GIBBONS: Consort and Keyboard Music / Songs and Anthems
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Orlando Gibbons (1583 - 1625)
Consort and Keyboard Music, Songs and Anthems
 Pavan a 6
 Galliard a 6
 Behold, thou hast made my days
 The Lord of Salisbury his Pavan and Galliard
 Fantasia No.1 for two trebles
 I weigh not Fortune's frown
 I tremble not at noise of war
 I see ambition never pleased
 I feign not friendship where I hate
 Preludium in G
 Go from my window
 Dainty fine bird
 Fair is the rose
 Fantasia No. 3 a 6
 Fantasia No. 5 a 6
 A Mask (The Fairest Nymph)
 Lincoln's Inn Mask
 Allmaine in G
 Fantasia No. 1 a 3 for the Great Double Bass
 Galliard a 3
 The silver swan
 In Nomine a 4
 Glorious and powerful God
The music and reputation of Orlando Gibbons have survived the ravages of time ratherbetter than those of some of his contemporaries. Hisservices and unaccompanied anthems have been a part of the central repertory of Englishcathedral choirs since his death, The silver swan was quickly recognised as a classic madrigal by early twentieth century singers, andsome of his keyboard music was already available in a 'modern' if rather faulty edition by1847. It is, however, only relatively recently that his superb contributions to thetradition of English viol consort music have been fully recognised, as well as hisimportant position in the development of the verse anthem. This recording represents mostof the main areas of Gibbons' output, apart from the music for the English liturgy, andshows not only his consummate skill in handling complex contrapuntal textures, but alsothe variety of mood of his work, and the directly evocative response to the texts he set.
Like many sixteenth century composers, Orlando Gibbons camefrom a family of musicians. His father William was a wait (town band musician) in bothOxford and Cambridge, his eldest brother Edward was Master of the Choristers at King'sCollege, Cambridge, and then Succentor (responsible for the organ and choir) at ExeterCathedral, and another brother Ellis contributed two madrigals to 'The Triumphes ofOriana' in 1601. It was not surprising then that Orlando, born in Oxford in 1583, shouldfollow in their footsteps. He sang as a chorister at King's College, Cambridge and latertook the degree of Bachelor of Music there as well as receiving a Doctorate of Music fromOxford. It was, however, his move to London to become a Gentleman of the Chapel Royalaround 1603 that must have brought him to wider public notice, and the rest of his careerwas centred upon his duties as a 'royal' musician. By 1615 he was one of the two organistsof the Chapel Royal, and by 1625 had been promoted to be senior organist (his junior wasThomas Tomkins). In the meantime he had also accumulated the positions of 'one of hisMajesty's musicians for the virginals to attend in his highness privy chamber' and that oforganist of Westminster Abbey. Gibbons' sudden death (in 1625) of an apoplectic fit whileattending with the rest of the court upon Charles I as he greeted his new wife HenriettaMaria at Canterbury, deprived the nation of one of its most renowned and respectedmusicians.
We have no documentary evidence to suggest that Gibbons playedthe viol himself, but his family background must surely have provided him withopportunities to become familiar with the instruments and their music. Town waits like hisfather were normally competent viol and violin players as well as wind players, andbrother Edward certainly encouraged viol playing amongst the Exeter choristers. As asenior court musician, Orlando Gibbons may even have been a member of the King's PrivateMusick, and would certainly have worked with its number, who included some of the mostforward-looking players and composers of their time: Ferrabosco, Lupo (descendents ofitinerant Italian musical families), and the thoroughly English Coprario (born plain JohnCooper). These musicians, under the patronage of the future Charles I, who apparentlyplayed bass viol with them, were in a position to experiment with new musical styles andgenres.
By 1600 the viols, hitherto largely the domain of suchprofessional instrumentalists at court, were being cultivated by wealthy amateurs, andGibbons' fantasias, In Nomines and dances were circulated widely. Indeed he took theunusual step of publishing nine of his three part fantasias around 1620, 'Cut in Copper,the like not heretofore extant'. The six part fantasias recorded here bear witness toGibbons' versatility. No.3  opens witha series of searingly dissonant suspensions before moving into more dance-Iike antiphonalideas and a strong final section. No. 5 is perhaps less extrovert, but contains some tensely rising chromatic lines and a centralsection of great stillness and serenity. This spaciousness contrasts well with the closelyargued fantasia for two restlessly chattering trebles . Several of Gibbons violconsorts make use of the extraordinary low register of 'the Great Double Bass', aninstrument a fourth lower than the conventional bass viol. We include a fantasia  and galliard which combine this with a treble and a bass viol, the organ bindingtogether these rather disparate elements.
The other forms available to composers for viol consort were dances, the In Nomine and variations Go from my window  is a beautifully crafted set of ten variations on apopular tune initially heard in the lower treble part. Variation nine gives the two basses some excitingly fleet-footed running todo. The InNomine was a uniquely English phenomenon a fantasia based on a cantus firmuswhich used the plainsong Gloria tibi Trinitas'. A section of the Benedictus of the mass of that name by John Taverner wastaken out of context as an instrumental piece, then imitated by most great Englishcomposers down to Henry Purcell. Gibbons only four part version  is probably astudent work and pays homage to Taverner's original by using several of the oldercomposer's ideas. The six part >pavan  and galliard which open this recording show how functional "dance forms could beelevated in the hands of a master although they pay lip-service to the conventions, theseare fully fledged fantasias in all but name.
In his own lifetime Gibbons wasperhaps most renowned for his skill as a keyboard player. In 1624 the French ambassador referred to his playing at Westminster Abbeythe organ was touched by the best finger of that age, Mr. Orlando Gibbons, and the esteemhe enjoyed as a composer for keyboard is acknowledged by the inclusion of six pieces in Parthenia published about 1613, alongside works bythe much older Byrd and Bull. Both the Preludium  and the famous Lord of Salisbury his Pavan and Galliard  comefrom this source. They are masterpieces of structure, in which ideas develop organically,the florid decorative work seeming to grow quite naturally from its framework. The threeshorter keyboard works  , played here on virginals, show a lighter side toGibbons musical character, though even here popular masque tunes are given somesplendidly suave settings.
Despite its title The First Set of Madrigals and Mottets (1612) wasGibbons' only published book of secular vocal music. Although t