Did Shakespeare hear this music?
Did Shakespeare hear this music by William Byrd? A video of Ernst Stolz playing Byrd on the virginal suggests he did. It's a strangely compelling sound -
Shakespeare certainly listened to a musician playing the virginal, and had erotic thoughts -
How oft, when thou, my music, music play'st
Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds
With thy sweet fingers when thou gently sway'st
The wiry concord that mine ear confounds,
Do I envy those jacks that nimble leap
To kiss the tender inward of thy hand,
Whilst my poor lips, which should that harvest reap,
At the wood's boldness by thee blushing stand.
To be so tickled they would change their state
And situation with those dancing chips
O'er whom thy fingers walk with gentle gait,
Making dead wood more blest than living lips.
Since saucy jacks so happy are in this,
Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss.
Byrd (1542-1623) composed madrigals, motets, verse anthems and verse services, and music for consort and solo keyboard. I first heard his sacred songs (sacrarum cantionum) in an old stone church in Portland. The singers, from London, left an impression of shimmering sound.
Responding to one of our posts, Athos wrote that a number of Catholic composers in Elizabethan England, including Byrd, had a tough time being heard on account of their religion. He elaborates in Chronicles of Atlantis.
Byrd first published his polyphonic settings for the propers of the Roman Catholic mass surreptitiously, but he was usually brave and open about his faith. He had his defenders, too. He and his family "seem never to have felt the full severity of the recusancy laws" (DNB) because his political, religious, and musical allies stood up for him. They included Lord Petre, the Pastons of Norfolk, Henry Howard, earl of Northampton, Edward Somerset, earl of Worcester, and Francis Clifford, earl of Cumberland.
Musicians who knew Byrd called him "Our Phoenix".
Byrd's Ave Verum Corpus, performed by Amici del Canto under Nigel Shaw, is here.