CHAPTER XIV
KEYBOARD MUSIC

IF all knowledge of the vocal music produced in Tudor England had perished, this country would still be able to claim an important position in musical history, for the reason that England was undoubtedly the birth-place of keyboard music. The Elizabethans, both as composers and performers, laid the foundation upon which the fabric of all subsequent music for the clavichord, the harpsichord, and the modern pianoforte was built. Prominent among these founders are the names of Bull, Giles Farnaby, and Orlando Gibbons; but the overshadowing figure was that of Byrd.

The music to which this statement refers covers a period from about 1560 to 1620; but even before this keyboard music had been popular in England as nowhere else in Europe.

Early in the sixteenth century a type of harpsichord had been brought into very general use, and it came to be known as the Virginal. The origin of this word in this connexion has not been satisfactorily explained. Little music seems to have been actually composed for the Virginal in the first half of the century, and its use was limited to the performance of dance tunes, popular folk-songs, and arrangements of polyphonic vocal music.

Conspicuous among the early forerunners of the Elizabethan school of virginal composers was Hugh Aston. Aston's Church music was of a very high order;1 but more interest has been attached to his instrumental compositions by musical historians, who have acclaimed him as the inventor of variation-form, as exploited in a piece called My ladye Careys Dompe.2 It is by no means certain that this Dompe is by Aston, though it comes next to his Hornepype in the same manuscript. And as it has now been plainly proved that Aston is not to be identified with Hugh

____________________
1
See his collected works in Tudor Church Music, vol. x.
2
B.M., Royal Appendix 58.

-195-

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