English Madrigal School

English Madrigal School

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The English Madrigal School was the brief but intense flowering of the musical madrigal
Madrigal (music)
A madrigal is a secular vocal music composition, usually a partsong, of the Renaissance and early Baroque eras. Traditionally, polyphonic madrigals are unaccompanied; the number of voices varies from two to eight, and most frequently from three to six....

 in England, mostly from 1588 to 1627, along with the composers who produced them. The English madrigals were a cappella
A cappella
A cappella music is specifically solo or group singing without instrumental sound, or a piece intended to be performed in this way. It is the opposite of cantata, which is accompanied singing. A cappella was originally intended to differentiate between Renaissance polyphony and Baroque concertato...

, predominantly light in style, and generally began as either copies or direct translations of Italian
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 models. Most were for three to six voices.

Style and Characteristics


Most likely the impetus for writing madrigals came through the influence of Alfonso Ferrabosco
Alfonso Ferrabosco (I)
Alfonso Ferrabosco was an Italian composer. While mostly famous as the solitary Italian madrigalist working in England, and the one mainly responsible for the growth of the madrigal there, he also composed much sacred music...

, who worked in England in the 1560s and 1570s in Queen Elizabeth's
Elizabeth I of England
Elizabeth I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty...

 court; he wrote many works in the form, and not only did they prove popular but they inspired some imitation by local composers. The development that caused the explosion of madrigal composition in England, however, was the development of native poetry — especially the sonnet
Sonnet
A sonnet is one of several forms of poetry that originate in Europe, mainly Provence and Italy. A sonnet commonly has 14 lines. The term "sonnet" derives from the Occitan word sonet and the Italian word sonetto, both meaning "little song" or "little sound"...

 — which was conducive to setting to music in the Italian style. When Nicholas Yonge
Nicholas Yonge
Nicholas Yonge was an English singer and publisher. He is most famous for publishing the Musica transalpina , a collection of Italian madrigals with their words translated into English...

 published Musica transalpina in 1588, it proved to be immensely popular, and the vogue for madrigal composition in England can be said to truly have started then.

Musica transalpina was a collection of Italian madrigals, mostly by Ferrabosco and Marenzio
Luca Marenzio
Luca Marenzio was an Italian composer and singer of the late Renaissance. He was one of the most renowned composers of madrigals, and wrote some of the most famous examples of the form in its late stage of development, prior to its early Baroque transformation by Monteverdi...

, fitted with English words. They were well-loved, and several similar anthologies followed immediately after the success of the first. Yonge himself published a second Musica transalpina in 1597, hoping to duplicate the success of the first collection.

While William Byrd
William Byrd
William Byrd was an English composer of the Renaissance. He wrote in many of the forms current in England at the time, including various types of sacred and secular polyphony, keyboard and consort music.-Provenance:Knowledge of Byrd's biography expanded in the late 20th century, thanks largely...

, probably the most famous English composer of the time, experimented with the madrigal form, he never actually called his works madrigals, and shortly after writing some secular songs in madrigalian style returned to writing mostly sacred music.

The most influential composers of madrigals in England, and the ones whose works have survived best to the present day, were Thomas Morley
Thomas Morley
Thomas Morley was an English composer, theorist, editor and organist of the Renaissance, and the foremost member of the English Madrigal School. He was the most famous composer of secular music in Elizabethan England and an organist at St Paul's Cathedral...

, Thomas Weelkes
Thomas Weelkes
Thomas Weelkes was an English composer and organist. He became organist of Winchester College in 1598, moving to Chichester Cathedral. His works are chiefly vocal, and include madrigals, anthems and services.-Life:Weelkes was baptised in the little village church of Elsted in Sussex on 25...

 and John Wilbye
John Wilbye
John Wilbye , was an English madrigal composer. The son of a tanner, he was born at Brome, Suffolk, near Diss, and received the patronage of the Cornwallis family. It is thought that he accompanied Elizabeth Cornwallis to Hengrave Hall near Bury St...

. Morley is the only composer of the time who set verse by Shakespeare for which the music has survived. His style is melodic, easily singable, and remains popular with a cappella singing groups. Wilbye had a very small compositional output, but his madrigals are distinctive with their expressiveness and chromaticism
Chromaticism
Chromaticism is a compositional technique interspersing the primary diatonic pitches and chords with other pitches of the chromatic scale. Chromaticism is in contrast or addition to tonality or diatonicism...

; they would never be confused with their Italian predecessors.

The last line of Gibbons'
Orlando Gibbons
Orlando Gibbons was an English composer, virginalist and organist of the late Tudor and early Jacobean periods...

 "The Silver Swan" of 1612,
"More Geese than Swans now live, more Fools than Wise."

is often considered to be a lament for the death of the English tradition.

One of the more notable compilations of English madrigals was The Triumphs of Oriana
The Triumphs of Oriana
The Triumphs of Oriana is a book of English madrigals, compiled and published in 1601 by Thomas Morley, which first edition has 25 pieces by 23 composers . It was said to have been made in the honour of Queen Elizabeth I...

, a collection of madrigals compiled by Thomas Morley, which contained 25 different madrigals by 23 different composers. Published in 1601 as a tribute to Elizabeth I of England
Elizabeth I of England
Elizabeth I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty...

, each madrigal contains a reference to Oriana
Oriana
Oriana is primarily a female given name, widespread, even if not very common, in European languages.-Possible roots of the name:Its etymological origins are probably mixed...

, a name used to reference the Queen.

Madrigals continued to be composed in England through the 1620s, but the air
Air (music)
Air , a variant of the musical song form, is the name of various song-like vocal or instrumental compositions.-English lute ayres:...

 and "recitative
Recitative
Recitative , also known by its Italian name "recitativo" , is a style of delivery in which a singer is allowed to adopt the rhythms of ordinary speech...

 music" rendered the style obsolete; somewhat belatedly, characteristics of the Baroque
Baroque music
Baroque music describes a style of Western Classical music approximately extending from 1600 to 1760. This era follows the Renaissance and was followed in turn by the Classical era...

 style finally appeared in England. While the music of the English Madrigal School is of generally high quality and has endured in popularity, it is useful to remember that the total output of the composers was relatively small: Luca Marenzio in Italy alone published more books of madrigals than the entire sum of madrigal publications in England, and Philippe de Monte
Philippe de Monte
Philippe de Monte , sometimes known as Philippus de Monte, was a Flemish composer of the late Renaissance. He was a member of the 3rd generation madrigalists and wrote more madrigals than any other composer of the time...

 wrote more madrigals (over 1100) than were written in England during the entire period.

Composers


The following list includes almost all of the composers of the English Madrigal School who published works. Many of these were amateur composers, some known only for a single book of madrigals, and some for an even smaller contribution.
  • Thomas Bateson
    Thomas Bateson
    Thomas Bateson, Batson or Betson was an English writer of madrigals in the early 17th century.He is said to have been organist of Chester Cathedral in 1599, and is believed to have been the first musical graduate of Trinity College, Dublin. He served as Vicar Choral and organist of Christ Church...

     (c 1570-1630)
  • John Bennet
    John Bennet
    John Bennet was a composer of the English madrigal school. His madrigals include All creatures now as well as Weep, O Mine Eyes. The latter is a homage to John Dowland, using part of Dowland's most famous piece, Flow my Tears, also known in its pavane form as Lachrymae Antiquae.- Media :-External...

     (c 1575–after 1614)
  • John Bull
    John Bull (composer)
    John Bull was an English composer, musician, and organ builder. He was a renowned keyboard performer of the virginalist school and most of his compositions were written for this medium.-Life:...

     (1562–1628)
  • William Byrd
    William Byrd
    William Byrd was an English composer of the Renaissance. He wrote in many of the forms current in England at the time, including various types of sacred and secular polyphony, keyboard and consort music.-Provenance:Knowledge of Byrd's biography expanded in the late 20th century, thanks largely...

     (1543–1623)
  • Thomas Campion
    Thomas Campion
    Thomas Campion was an English composer, poet and physician. He wrote over a hundred lute songs; masques for dancing, and an authoritative technical treatise on music.-Life:...

     (1567–1620)
  • Richard Carlton
    Richard Carlton
    Richard Carlton was an English composer.He graduated from Clare College, Cambridge in 1577 and was at some time Master of Choristers at Norwich Cathedral. He is known mainly for his madrigals and was a contemporary of John Wilbye....

     (c 1558–?1638)
  • Michael Cavendish
    Michael Cavendish
    Michael Cavendish was an English composer of the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods.A grandson of Bess of Hardwick and first cousin to Arabella Stuart, he spent much time at court and was for a time composer to the future King Charles I of England. In 1598 he published a set of songs with lute...

     (c 1565–1628)
  • John Dowland
    John Dowland
    John Dowland was an English Renaissance composer, singer, and lutenist. He is best known today for his melancholy songs such as "Come, heavy sleep" , "Come again", "Flow my tears", "I saw my Lady weepe" and "In darkness let me dwell", but his instrumental music has undergone a major revival, and has...

     (1563–1626)
  • Michael East
    Michael East (composer)
    Michael East was an English organist and composer. He was a nephew of London music publisher Thomas East , although, once it was thought that he was his son....

     (c 1580–c 1648)
  • John Farmer
    John Farmer (1570-1605)
    John Farmer was a composer of the English Madrigal School. He was born in England around 1570 but his exact date of birth is not known - posits a date around 1564 to 1565 based on matriculation records. Farmer was under the patronage of Earl of Oxford and dedicated his collection of canons and...

     (c 1565–1605)
  • Giles Farnaby
    Giles Farnaby
    Giles Farnaby was an English composer and virginalist of the Renaissance and Baroque periods.-Life:Giles Farnaby was born about 1563, perhaps in Truro, Cornwall, England or near London. His father, Thomas, was a Cittizen and Joyner of London, and Giles may have been related to Thomas Farnaby , the...

     (c 1560–c 1620)
  • Alfonso Ferrabosco
    Alfonso Ferrabosco (I)
    Alfonso Ferrabosco was an Italian composer. While mostly famous as the solitary Italian madrigalist working in England, and the one mainly responsible for the growth of the madrigal there, he also composed much sacred music...

     (1543–1588) (Italian, but worked in England for two decades)
  • Orlando Gibbons
    Orlando Gibbons
    Orlando Gibbons was an English composer, virginalist and organist of the late Tudor and early Jacobean periods...

     (1583–1625)
  • Thomas Greaves
    Thomas Greaves (musician)
    Thomas Greaves was an English composer and lutenist.He was lutenist to Sir Henry Pierrepont. He published in London in 1604 Songes of sundrie kinds...

     (fl. c 1600)
  • William Holborne (fl.
    Floruit
    Floruit , abbreviated fl. , is a Latin verb meaning "flourished", denoting the period of time during which something was active...

     1597)
  • John Holmes
    John Holmes (composer)
    John Holmes was an English cathedral musician and Renaissance composer. His madrigal Thus Bonny-boots The Birthday Celebrated was included in The Triumphs of Oriana, a collection of vocal compositions published in 1601....

     (d. 1629)
  • John Jenkins
    John Jenkins (composer)
    John Jenkins , English composer, was born in Maidstone, Kent, and died at Kimberley, Norfolk.Little is known of his early life. The son of Henry Jenkins, a carpenter who occasionally made musical instruments, he may have been the "Jack Jenkins" employed in the household of Anne, Countess of Warwick...

     (1592–1678)
  • Robert Jones
    Robert Jones (composer)
    Robert Jones was an English lutenist and composer, the most prolific of the English lute song composers ....

     (fl. 1597–1615)
  • George Kirbye
    George Kirbye
    George Kirbye was an English composer of the late Tudor period and early Jacobean era. He was one of the members of the English Madrigal School, but also composed sacred music....

     (c 1565–1634)
  • Henry Lichfild (fl. 1613, d. after 1620)
  • Thomas Morley
    Thomas Morley
    Thomas Morley was an English composer, theorist, editor and organist of the Renaissance, and the foremost member of the English Madrigal School. He was the most famous composer of secular music in Elizabethan England and an organist at St Paul's Cathedral...

     (1557–1603)
  • John Mundy
    John Mundy (composer)
    John Mundy was an English composer, virginalist and organist of the Renaissance period.-Life and works:...

     (c 1555–1630)
  • Peter Philips
    Peter Philips
    Peter Philips was an eminent English composer, organist, and Catholic priest exiled to Flanders...

     (c 1560–1628) (lived and published in the Netherlands, but wrote in an English style)
  • Francis Pilkington
    Francis Pilkington
    Francis Pilkington was an English composer, lutenist and singer. Pilkington received a B.Mus. degree from Oxford in 1595. In 1602 he became a singing man at Chester Cathedral and spent the rest of his life serving the cathedral. He became a minor canon in 1612, took holy orders in 1614 and was...

     (c 1570–1638)
  • Thomas Tomkins
    Thomas Tomkins
    Thomas Tomkins was an English composer of the late Tudor and early Stuart period. In addition to being one of the prominent members of the English madrigal school, he was a skilled composer of keyboard and consort music, and the last member of the English virginalist school.-Life:Tomkins was born...

     (1572–1656)
  • Thomas Vautor (c 1580-?)
  • John Ward
    John Ward (composer)
    John Ward was an English composer who was a contemporary of John Dowland.Born in Canterbury, John Ward was a chorister at Canterbury Cathedral. He went to London where he served Sir Henry Fanshawe both as an attorney in the Exchequer and as a musician. Ward married and had three children...

     (1571–1638)
  • Thomas Weelkes
    Thomas Weelkes
    Thomas Weelkes was an English composer and organist. He became organist of Winchester College in 1598, moving to Chichester Cathedral. His works are chiefly vocal, and include madrigals, anthems and services.-Life:Weelkes was baptised in the little village church of Elsted in Sussex on 25...

     (1576–1623)
  • John Wilbye
    John Wilbye
    John Wilbye , was an English madrigal composer. The son of a tanner, he was born at Brome, Suffolk, near Diss, and received the patronage of the Cornwallis family. It is thought that he accompanied Elizabeth Cornwallis to Hengrave Hall near Bury St...

     (1574–1638)

Further reading

  • The Oxford Book of English Madrigals, ed. Philip Ledger. Oxford University Press, Oxford, England, 1978. ISBN 0-19-343664-7 (Issued with recordings of 38 of these madrigals by Pro Cantione Antiqua
    Pro Cantione Antiqua
    Pro Cantione Antiqua of London are a British choral group who were founded in 1968 by Tenor James Griffett, Counter-tenor Paul Esswood, and conductor and producer Mark Brown. From an early stage they were closely associated with conductor and musicologist Bruno Turner...

     (augmented) under Philip Ledger - OUP 151/2)

Sources

  • Gustave Reese
    Gustave Reese
    Gustave Reese was an American musicologist and teacher. Reese is known mainly for his work on medieval and Renaissance music, particularly with his two publications Music in the Middle Ages and Music in the Renaissance ; these two books remain the standard reference works for these two eras,...

    , Music in the Renaissance. New York, W.W. Norton & Co., 1954. ISBN 0-393-09530-4
  • Article "Madrigal" in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie. 20 vol. London, Macmillan Publishers Ltd., 1980. ISBN 1-56159-174-2