Claudio Monteverdi
Monteverdi’s work, often regarded as revolutionary, marked the transition from the Renaissance style of music to that of the Baroque period. He developed two individual styles of composition: the new basso continuo technique of the Baroque and the heritage of Renaissance polyphony. Enjoying fame in his lifetime, he wrote one of the earliest operas, L’Orfeo, which is still regularly performed.
William Byrd
An English composer of the Renaissance, he cultivated many of the forms current in England at the time, including various types of sacred and secular polyphony, keyboard and consort music.
John Bull
John Bull was among the most distinguished English keyboard-players of his time, and his career forms a link with the developing keyboard tradition of the Netherlands. The best known of his works must be The King’s Hunt, with a series of dance movements, fantasias and song-variations, some of which make considerable demands on the performer.
Tomas Victoria
Tomas Victoria was a Spanish composer of the late Renaissance. “The Spanish Palestrina”, as he is known, was the most famous composer of the 16th century in Spain, and one of the most important composers of the Counter-Reformation, along with Giovanni da Palestrina and Orlando di Lasso.
Carlo Gesualdo
Carlo Gesualdo was an Italian music composer, lutenist and nobleman of the late Renaissance. He is famous for his intensely expressive madrigals, which use a chromatic language not heard again until the 19th century; and also for committing what are amongst the most notorious murders in musical history.
Orlando de Lasso
Orlando de Lasso was a Franco-Flemish composer of late Renaissance music. Along with Palestrina (of the Roman School), he is today considered to be the chief representative of the mature polyphonic style of the Franco-Flemish School, and he was the most famous and influential musician in Europe at the end of the 16th century.
Giovanni Gabrieli
Giovanni Gabrieli was an Italian composer and organist. He was one of the most influential musicians of his time, and represents the culmination of the style of the Venetian School, at the time of the shift from Renaissance to Baroque idioms.
John Dowland
John Dowland was an English composer, singer, and lutenist. He is best known today for his melancholy songs such as “Come, heavy sleep” (the basis for Benjamin Britten’s Nocturnal), “Come again”, “Flow my tears”, “I saw my Lady weepe” and “In darkness let me dwell”, but his instrumental music has undergone a major revival, and has been a source of repertoire for classical guitarists during the twentieth century.
Nicolas Gombert
Nicolas Gombert was a Flemish composer of the Renaissance. He was one of the most famous and influential composers between Josquin Desprez and Palestrina, and best represents the fully-developed, complex polyphonic style of this period in music history.
Adrian Willaert
Adrian Willaert was a Flemish composer of the Renaissance and founder of the Venetian School. He was one of the most representative members of the generation of northern composers who moved to Italy and transplanted the polyphonic Franco-Flemish style there.
Jacobus Clemens
Jacobus Clemens was a Flemish composer of the Renaissance based for most of his life in Flanders. He was a prolific composer in many of the current styles, and was especially famous for his polyphonic settings of the psalms in Dutch known as the Souterliedekens.
Philippe Verdelot
Philippe Verdelot was a French composer of the Renaissance, who spent most of his life in Italy. He is commonly considered to be the father of the Italian madrigal, and certainly was one of its earliest and most prolific composers; in addition he was prominent in the musical life of Florence during the period after the recapture of the city by the Medici from the followers of Girolamo Savonarola.
Claudin de Sermisy
Claudin de Sermisy was a French composer of the Renaissance. Along with Clement Janequin he was one of the most renowned composers of French chansons in the early 16th century; in addition he was a significant composer of sacred music. His music was both influential on, and influenced by, contemporary Italian styles.
Clement Janequin
Clement Janequin was a French composer of the Renaissance. He was one of the most famous composers of popular chansons of the entire Renaissance, and along with Claudin de Sermisy, was hugely influential in the development of the Parisian chanson, especially the programmatic type. The wide spread of his fame was made possible by the concurrent development of music printing.
Heinrich Finck
His works, mostly part songs and other vocal compositions, show great musical knowledge, and amongst the early masters of the German school he holds a high position. They are found scattered amongst ancient and modern collections of songs and other musical pieces.
Ludwig Senfl
Ludwig Senfl was a Swiss composer of the Renaissance, active in Germany. He was the most famous pupil of Heinrich Isaac, was music director to the court of Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, and was an influential figure in the development of the Franco-Flemish polyphonic style in Germany.
Paul Hofhaimer
Paul Hofhaimer was an Austrian organist and composer. He was particularly gifted at improvisation, and was regarded as the finest organist of his age by many writers, including Vadian and Paracelsus; in addition he was one of only two German-speaking composers of the time (Heinrich Isaac was the other) who had a reputation in Europe outside of German-speaking countries.
Thomas Tallis
Thomas Tallis was an English composer. Tallis flourished as a church musician in 16th century England. He occupies a primary place in anthologies of English church music, and is considered among the best of England’s early composers. He is honoured for his original voice in English musicianship.
Sebastian Virdung
Sebastian Virdung was a German composer and theorist on musical instruments. In 1511, he published his treatise “Musica getuscht und angezogen”. The text is described as the first printed book on the subject. It covered theory of music, counterpoint and composition. However, none of these subjects are to be found in the printed work that survives. Existing sections are based on instruments with illustrations and is notable for being the oldest printed source on this subject. The second is said to be Musica instrumentalis deudsch (1529) by Martin Agricola. These works are both illustrated, and important for the history of European instruments. It classifies instruments into families. It is also a source on musical notation.
Gioseffo Zarlino
Gioseffo Zarlino was an Italian music theorist and composer of the Renaissance. He was possibly the most famous music theorist between Aristoxenus and Rameau, and made a large contribution to the theory of counterpoint as well as to musical tuning. Zarlino was the first to recognize the primacy of the triad over the interval as a means of harmonic thinking. His development of just intonation came from a realization of the imperfection of the intervals in the Pythagorean system, and a desire to retain as much purity as possible using a limited number of tones.
Cipriano de Rore
Cipriano de Rore was a Franco-Flemish composer of the Renaissance, active in Italy. Not only was he central representative of the generation of Franco-Flemish composers after Josquin des Prez who went to live and work in Italy, but he was one of the most prominent composers of madrigals in the middle of the 16th century. His experimental, chromatic, and highly expressive style had a decisive influence on the subsequent development of that secular music form.
Luca Marenzio
Luca Marenzio was an Italian composer and singer of the late Renaissance. He was one of the most renowned composers of madrigals, and wrote some of the most famous examples of the form in its late stage of development, prior to its early Baroque transformation by Monteverdi.
Claudio Merulo
Claudio Merulo was an Italian composer, publisher and organist of the late Renaissance period, most famous for his innovative keyboard music and his ensemble music composed in the Venetian polychoral style.
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina was an Italian composer of the Renaissance. He was the most famous sixteenth-century representative of the Roman School of musical composition. Palestrina had a vast influence on the development of Roman Catholic church music, and his work can be seen as a summation of Renaissance polyphony.
Thomas Morley
Thomas Morley was an English composer, theorist, editor and organist of the Renaissance, and the foremost member of the English Madrigal School. He was the most famous composer of secular music in Elizabethan England. He and Robert Johnson are the composers of the only surviving contemporary settings of verse by Shakespeare.
Michael Praetorius
Michael Praetorius was a German composer, organist, and writer about music. He was one of the most versatile composers of his age, being particularly significant in the development of musical forms based on Protestant hymns.
Netherlands (Sixteenth Century)
John Calvin starts a reformation called Calvinism and bans all forms of polyphonic writing.
Venetian School of Music
The Venetian School is a term used to describe the composers working in Venice from about 1550 to around 1610. The innovations introduced by the Venetian school, along with the contemporary development of monody and opera in Florence, together define the end of the musical Renaissance and the beginning of the musical Baroque. The peak of development of the Venetian School was in the 1580s, when Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli composed enormous works for multiple choirs, groups of brass and string instruments, and organ. These works are the first to include dynamics, and are among the first to include specific instructions for ensemble instrumentation.
Plucked stringed keyboard instrument of the 16th and 17th centuries, often called ‘virginals’ or ‘a pair of virginals’ in England, where the term was applied to any quilled keyboard instrument well into the 17th century. The virginal is rectangular or polygonal in shape and is distinguished from the harpsichord and spinet by its strings being set at right angles to the keys, rather than parallel with them.
Council of Trent
The Council of Trent, delayed and interrupted several times because of political or religious disagreements, was a major reform council and the most impressive embodiment of the ideals of the Counter-Reformation.
Famous theoretical treatise by Glareanus, 1547. He extended the system of Authentic and Plagal Modes (Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian) from eight to 12, by adding the Ionian and Aeolian modes, with their piagai derivations. It also contains important analytic descriptions of works by contemporary masters of Polyphony.
Musica transalpina
First printed collection of Italian (i.e. transalpine) madrigals with English words, compiled and published in London by Nicholas Yonge in 2 vols., 1588 and 1597 (both Italian and English words were given).
Triumphes of Oriana
English collection of madrigals written in honour of Queen Elizabeth I, edited by Morley and published in 1601. It was modelled on the Italian collection of Il Trionfo di Dori of 1592 and contains a similar series of different poems all ending with the same line, ‘Long live fair Oriana’.
Harmonice Musices Odhecaton
“Harmonice Musices Odhecaton” was an anthology of secular songs published by Ottaviano Petrucci in 1501 in Venice. It was the first book of music ever to be printed using movable type, and was hugely influential both in publishing in general, and in dissemination of the Franco-Flemish musical style.
In the early Middle Ages, Psalters were amongst the most popular types of illuminated manuscripts, rivaled only by the Gospel Books, from which they gradually took over as the type of manuscript chosen for lavish illumination. Medieval Psalters often included a calendar, a litany of saints, canticles from the Old and New Testaments, as well as other devotional texts. Many Psalters were lavishly illuminated with full-page miniatures as well as decorated initials.
Fitzwilliam Virginal Book
The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book is a primary source of keyboard music from the late Elizabethan and early Jacobean periods in England, i.e., the late Renaissance and very early Baroque. It takes its name from Viscount Fitzwilliam who bequeathed this manuscript collection to Cambridge University in 1816.
Sonata pian’e forte
Sonata pian’e forte was written by Giovanni Gabrieli, an Italian composer and organist. “Sonata pian’e forte” means an instrumental piece using soft and loud dynamics. A more technical definition of this is a Venetian polychoral style which arose from architectural peculiarities with regards to St Marks. Sonata (at this time) means a piece for instruments.
Musica reservata
In music history, musica reservata (also musica secreta) is either a style or a performance practice in a cappella vocal music of the latter half of the 16th century, mainly in Italy and southern Germany, involving refinement, exclusivity, and intense emotional expression of sung text.
Madrigal (Italian)
In the 1560’s, madrigal composers experimented with chromatics, building harmonies based on all twelve semitones of the octave (utilizing whole and half steps of the scale). Nicola Vincentino, Luca Marenzio, Carlo Gesualdo, and Clauio Monteverdi introduced madrigals rich in these chromatic harmonies. Madrigals of the late Renaissance period were dramatic with emotional overtones displayed both through the music and the lyrics. Italian madrigals were recognized as the beginning of “word painting,” the combining of text and music to create a feeling.
Madrigal (English)
English composers adopted the Italian madrigal and developed it into a style that was reflective of the Elizabethan age. The English preferred simplistic lyrics and translated Italian madrigals to less complicated text versions, but the English wholly incorporated the word painting techniques created by the Italian composers. English madrigal composers include Thomas Morley, John Wilbye, John Farmer, Thomas Weelkes, and Orlando Gibbons. The English madrigal introduced nonsensical syllables such as “fa la la”.
One of the most important, and practically the earliest collection of “Chorales” is that made by Luther and Johann Walther (1496-1570), the Enchiridion, published in 1524, and were intended to be used for worship. Next in importance we may place the Genevan Psalter (1st ed., Strassburg,1542, final edition 1562), which is now conclusively proved to be the work of Bourgeois.
The frottola was the predominant type of Italian popular, secular song of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century. Musically, the frottola avoids contrapuntal complexity, preferring homophonic textures, clear and repetitive rhythms, and a narrow melodic range. It was an important predecessor not only to the madrigal, but to much later practices in the Baroque era such as monody, since it anticipates chordal accompaniment, has the melody in the highest voice, and shows an early feeling for what later developed into functional harmony.
Laude (singular: lauda, lauda spirituale) are the most important form of vernacular sacred song in Italy in the late medieval era and Renaissance. Laude had a resurgence of popularity again at the time of the Counter-Reformation, since one of the musical goals of the Council of Trent was to increase the intelligibility of text, and the simple, easily understood laude provided an ideal example.
A quodlibet is a piece of music combining several different melodies, usually popular tunes, in counterpoint and often a light-hearted, humorous manner. The term is Latin, meaning “whatever” or literally, “what pleases”.
Lied is a German word, meaning literally “song”; among English speakers, however, the word is used primarily as a term for European romantic music songs, also known as art songs. More accurately, the term perhaps is best used to describe specifically songs composed to a German poem of reasonably high literary aspirations.
Ricercar is a type of late Renaissance and mostly early Baroque instrumental composition. The term means to search out, and many ricercars serve a preludial function to “search out” the key or mode of a following piece. A ricercar may explore the permutations of a given motif, and in that regard may follow the piece used as illustration. E.g. “Ricercar sopra Benedictus” would develop motives from a motet titled “Benedictus.” The term is also used to designate an etude or study that explores a technical device in playing an instrument, or singing.
In music, a canzona (also canzone) was a 16th-century multipart vocal setting of a literary canzone and a 16th and 17th-century instrumental composition. At first based on Franco-Flemish polyphonic songs (chansons), later independently composed, the instrumental canzonas, such as the brass canzonas of Giovanni Gabrieli, influenced the fugue and were the direct ancestors of the sonata.
Toccata (from Italian toccare, “to touch”) is a virtuoso piece of music typically for a keyboard or plucked string instrument featuring fast-moving, lightly fingered or otherwise virtuosic passages or sections, with or without imitative or fugal interludes, generally emphasizing the dexterity of the performer’s fingers. Less frequently, the name is applied to works for multiple instruments (the opening of Claudio Monteverdi’s opera Orfeo being a notable example).
Cori spezzati
A style of performance with groups of singers placed in different locations of a building. This performance style was developed in the late Renaissance and Baroque eras. Generally the choirs are relatively small, and perform across a cathedral from one another. Giovanni Gabrieli especially is known for this style of composition, though he is by no means the only one to use it.
A Villancico is a genre of Spanish song, most prevalent in the Renaissance but found also in earlier and later periods. It is a poetic and musical form and was sung with or without accompanying instruments. Originally a folk song, frequently with a devotional song or love poem as text, it developed into an art music genre. The villancico consisted of two parts, beginning with the refrain, or estribillo, which alternates with the stanza, or copla.
The basse danse, or “low dance”, was the most popular court dance in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, especially at the Burgundian court, often in a combination of 6/4 and 3/2 time allowing for use of hemiola. When danced, couples moved quietly and gracefully in a slow gliding or walking motion, raising and lowering their bodies—movements from which the name originated. The basse danse later led to the development of the pavane.
Lute Song
The lute song was a generic form of music in the late Renaissance and very early Baroque eras, generally consisting of a singer accompanying himself on a lute, though lute songs may often have been performed by a singer and a separate lutenist. A bass viol was very often used to support the bass line in performance.
A genre of solo song with lute accompaniment that flourished in England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. The outstanding composers in the genre were the poet and composer Thomas Campion and the lutenist John Dowland, whose “Flow, my teares” (Lachrimae) became so popular that a large number of continental and English instrumental pieces were based on its melody.
Also called Fantasy, Fantasias were a free composition structured according to the composer’s fancy, or a medley of familiar themes, with variations and interludes.