English Renaissance Keyboard Music

Fantasias, Pavans & Galliards
Music by Bull, Byrd & Gibbons
Gustav Leonhardt
Philips 438 153


  1. Byrd: Pavan Tregian & Galliard
  2. Byrd: My Lady Nevell's Ground
  3. Johnson: Alman
  4. Philips: Passamezzo Pavana & Galiarda
  5. Morley: Fantasia
  6. Bull: Duchess of Brunswick's Toy
  7. Bull: Duke of Brunswick's Alman
  8. Bull: John Lumley's Pavan & Galliard
  9. Bull: Fantasia
  10. Randall: Galliard "Can she excuse my wrongs?"
  11. Farnaby: A Toye
  12. Gibbons: Fantasia
  13. Tomkins: Pavan & Galliard of 3 parts
  14. Gibbons: Fantasia
  15. Farnaby: Fantasia

Playing time: 60'

Recording date: October 1992

Instruments: Harpsichord, Joel Katzman (1987); Virginal, Martin Skowroneck (1967) - tracks 6,7

As always, Leonhardt's performances are definitive in some sense. Although it might seem that the Philips label for this recording would make it easy to obtain, I have not found that to be entirely the case. Nonetheless, it is an important recording, featuring a good representative selection of music in this style.

This music is rather singular. The depth of an entire genre developed and produced over only a few of decades is amazing. Unfortunately, it is equally shocking that the entire school died out completely by the middle of the 17th century.

It was Byrd who presided over this era, and so it was he who was the first great master of the "English Virginalist" school of keyboard composition. He managed to establish this genre out of almost nothing. A landmark collection of his music:

Byrd: The Complete Keyboard Music
Davitt Moroney
Hyperion 66551/7 (7 CDs)

Some other general surveys:

Go From My Window
Music for the Virginal
Colin Tilney
Dorian 90195
The Maydenhead of Musicke
Music for the Virginals from Parthenia & Parthenia In-Violata
Gary Cooper
Dervorguilla 106
English Virginals Music
Sophie Yates
Chandos Chaconne 0574
Musick as befitts a Quene
English Virginal Music: 1570-1650
Edward Parmentier
Wild Boar 9102
Byrd: Pescodd Time
Keyboard Masterpieces of William Byrd and His Contemporaries
Bertrand Cuiller
Alpha 086
The Queenes Command
Masterpieces of Elizabethan Keyboard Music
Joseph Payne
Bis 539
The Complete Fitzwilliam Virginal Book
Pieter-Jan Belder
Brilliant Classics 95915 [CDx15]
The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book
Byron Schenkman
Centaur 2638

Recordings devoted to individual composers, one per composer when available, with any other possibilities listed on that page:

Gibbons: Music for Harpsichord & Virginals
James Johnstone
AS&V "Gaudeamus" 191
Doctor Bull's good Night
John Bull: Pièces pour clavier
Pierre Hantaï
Astrée 8543
Sweelinck: Complete Keyboard Music
Ton Koopman
Philips 468 417 (4 CDs)
Keyboard Music by Peter Philips
Paul Nicholson
Hyperion 66734 (The English Orpheus, Vol. 25)
Giles Farnaby's Dream
Pieces pour clavier
Pierre Hantaï
ADDA 581172
Tomkins: Keyboard Music (Complete, Vol. 1)
Bernhard Klapprott
MD+G 0563
Scottish Keyboard Music - William Kinloche
James Kitchen
AS&V Gaudeamus 134

There is also a substantial body of Italian keyboard music from this era. A fine introductory collection, including pieces well into the Baroque:

150 Anni di Musica Italiana
1550-1700, da Valente a Scarlatti
Rinaldo Alessandrini
Opus 111 30-118

A recording of this music transcribed for consort:

The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book
Transcriptions for a mixed consort
Charivari agréable
Signum 009

Finally, a recording featuring many genres of the era (including vocal & consort):

Music from the Time of Elizabeth I
Academy of Ancient Music - Christopher Hogwood
L'Oiseau Lyre 433 193

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Todd M. McComb