IT is no small compliment to the cult of early Tudor music to find a brilliant professor of the University of Brussels, M. Charles van den Borren, devoting much attention to the Sources of Key- board Music in England, and publishing the result of his researches in book form, of which an excellent English translation has been made by Mr. James E. Matthew1. In the opinion of Van den Borren, Hugh Aston is one of the most considerable figures in the development of virginal music of the early years of the six- teenth century, 'whose importance has not been sufficiently insisted upon by historians of music'. He gives many pages to an analysis of Aston's compositions, but in regard to his biography he is content with the bald statement that he was 'an organist and composer of sacred music of the time of Henry VIII ( 1509-47)'.
Probably the best account of Hugh Aston is that which is given in the new edition of Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, by Mr. Arkwright. The reader may also profitably consult the Carnegie edition. Yet the biographical data--apart from the list of compositions--can only be described as disappointing. Here it is: 'One of the leading English pre-Reformation composers (fl. 1500-20); his identity with an ecclesiastic of this name (for whom see the Dictionary of National Biography) cannot be proved.' Dr. Ernest Walker, in his History of Music in England ( 1907), says that Mr. Henry Davey's identification of Aston with an Archdeacon of York, who died in 1522, 'is purely conjectural' while Mr. Percy A. Scholes is content with the statement: Nothing is known of his life.'
The difficulty over the biography of Hugh Aston is heightened by reason of the name's being spelled variously as Aston, Ashton,____________________
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Publication information: Book title: Early Tudor Composers:Biographical Sketches of Thirty-Two Musicians and Composers of the Period 1485-1555. Contributors: W. Henry Hadow - Author, William H. Grattan Flood - Author. Publisher: Oxford university Press, H. Milford. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1925. Page number: 30.
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