William Byrd (Dictionary of World Biography: Renaissance)
Article abstract: Byrd was the outstanding English composer of the Renaissance, notable both for the variety of forms and styles in which he composed and for the outstanding quality of the individual pieces within each genre. He was apparently the first English composer to understand fully the new technique of imitative polyphony as developed in the Netherlands, and he passed this understanding on to his students, who included the composers Thomas Morley, Thomas Tomkins, and, almost certainly, Orlando Gibbons.
Nothing definite is known of William Byrd’s early life. The year of his birth is assumed to have been 1543, since he described himself in his will of November 15, 1622, as being in his eightieth year. He may have come from Lincoln, but he must have been reared in London because he was reliably reported to have been a student of Thomas Tallis, composer and organist of the Chapel Royal. He may have been a Child of the Chapel Royal, but the records from this period are incomplete and the names of many of the boys are lost. Thomas Byrd, Gentleman of the Chapel Royal in the 1540’s and 1550’s, may have been his father.
Byrd probably began composing music while still in his teens, and several compositions attributed to him are, if genuine, likely to have been student works. The motets “Alleluia, Confitemini Domino,” and “Christus resurgens,” the latter published in 1605, are to texts...
(The entire section is 2834 words.)
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