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Chapter House. Cathedral, Lincoln Gothic. XIII Cent.

MUSIC FOR ALL SEASONS: THE BYRD GRADUALIA REVISITED

"If I have set to these holy words music not entirely unsuitable, let the honor be God's (as is fitting), but let the pleasure be yours."

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    William Byrd, preface to Gradualia I (1605)1

It is easy to associate the great music of the Renaissance with contemporary centers of power and privilege-richly endowed chapels and splendid courts, flourishing with the support of royal patrons. William Byrd composed his Gradualia in quite different circumstances. This year-long cycle of Mass propers and Office music for the Roman rite was, to put it plainly, underground art. As England entered the seventeenth cen tury under what amounted to a state-run church, religious nonconformity was an of fense against the Crown and loyalty to the Pope was considered treason. Taking part in Catholic worship on English soil was punishable by heavy fines, exile, or worse. Priests caught celebrating Mass were sometimes executed. When Mass took place, it was not in the cathedrals, or even in the parish churches, but in well-hidden domestic quarters or the prison cells where clergy were often confined.2 Amid such difficulties,

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BYRD GRADUALIA

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