The fate of William Byrd, Palestrina’s somewhat younger, longer-lived English contemporary, was rather different. He was a far more versatile composer, adept in every contemporary genre both sacred and secular, who made an important contribution to the early development of instrumental chamber and keyboard music, realms about as far removed from Palestrina’s sphere of interest and influence as can be imagined. In this chapter, however, we will concentrate on the side of Byrd’s output that overlapped with Palestrina’s, and on his position as a late—arguably, the very latest—great master of polyphonic service music in the Catholic tradition, of all European musical traditions the most venerable.
With Byrd we truly reach the end of the line. His work was never canonized the way Palestrina’s was but had to await revival by musical antiquarians in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The reason was simple and cruel: the church he served had also reached the end of the line in England. Far from the official musical spokesman of established religious power, Byrd became the musical spokesman of the losing side in a religious war: that of the so-called recusants or refusers, loyal Catholics in an England that had anathematized the pope and persecuted his followers. Byrd’s latest, greatest music, on which we shall focus, was the music of a church gone underground.
- Citation (MLA):
- Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 16 The End of Perfection." The Oxford History of Western Music. Oxford University Press. New York, USA. n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2017. <http://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume1/actrade-9780195384819-div1-016008.xml>.
- Citation (APA):
- Taruskin, R. (n.d.). Chapter 16 The End of Perfection. In Oxford University Press, Music from the Earliest Notations to the Sixteenth Century. New York, USA. Retrieved 25 Feb. 2017, from http://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume1/actrade-9780195384819-div1-016008.xml
- Citation (Chicago):
- Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 16 The End of Perfection." In Music from the Earliest Notations to the Sixteenth Century, Oxford University Press. (New York, USA, n.d.). Retrieved 25 Feb. 2017, from http://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume1/actrade-9780195384819-div1-016008.xml