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The foremost composer under the reign of Elizabeth I and James I, William Byrd (c. 1540 - 1623) produced countless masses, motets, polyphonic songs, and works for keyboard and instrumental consort, all of which rank among the most unique and inspired works of the late Renaissance. His output was widely admired both at the time and now, and the influence he exerted on his contemporaries and on future generations of English composers was profound. Byrd was especially well-known for his motets, a musical form which he - a practicing Catholic in Anglican England and composer for the English Chapel Royal - especially favored, in spite of the threats of religious persecution he routinely faced. This biography takes a new look at Byrd's music - instrumental and vocal, sacred and secular - and the various documents of his long life. Exploring the musical world in which Byrd grew up, author Kerry McCarthy traces his influence on the English musicians of the early Baroque, many of whom were his students, and takes on the uncomfortable paradoxes of the composer's life as a devout and influential Catholic who spent much of his career in the service of the English Protestant establishment.
McCarthy also pays special attention to Byrd's literary background and activities as an older contemporary of Shakespeare who enjoyed close ties to the Elizabethan and Jacobean literary world. A detailed, fresh, and readable account of a composer who was revered by his colleagues as "our Phoenix" and "a Father of Music", Byrd is essential reading for scholars, students, and performers of early music, as well as general readers interested in the musical world of Renaissance England.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 304 pages
  • 162.56 x 236.22 x 30.48mm | 566.99g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 10 halftones, 41 music examples
  • 0195388755
  • 9780195388756
  • 648,436

Review quote

The growing awareness of the importance of musicological research to such a wide range of different audiences today makes writing composer biographies a tall order indeed. It is one that has been filled in Byrd with eloquence, clarity and candour. * Andrew Cichy, Early Music * This volume is an excellent addition to any music reference section ... Recommended. * B.L. Eden, CHOICE * We know a gratifying amount about William Byrd [...] and Kerry McCarthy splendidly and concisely present it all in this intelligent and affectionate biography. * Diarmaid MacCulloch, London Review of Books * Excellent new study. * Peter Phillips, The Times Literary Supplement * A compendious new introduction to Byrd's life and music, incorporating the newest research. * Christopher Howse, The Daily Telegraph *
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About Kerry McCarthy

Kerry McCarthy has taught at Duke University since 2003. Her research explores the music of the English Renaissance and its cultural contexts. Her first book, Liturgy and Contemplation in Byrd's Gradualia, was published by Routledge in 2007.
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Table of contents

Preface ; Ad lectorem ; Acknowledgements ; 1. Origins ; 2. Apprentice years ; 3. Lincoln Cathedral ; 4. Musical explorations ; 5. Royal patronage ; 6. Byrd the reader ; 7. Sundry songs ; 8. Sacred songs ; 9. My Lady Nevell's Book ; 10. The three masses ; 11. Court and country ; 12. Later instrumental music ; 13. Gradualia ; 14. 1611 ; 15. Last works ; 16. Students and legacy ; 17. Afterthoughts ; Appendix A. Documents of Byrd's life ; Appendix B. List of works ; Appendix C. Personalia ; Appendix D. Select bibliography ; Appendix E. A reader's guide to Byrd literature
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