[back to SHOM Home]
||1550-1600 (Renaissance usually said to begin ca. 1420)
- 1501 – Petrucci produces the first triple impression printed score
- 1503 – Da Vinci paints Mona Lisa
- 1517 – Martin Luther kicks off the Reformation with a series of statements criticising the Catholic church
- 1531 – Church of England breaks from Catholic Church under Henry VII
- 1545 – Catholic church convenes the Council of Trent to address the need for reform (Counter-Reformation)
- 1558 – Elizabeth I accedes throne in England
- 1581 – Philip II accedes throne in Spain
- 1588 – Defeat of Spanish Armada
Raphael’s Madonna dell Granduca (1505)
Bramante’s Tempietto di San Pietro in Rome (1502)
Music in the Renaissance
- Most composers in the Renaissance period were part of the growing middle classes, usually working either at the courts of noblemen or for the church.
- During the Renaissance composers gradually moved away from the very rigid structures of Mediaeval music. Whilst in early Renaissance music it was still common, for example, was to weave a musical texture around a pre-existing melody sung in long notes in the tenor part (cantus firmus), textures became more fluid in the sixteenth century.
- As composers developed a freer style, they also became more interested in the details of setting a text; Mediaeval composers, by contrast, often did not even show exactly how the words were supposed to fit with the music (although composers did sometimes evoke the text through the music – for example in Solage’s Fumeux fume par fumee from the fourteenth century).
- In the early sixteenth century composers were increasingly writing in score rather than adding one complete part at a time
- The late Renaissance also saw the rise of distinctive national styles – previously an international style had developed that was dominated by composers from the lowlands of Northern Europe.
- Musicians in the sixteenth century continued the earlier tradition of arranging vocal music for solo and ensemble instruments. Lute and keyboard arrangements of vocal music usually involved both improvised and written ornamentation.
- Unlike in the earlier part of the Renaissance, composers increasingly specified for which instruments they were writing (a trend that continued in the Baroque period).
- Through-composed with points of imitation
- Settings of pre-existing melodies
|Melody and rhythm
- Regular pulse but flexible metre/accentuation
- Rhythm tends either to be fluid with irregular phrase lengths (e.g. in sacred polyphony of Palestrina) or dominated by strong dance patterns (e.g. instrumental dances and some madrigals)
· Melodic motion is mostly stepwise
|Harmony and tonality
- Mostly triadic harmony in root and first inversion
- Suspensions at cadences
- False relations
- Tierce de Picardie
|Texture and resources
- Homogenous textures (parts relatively equal and blended)
- Extensive use of counterpoint, particularly imitation (dance-style music tends to be simpler and more homophonic)
- Consorts of viols, recorders and brass
- A cappella
- Text in vocal music clearer than in earlier music
Typical pieces (all tracks available on Short History of Music Moodle)
|Instrumental (including keyboard)
|Fantasia, Ricercar & Canzona
||Willaert (1490-1562) ‘Ricercar X’ from Nova Musica
||Byrd (1540-1623) ‘Pièces en 4 variations’ from Fitzwilliam Virginal Book (Fortune No. 65, BK 6)
Cabezon (1510-1566) Diferencias sobre el canto de La Dama le demanda
|Dances (e.g. Pavane, Galliard, Allemande, Courante etc.)
||Holborne (1545-1602)– Pavane and Galliard (NAM)
|Settings of sacred melodies (e.g. hymns, Psalms etc.)
||Tallis (1505-1585) Hymn ‘Iam lucis orto sidere’
||Palestrina (1525-1594) Missa Aeterna Christi Munera
|Motet (& Venetian polychoral motet)
||Victoria (1548-1611) O quam gloriosum
Gabrieli (1555-1612) In ecclesiis (NAM) – transitional work with many early Baroque features.
|Tallis (1505-1585) If ye love me
Gibbons (1583-1625) This is the record of John
||Gibbons (1583–1625) The silver Swanne
Weelkes (1575-1623) Sing we at pleasure (NAM)
||Dowland (1563-1626) Come again: Sweet love doth now invite
Compare with earlier music such as the Ballade Dame, de qui toute ma joie vient by Guillaume de Machaut (1300-1377) or the motet Vasilissa ergo gaude by Guillaume Dufay (1397-1474)