- English Keyboard Music c. 1600–1625ed. by Alan Brown
Anyone working in British music studies, particularly earlier repertories, approaches the series Musica Britannica with high expectations: beautifully engraved music, thorough textual commentaries, and well considered scholarly commentary—simply elegant books. Alan Brown’s newly published English Keyboard Music c. 1600–1625, volume 96 of the series, meets these expectations and more.
One of the chief issues facing Brown with this edition was the selection of pieces to be included. Keyboard music has always been a part of this “national collection of music,” a fact made apparent with its inaugural volume, Denis Stevens’s edition of The Mulliner Book(London: Stainer & Bell, 1951), now available in a new, sixtieth-anniversary revision ( The Mulliner Book, newly transcribed and edited by John Caldwell, Musica Britannica, 1 [London: Stainer & Bell, 2011]). Few of the keyboard volumes published by Musica Britannica are devoted to a single source, although the forthcoming Keyboard Music from Fitzwilliam Manu scriptscontains music from the “Fitzwilliam” and “Tisdale” virginal books (both part of the Fitzwilliam collection in Cambridge). Brown mentions that Christ Church, Oxford, Mus. 89, has not been considered for this edition (it contains anonymous liturgical organ music, “possibly” by an English composer, p. xxiv), and it is hoped that in the future, Musica Britannica will see its way to a volume dedicated to this important source. More typical of Musica Britannica are the volumes that focus on the keyboard works of a single composer (Thomas Tomkins in vol. 5, John Bull in vols. 14 and 19, Orlando Gibbons in vol. 20, Giles and Richard Farnaby in vol. 24, William Byrd in vols. 27 and 28, Peter Philips in vol. 75, and later music by John Blow and Thomas Roseingrave in other volumes). A bit trickier to put together are those editions that cull pieces from several sources for a specific time period, such as Elizabethan Keyboard Music(vol. 55) and Tudor Keyboard Music(vol. 66). English Keyboard Music c. 1600–1625(vol. 96) follows these collections in that it presents keyboard compositions not included in previous volumes (especially those devoted to a single composer whose works fall within the periods indicated) thereby filling in gaps in the published repertory.
Brown clearly lays out in the preface his criteria for inclusion (p. xix). In conjunction with the forthcoming Fitzwilliam volume, English Keyboard Music c. 1600–1625completes the task of making available all of the keyboard music from English composers of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries—the “virginalists.” (Brown is careful with that term, employing scare quotes in his rare usage.) Thus, once Keyboard Music from Fitzwilliam Manuscripts(edited by the late Christopher Hogwood) [End Page 607]becomes available, we should have access to scholarly editions of the entire keyboard output of English composers up to 1625. Brown notes that several pieces from the period have appeared in worthy editions elsewhere, and he explains that their quality and availability justifies excluding the same works here (pp. xxiii–xxiv). Also, a few pieces still in manuscript were omitted. His reasons for doing so are clear and practical.
The definition of “keyboard source” necessarily plays into Brown’s choice of repertory. He delineates those works intended for ensemble that have sometimes been construed as keyboard works, such as Parthenia In-Violata, but chooses to include others that appear to be keyboard versions of consort works. Most intriguing among these are two works for which Brown also reconstructs consort versions in appendix III. The first, Nicholas Carleton’s “Verse of 4 parts” (no. 12 among the keyboard works), he recommends as...