Antony Holborne (fl. ?1584 - 1602)
Thomas Robinson (fl. 1584 - 1602)
Pavans and Galliards for one and two lutes
Holborne and Robinson were two lutenist-composers workingduring the closing years of Elizabethan England and writing in the tuneful,approachable style of John Dowland. 56 lute pieces by Holborne have survived(exceeded in England only by Dowland with about a hundred), and 39 by Robinson.
Neither were lutenists to royalty, to which all musicians aspired because of theimplied security of employment for life, but both found other ways to benefitfrom the honey-pot of royal patronage.
Antony Holborne was described as "Gentleman Usher toElizabeth, late Queene of England". He would have been responsible forcontrolling access to the Queen's Presence or Privy Chamber, so would have beenacquainted with all royal musicians and courtiers. Dowland thought sufficientlyhighly of him to dedicate one song in 1600 to "the most famous, Anthony Holborne",and Thomas Morley was flattered to receive for his Plaine and EasieIntroduction to Practicall Musicke, printed 1597, a dedicatory poem byHolborne. Holborne also wrote a Latin dedicatory poem for Farnaby's Canzonets
of 1598, and frequently gave his pieces epigrammatic or Latin titles in themanner of imprese or mottoes. He used his own personal impresa ni merearmoriar (if I were not worthy I should die) in both his publications - TheCittharn Schoole of 1597, and Pavans, Galliards... in Five Parts,1599. As well as employment at court, we also have records of his being paid anumber of times for delivering privy council letters to the government ambassadorin the Netherlands. It was as a result of one of these assignments that hiswife reported to Cecil that he "tooke such a coulde, that I feare wilbehis lyves losse". He died the next day, in November 1602. His lute soloswere mostly written in the dance forms of elaborate divisions.
Thomas Robinson seems to have concentrated on teaching,rather than performing on plucked string instruments. Like Holborne, as well asthe lute he played its wire-strung siblings, the bandora and cittern. His twosurviving publications are both do-it-yourself tutors, one principally for thelute and the other for the cittern. He taught the future Queen Anne to play thelute in Denmark before she married King James, to whom he dedicated his lutetutor in 1603. The first piece in the book is a duet for teacher and pupil, anencouraging method still used for many instruments today, but this particularduet, The Queen's Good Night, requires considerable rhythmic control inthe last division, as you will hear, when the pupil's treble has to maintain9/8 against the teacher's accompaniment of even quavers in 3/4. Robinson wrotetwo types of duet' treble and ground (as in Twenty Ways upon the Bells)in which each player maintains either the tune or the accompaniment; and 'equal' duets, where the players exchange function at the end of every strain. Themusic of this second type is printed with the parts facing each other, as dothe players. We can see in our mind's eye the original scene with the coupleconversing musically with no need of an audience, which was neither expectednor required. Robinson developed an individual style of writing, in which hewas one of the first to exploit the lute's idiomatic style brise, inwhich the lutenist arpeggiates chords, as you can hear in the Galliard.
Divisions on popular tunes were also favoured by Robinson, here represented by GoFrom My Window, one of the many simple but catchy late Elizabethan anonymoustunes for which the original ballad text is now lost.