secular songs for accompanied solo voice or small vocal ensemble, and a wide variety of music for keyboard and strings. If every note of Byrd’s vocal music had been lost, he would still be considered a first-rate composer on the strength of his instrumental works alone. His life is also of interest to historians of Elizabethan religion and culture: he was a Catholic dissident who thrived under hostile political circumstances in a largely Protestant nation. A handful of pieces by Byrd, mostly English sacred works, have been performed more or less without interruption since he wrote them. Many others had to wait until the 20th century for revival and full appreciation. His music attracted scholarly attention even in his own lifetime, and there has been a steady stream of books and articles since the tercentenary of his death in 1923. Much of the current literature on Byrd is quite specialized. This can be daunting for the beginner, but it also guarantees that persistent readers can find detailed discussion of almost any work or topic that might interest them.

Article.  6965 words. 

Subjects: Music ; Applied Music ; Ethnomusicology ; Music Theory and Analysis ; Musicology and Music History ; Music Education and Pedagogy

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