Psalmes, Sonnets and Songs (William Byrd)

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General Information

Publication date and place: 1588

Composer: William Byrd

Following the commercial failure of the Cantiones Sacrae, published jointly with Tallis in 1575, Byrd waited another eleven years before venturing into print again. This time, he trusted his fortunes to a collection of secular music, no doubt encouraged by the growing popularity in England of Italian madrigals adapted to English words, and specifically to the success in the same year of Nicholas Yonge's collection Musica Transalpina (which had itself included a piece by him). This time, too, he had judged public taste better, as the collection was a great success and went through several editions in the following years.

Despite the popularity of the pieces, all of which are for 5 voices, it appears that none of them were originally written as unaccompanied polyphonic songs, but that all originated as consort songs for a single voice and four viols. Byrd acknowledges these origins in the print, often designating the original solo voice as "the first singing part".

The collection is dedicated to Sir Christopher Hatton, who had become Lord Chancellor in the previous year.

Contents of the Psalmes, sonets, & songs of sadnes and pietie

Psalms

Sonnets and Pastorals

Songs of sadness and piety

Funeral Songs