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

XVI. Robert Cowper, Mus.D.

THE name of Robert Cowper (also written Couper, Coper, and Cooper) is well known as a composer of the first decade of the sixteenth century; but beyond the fact of his having graduated Doctor of Music at Cambridge in 1507, very little else has hitherto been available as to his biography. The British Museum possesses several of his Masses and Motets, as well as two Madrigals for three voices, 'I have been a foster' and 'Farewell, my joy'; while Wynkyn de Worde printed Song Book of 1530 has three items by him, namely, 'In youth, in age', 'So great unkindness', and 'Ut, re, mi', each for three voices. A song of his, 'Petyously constrayned am I', is in the Brit. Mus. Royal MSS., App. 58, and a Round or Catch, 'Alone I live', was published by the Plain-Song and Medieval Music Society in 1891.

Robert Cowper was born about the year 1474, and on November 16, 1498, was presented by the Crown to "the free Chapel of Snodhill (co. Hereford), in the diocese of Hereford, vacant by the surrender of Robert Fayrefax, one of the Gentlemen of the King's Chapel, resigned", as is recorded on the Patent Rolls. From this it would appear that Cowper, if not attached to the Court of Henry VII, was persona grata in courtly circles.1

In 1507 Robert Cowper graduated Mus.D. at Cambridge University. The entry on the Cambridge Register reads as follows2: ' 1507. Item, conceditur magistro Roberto Cowperut studium quinque annorum cum practica totidem annorum citra introitum suum in eadem sufficiat sini ad incipiendum in Musice' ( Cambridge Grace Book, Gammar, p. 3a).

Previous writers have absolutely no details of Cowper after the year 1502, but it is certain that he retained the Chaplaincy of Snodhill from 1498 to 1514. This we know from the Patent

____________________
1
According to Venn Alumni Cantabrigienses ( 1922) Cowper graduated Mus. Bac. in 1493, and was Rector of Faulkborne ( Essex) 1494-1502.
2
This is quoted by Mr. C. F. Abdy Williams in his admirable little book on Musical Degrees.

-64-

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