Pieter-Jan Belder continues his superb survey of the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, an extraordinary manuscript compiled in the late 16th century and held in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. In this, the fifth volume, Belder explores the music of some of the Book’s best known composers, such as Thomas Tallis, John Munday and Thomas Tomkins. Some of these pieces reflect the zenith of Elizabethan and Jacobean keyboard music: the sweet melody of Munday’s ‘Goe from my window’ is still popular today, and his somewhat doleful ‘Munday’s Joy’ is a miniature but perfect example of the harpsichord innovations of the time. Taking inspiration from the medieval tradition of organ improvisations added to a sung offertory, Thomas Tallis’s ‘Felix namque’ showcases the composer’s masterly use of polyrhythms, shifting accents and tempo changes over a static cantus firmus. Thomas Morley – a student of John Byrd – regularly wrote for consorts of instruments, betraying a highly polyphonic style in his keyboard music. The final Thomas – Tomkins – was also a student of Byrd. As one of the last of a dying breed of virginalists, his short but exquisite pieces here highlight the ultimate perfection of the virginalist style.
Pieter-Jan Belder is not only a consummate performer but also a serious scholar of keyboard music from the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras. His research on the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book has led to a highly informed performance practice, and he lends equal weight to the mighty Tallis and the lowly Anonymous. Belder specialises in performance on historical instruments, and he has carefully selected three period harpsichords for this recording in order to create the most authentic sound possible. The listener is rewarded with a substantial set that highlights the superb achievements of the composers of this era, laying the foundations of keyboard music for centuries to come.
The complete recording of the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book is highly prestigious project of unprecedented scope and importance. The high quality of the music and the excellent performances by Pieter-Jan Belder make it a landmark of historical importance.
It is the most famous, extensive and important collection of keyboard music from the English Elizabethan and Jacobean Era. Lodged in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge it contains more than 300 works for the virginal, written by Bull, Byrd, Tomkins and many others.
This set contains works by some famous and some less well known composers: Thomas Tallis, Thomas Morley, John Munday, Thomas Tomkins, Ferdinando Richardson and a fine line up of Anonymous composers. The repertoire consists of a wide variety of dance forms such as Pavan, Galliarda, Fantasia and instrumental arrangements of popular songs or madrigals.
Pieter Jan Belder is one of the world’s foremost keyboard players, with an astonishing number of CD’s to his name: the complete Scarlatti Sonatas, Bach keyboard works, Rameau, Soler, Duphly, Marais, CPE Bach, Corelli, Purcell, Telemann…he also wrote the excellent liner notes in the booklet.
Recorded in 2015 in the Chapel of the Capuchin Monastery, Velp, The Netherlands.