Renaissance (1400-1600)

The fifteenth century witnessed vastly increased freedoms, most particularly in terms of what is actually perceived as ‘harmony’ and ‘polyphony’ (the simultaneous movement of two or three interrelated parts). Composers (although they were barely perceived as such) were still almost entirely devoted to choral writing, and the few instrumental compositions which have survived often create the impression (in many cases entirely accurately) of being vocal works in disguise, but minus the words.

There is obvious new delight in textural variety and contrast, so that, for example, a particular section of text might be enhanced by a vocal part dropping out momentarily, only to return again at a special moment of emphasis. The four most influential composers of the fifteenth century were Dunstable, Ockeghem, Despres and Dufay.

The second half of the 16th century witnessed the beginnings of the tradition which many music lovers readily associate with the normal feel of ‘classical’ music. Gradually, composers moved away from the modal system of harmony which had predominated for over 300 years (and still sounds somewhat archaic to some modern ears), towards the organisation of their work into major and minor scales, thereby imparting the strong sensation of each piece having a definite tonal centre or ‘key’.

This was also something of a golden period for choral composition as a seemingly endless flow of a capella (unaccompanied) masses, motets, anthems, psalms and madrigals flowed from the pens of the masters of the age. In addition, instrumental music came into its own for the first time, especially keyboard music in the form of fantasias, variations, and dance movements (galliards, pavanes etc.). Composers of particular note include Dowland, Tallis, Byrd, Gibbons, Frescobaldi, Palestrina, Victoria, Lassus, Alonso Lobo, Duarte Lobo, Cardoso and Gesualdo.

Album Title Catalogue No.
… just songs! OC801
100 Christmas Classics C7331
100 Christmas Meditation C7371
100 Masterpieces of Sacred Choral Music C7155
101 Classics: The Best Loved Classical Melodies 8.508004
129th Army Band 75442261232
20 Years Of Classical Music: Naxos Anniversary Collection (Naxos Denmark) 8.570598
5 Historical Harps NYDN-00013
A Ceremony of Carols UP0070-2
A Change of Worlds DSL-92153
A Classic Christmas: for Your Family 8.555292
A Danish Christmas 8.554627
A Finzi Anthology 8.508017
A German Christmas 8.551398
A Holiday Sampler 75442263042
A La Decouverte Du Classique 8.550037-38
A Meeting Place: Medieval & Renaissance Music for Lute & Ud DSL-92133
A Musical Journey - Tuscany: A Musical Tour of the Region's Past and Present 2.110520
A Private Organ Recital in Walt Disney Concert Hall YAR77215
A Renaissance Tour of Europe DOR-90133
A To Z Of Opera 8.555037-38
A Vaughan Williams Anthology 8.508021
A Vision of Christ Through Music 8.570980
A voce sola, con sinfonie STR11015
A Voce Sola, Con Sinfonie STR33562