Early Tudor Composers: Biographical Sketches of Thirty-Two Musicians and Composers of the Period 1485-1555

By W. Henry Hadow; William H. Grattan Flood | Go to book overview

XV. Richard Davy

ONE of the most attractive items in the programme of the Holy Week music at Westminster Cathedral in 1921 was the performance of the four-part Passion for Palm Sunday, by Richard Davy, probably the earliest example of Passion Music by an English composer. Sir Richard Terry describes it as 'smooth, easy, and flowing; it displays a very high standard of contrapuntal technique; but, above all, it is expressive, virile, and dramatic'. This most interesting composition is found in an early sixteenth- century manuscript belonging to Eton College; though, alas! through vandalism, only forty-three perfect compositions remain out of the ninety-eight which appear in the Index. Of these forty-three, Richard Davy contributed six, namely, 'O Domine celi terreque creator' (five parts), 'In honore summe matris' (five parts), 'Salve Jesu Mater vere' (five parts), 'Virgo Templum' (five voices), 'Gaude flore virginali' (six voices, incomplete), and 'Salve Regina' (five parts). The 'Pryke-Song' books belonging to King's College, Cambridge, in 1529, contain an 'Autem' by Davy, and there are other compositions by him in the Harleian MS. 1709, St. John's College, and the Cambridge University Library, as well as three three-part songs with English words in the famous Fayrfax MS. in the British Museum (Add. MSS. 5465). Two of his English carols are very interesting, namely, 'Ah! blessed Jhesu!' and 'Ah, my hart, remember'.

Yet, though we have such admirable specimens of Davy's sacred and secular works, Sir R. Terry says that 'as a composer he is entirely unknown to-day', and that regarding his biography very little is known save that 'he flourished in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries'. Up to the present, the only details of Davy's life are in the very brief sketch of him contributed to the second edition of Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians ( 1904)-- and these details are one solitary paragraph of less than four lines --by Mr. J. F. R. Stainer. It is as well to give the text in order

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