William Byrd and His Contemporaries: Essays and a Monograph

William Byrd and His Contemporaries: Essays and a Monograph

William Byrd and His Contemporaries: Essays and a Monograph

William Byrd and His Contemporaries: Essays and a Monograph


Throughout his distinguished career, Philip Brett wrote about the music of the Tudor period. He carried out pathbreaking work on the life and music of William Byrd (c.1540-1623), both as an editor and a historian. He also studied other composers working during the period, including John Taverner, Thomas Tallis, Orlando Gibbons, and Thomas Weelkes. Collecting these influential essays together for the first time, this volume is a tribute to Brett's agile mind and to his incomparable skill at synthesizing history and musical analysis.

Byrd was a prominent court composer, but also a Catholic. Besides important instrumental music and English songs, he wrote a great deal of sacred music, some for his Protestant patrons, and some for his fellow Catholics who celebrated mass in secret. Ranging from the report of Brett's findings on the Paston manuscripts, an unpublished round-table paper that he delivered a few months before his untimely death, to his monograph-length study of Byrd's magnum opus, Gradualia, the essays collected here consider both sacred and secular music, and vocal and instrumental traditions, providing an intimate glimpse into what was unique about Byrd and his music. Elegantly written, with the particular brilliance for which Brett was known, this book opens a fascinating window onto one of the most fruitful periods of English musical history.


Philip Brett died in October 2002 on the eve of his sixty-fifth birthday. He is mourned by his many friends and admirers for his learning, lightly worn, his sensitivity, elegance, passionate activism, and exquisite musicality. His two signal contributions to musical studies extend over so wide a range that they might seem to come from different worlds. In the 1970s he was the first to break the taboo on the open discussion of composers’ sexuality, and as he followed up on his powerful, subtle investigation of Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes with further work on Britten operas, he became musicology’s pioneer in gender studies and queer theory— known for polemics and forthright activism, not only scholarly writings.

A companion volume to this one, edited by George Haggerty, Music and Sexuality in Britten: Selected Essays, has been published by the University of California Press. After two years at King’s College Cambridge, Philip spent his academic career at the University of California, first at the Berkeley campus and then at Riverside and Los Angeles.

Before that he had established himself in Renaissance studies, where he will be remembered principally as an editor, in particular as general editor of the works of the great Elizabethan composer William Byrd. He launched a new complete edition—The Byrd Edition—in the wake of an inadequate earlier one, which was floundering in revisions. Philip’s in-

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