The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book Vol.5 | Brilliant Classics 95308

The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book Vol.5


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Label: Brilliant Classics

Cat No: 95308

Barcode: 5028421953083

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 2

Genre: Instrumental

Release Date: 9th December 2016



Pieter‐Jan Belder continues his superb survey of the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, an extraordinary manuscript compiled in the late 16th century and held in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. In this, the fifth volume, Belder explores the music of some of the Book’s best known composers, such as Thomas Tallis, John Munday and Thomas Tomkins. Some of these pieces reflect the zenith of Elizabethan and Jacobean keyboard music: the sweet melody of Munday’s ‘Goe from my window’ is still popular today, and his somewhat doleful ‘Munday’s Joy’ is a miniature but perfect example of the harpsichord innovations of the time. Taking inspiration from the medieval tradition of organ improvisations added to a sung offertory, Thomas Tallis’s ‘Felix namque’ showcases the composer’s masterly use of polyrhythms, shifting accents and tempo changes over a static cantus firmus. Thomas Morley – a student of John Byrd – regularly wrote for consorts of instruments, betraying a highly polyphonic style in his keyboard music. The final Thomas – Tomkins – was also a student of Byrd. As one of the last of a dying breed of virginalists, his short but exquisite pieces here highlight the ultimate perfection of the virginalist style.

Pieter‐Jan Belder is not only a consummate performer but also a serious scholar of keyboard music from the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras. His research on the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book has led to a highly informed performance practice, and he lends equal weight to the mighty Tallis and the lowly Anonymous. Belder specialises in performance on historical instruments, and he has carefully selected three period harpsichords for this recording in order to create the most authentic sound possible. The listener is rewarded with a substantial set that highlights the superb achievements of the composers of this era, laying the foundations of keyboard music for centuries to come.

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