Fitzwilliam Virginal Book

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The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book is a primary source of keyboard music from the late Elizabethan and early Jacobean periods in England, i.e., the late Renaissance and very early Baroque. It takes its name from Viscount Fitzwilliam who bequeathed this manuscript collection to Cambridge University in 1816. It is now deposited in the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge. Although the word virginals or virginal (the plural form does not necessarily denote more than one instrument) is used today to refer to a specific instrument similar to a small, portable harpsichord, at the time of the book the word was used to denote virtually any keyboard instrument including the organ.

virginal made by Ruckers


It was given no title by its copyist and the ownership of the manuscript before the eighteenth century is unclear. At the time the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book was put together most collections of keyboard music were compiled by performers: other examples include Will Forster's Virginal Book, Clement Matchett's Virginal Book, and Anne Cromwell's Virginal Book. Until Parthenia was printed in about 1612, there was no keyboard music published as such in England, because of the technical complexity of printing keyboard music as opposed to, for example, vocal parts.

It was once called Queen Elizabeth's Virginal Book, a title that has been abandoned because it has been determined that she never owned it, Another hypothesis, which still has supporters, is that it belonged to Francis Tregian the Younger, a recusant and amateur musician. It has been argued that Tregian may have copied the entire collection while imprisoned in the period leading up to his death in 1618. The nature of Tregian's contribution to the book, if any, has been disputed.[1] Recent scholarship suggests that even if Tregian is the compiler, it is unlikely that he was imprisoned long enough to do the copying involved.[2]

It includes music dating from approximately 1562 to 1612 by John Bull, William Byrd, Orlando Gibbons, Giles Farnaby (51 of whose 52 known pieces are included), Martin Peerson, Peter Philips and Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, as well as many others. There are 297 separate pieces (actually, 298: one piece is numbered, but is blank. Strangely, the Maitland Squire edition numbers No. 182 twice). As with many keyboard manuscripts of the time, the pieces were not written for a specific instrument, and most sound happily on all contemporary keyboard instruments, including virginals, harpsichord, clavichord and chamber organ.[3] Many of the pieces in the book are short, and many of them are character pieces with droll and memorable titles, including "Put Up Thy Dagger, Jemy", "The New Sa-Hoo", and "Quodlings Delight" by Giles Farnaby; "Nobody's Gigge", by Richard Farnaby; "Pakington's Pownde" and "The Irishe Dumpe" (anonymous); "The Ghost" and "The Earle of Oxford's Marche" by William Byrd; "Worster Braules" by Thomas Tomkins; and the famous "Lachrymae Pavan" by John Dowland, as arranged by Giles Farnaby and by William Byrd.

In 1899, Breitkopf & Härtel published an edition in two volumes (the Maitland Squire edition, see the Sources below) with only a basic critical commentary, which has been reprinted by Dover Publications and is available inexpensively. A microfilm facsimile of the manuscript is included in The music collections of the Cambridge libraries (Woodbridge, Conn. : Research Publications, 1991). Musica Britannica is preparing a volume dedicated to the "Keyboard Music from Fitzwilliam Manuscripts" [1].

Richard Strauss used several selections from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book in his 1935 opera, Die schweigsame Frau, and cited them accordingly at their appearances in the work. They appear at ritualized moments in the action to provide commentary and atmosphere in the Act 2 marriage scene (No. XIV and No. XC) and in the Act 3 courtroom scene (No. XXXVII).

The first recording of selections from the anthology was made by Joseph Payne in 1964. It was issued by Vox Box (i.e. Vox Records) as a three-LP boxed set and features Payne performing three album sides on harpsichord (a modern Eric Herz instrument) and three sides on organ. Generally the more moderately paced and sustained pieces are performed on the organ.

The Pieces in the Book[edit]

(For each composer, the pieces follow the order in which they appear in the manuscript)


  • Alman
  • Barafostus' Dreame
  • Muscadin
  • Alman
  • Galiarda
  • Praeludium, El. Kyddermynster
  • Praeludium
  • The Irishe Hoe-Hoane
  • Veni
  • Heavene and Erthe
  • [Exercise]
  • Praeludium
  • Praeludium
  • Why Aske Yow
  • [deest owing to an error in numbering]
  • Pakingtons Pownde
  • The Irish Dompe
  • Watkins Ale
  • Can Shee
  • A Toye
  • An Almain
  • Corranto
  • Alman
  • Corranto
  • Corranto
  • Corranto
  • Daunce
  • Praeludium
  • Martin Sayd to his Man
  • Coranto
  • Corranto
  • Corranto
  • Corranto
  • Corranto
  • Alman
  • Nowels Galliarde
  • The Kynges Morisco
  • Alman
  • A Toye
  • Corranto
  • Ladye Riche
  • Corranto
  • A Toye
  • Allemanda
  • Dalling Alman

Doctor John Bull[edit]

  • Walsingham
  • Galliarda to my Lorde Lumlyes Pavan
  • Pavana
  • Galiarda
  • The Quadran Pavan
  • Variation of the Quadran Pavan
  • Galiard to the Quadran Pavan
  • Pavan
  • Galiard to the Pavan
  • Sainte Thomas Wake
  • Praeludium
  • Fantasia
  • Praeludium
  • Gloria tibi trinitas
  • Salvator Mundi
  • Galliarda
  • Variatio
  • Galliarda to the Pavan
  • In Nomine
  • Christe Redemptor
  • The Kynges Hunt
  • Pavana
  • Galiarda
  • Dr Bulls Juell
  • The Spanyshe Paven
  • The Duke of Brunswykes Alman
  • Pypers Galiarde
  • Variatio ejusdem
  • Praeludium
  • Galiarda
  • Galiarda
  • A Gigge, Doctor Bulls My selfe
  • A Gigge
  • Praeludium
  • Praeludium
  • Ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la
  • The Duchesse of Brunswykes Toye
  • Miserere in three partes

Ferdinando Richardson[edit]

  • Pavana
  • Variatio
  • Galiarda
  • Variation
  • Pavane
  • Variatio
  • Galiarda
  • Variatio

Giles Farnaby[edit]

  • Pavana (Robert Johnson set by Giles Farnaby)
  • The K[ing's] Hunt
  • Spagnioletta
  • For tow virginals
  • Daphne
  • Pawles Wharfe
  • Quodlings Deligte
  • Putte upp thy Dagger, Jemy
  • Bony sweete Robin
  • Fantasia
  • Wooddy Cocke
  • Rosasolis
  • Alman (Robert Johnson set by Giles Farnaby)
  • The Nuwe Sa-Hoo
  • Giles Farnabyes Dreame
  • His Rest
  • His Humoure
  • A Maske
  • A Maske
  • Fantasia
  • A Maske
  • Fantasia
  • Loth to departe
  • Fantasia
  • Fantasia
  • Ay me, poore Heart
  • Fantasia
  • Walter Erles Pavan
  • The L. Zouches Maske
  • Grownde
  • Upp T[ails] all
  • Tower Hill
  • Praeludium
  • A Gigge
  • Galliarda
  • A Toye
  • Farnabyes Conceite
  • Telle Mee, Daphne
  • Mal Sims
  • Rosseters Galiarde
  • The Flatt Pavan
  • Why aske yow
  • Farmers Pavan
  • The Olde Spagnoletta
  • Meridian Alman
  • Fantasia

John Munday[edit]

  • Fantasia
  • Fantasia, Faire Wether, etc.
  • Robin
  • Go from my window
  • Mundays Joye

Peter Philips[edit]

  • Tirsi, di Luca Marenzio. Ia. Parte intavolata di Pietro Phillipi.
  • Freno
  • Cosi morirò
  • Fece da voi
  • Pavana Pagget
  • Galiarda
  • Passamezzo Pavana
  • Galiarda passamezzo
  • Chi fara fede al Cielo, di Alessandro Striggio
  • Bon Jour mon Cueur, di Orlando di Lasso
  • Pavana Dolorosa, Treg[ian set by]
  • Galiarda Dolorosa
  • Amarilli, di Julio Romano (Giulio Caccini)
  • Margott laborez
  • Fantasia
  • Pavana
  • Le Rossignuol, (Lasso set by)
  • Galliardo
  • Fantasia

Thomas Morley[edit]

  • Goe from my window
  • Nancie
  • Fantasia
  • Alman
  • La Volta (Set by William Byrd)
  • Pavana
  • Galiarda

William Byrd[edit]

  • Fantasia
  • Jhon come kisse me nowe
  • Praeludium
  • Fantasia
  • Passamezzo Pavana
  • Galliardas Passamezzo
  • The Carmans Whistle (also catalogued in My Ladye Nevells Booke)
  • The Huntes upp (also catalogued in My Ladye Nevells Booke)
  • Treg[ian's] Grownde
  • Monsieurs Alman
  • Variatio
  • Alman
  • Sellengers Rownde (also catalogued in My Ladye Nevells Booke)
  • Fortune
  • O Mistris Myne
  • Will Yow Walke the Woods soe Wylde (also catalogued in My Ladye Nevells Booke)
  • Have With Yow to Walsingame (also catalogued in My Ladye Nevells Booke)
  • The Bells
  • Pavana, Bray
  • Galiarda
  • Pavana, Ph. Tr.
  • Galiarda
  • Praeludium to the Fancie
  • Ut, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La (also catalogued in My Ladye Nevells Booke)
  • Ut, Re, Mi
  • Fantasia
  • All in a Garden Grine
  • Pavana Lachrymae (By John Dowland, set by William Byrd)
  • The Maydens Songe
  • The Quadran Pavian
  • Galiarde to the Quadran Pavian
  • Malt's come downe (doubtful attribution)
  • La Volta
  • Alman
  • Wolsey's Wylde
  • Callino Casturame
  • La Volta (T. Morley set by William Byrd)
  • Rowland
  • The Goste
  • Alman
  • Galliard
  • Pavana
  • Galiarda
  • Pavana
  • Galiarda
  • The Queene's Alman
  • A Medley
  • Pavana
  • Galliarda
  • Miserere in three partes
  • Miserere in fore partes
  • A Gigg
  • Sir Jhon Grayes Galliarde
  • Gipsies Rownde
  • Coranto
  • Pavana
  • Galiarda
  • Pavana
  • Galiarda
  • Pavana
  • Pavana Fant[asia]
  • Galiarda
  • The Earle of Oxford's Marche
  • Fantasia
  • Pavana, Canon
  • Pescodd Tyme
  • Pavana deligte (Edward Johnson, set by William Byrd)
  • Galiarda (Edward Johnson, set by William Byrd)
  • Ladye Montegles Pavan.

The Other Pieces[edit]

  • Pavana - M. S.
  • The Woods so Wilde - Orlando Gibbons
  • Praeludium - Thomas Oldfield
  • In Nomine - William Blitheman (see John Blitheman)
  • Fantasia - Nicholas Strogers
  • Alman - Nicholas Strogers
  • Toccata - Giovanni Picchi
  • Praeludium, Toccata - Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck
  • Pavana - Thomas Warrock (see also organists of Hereford Cathedral)
  • Galiarda - Thomas Warrock
  • Praeludium - Galeazzo
  • Heavene and Erthe - Fre - Francis Tregian
  • Felix namque 1 - Thomas Tallis
  • Felix namque 2 - Thomas Tallis
  • Ut, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La a 4 voci - Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck
  • Pavana Lachrymae - John Dowland (set by William Byrd)
  • Galiarda - James Harding (set by William Byrd)
  • Pavana - Thomas Tomkins
  • A Grownde - Thomas Tomkins
  • Barafostus' Dreame - Thomas Tomkins
  • The Hunting Galliard - Thomas Tomkins
  • In Nomine - John Parsons
  • Psalme - Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck
  • Nobodyes Gigge - Richard Farnaby (son of Giles Farnaby)
  • Pipers Pavan - Martin Peerson
  • Allemanda - Marchant
  • Fayne would I Wedd - Richard Farnaby
  • Worster Braules - Thomas Tomkins
  • Almand - William Tisdall
  • Pavana Chromatica - William Tisdall
  • Fantasia - Jan Pieterzoon Sweelinck
  • Pavana, Clement Cotton - William Tisdall
  • Pavana - William Tisdall
  • Alman - Hooper (perhaps Edmund Hooper)
  • Corranto - Hooper
  • Jhonsons Medley - Edward Johnson
  • A Galiarde Grownde - William Inglot (see also organists of Hereford Cathedral)
  • The Leaves bee greene - William Inglot
  • Galiarda - Jehan Oystermayre
  • The Primerose - Martin Peerson
  • The Fall of the Leafe - Martin Peerson
  • Pavana Delight - Edward Johnson (set by William Byrd)
  • Lachrymae Pavan - John Dowland (set by Giles Farnaby)
  • Pavana - Orlando Gibbons
  • Galiarda - William Tisdall
  • Hanskin - Richard Farnaby

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ruby Reid Thompson, Francis Tregian the Younger as music copyist: A legend and an alternative view. Music and Letters 2001 82: 1-31; doi:10.1093/ml/82.1.1
  2. ^ Kah-Ming Ng, liner notes to The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book: Transcriptions for a Mixed Consort, charivari agréable, Signum Records SIGD009
  3. ^ A few of the pieces presuppose an instrument arranged with a short octave in the bass, since they contain large intervals for the left hand that cannot be reached on the modern keyboard. The short octave was widely employed in all four instruments mentioned in the main text.

Further reading[edit]

  • J.A. Fuller Maitland and W. Barclay Squire, ed., The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book (2 vols., Leipzig 1899; repub. New York 1963; rev. edn, 1979)
  • Gustave Reese, Music in the Renaissance. New York, W.W. Norton & Co., 1954. ISBN 0-393-09530-4
  • The New Harvard Dictionary of Music, ed. Don Randel. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 1986. ISBN 0-674-61525-5
  • Sadie, Stanley, ed. (1980). "Sources of Keyboard Music". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1 ed.). London: Macmillan. 
  • Percy A. Scholes, The Oxford Companion to Music. London, Oxford University Press, 1970. No ISBN.
  • Harold Gleason and Warren Becker, Music in the Middle Ages and Renaissance (Music Literature Outlines Series I). Bloomington, Indiana.
  • Ruby Reid Thompson, Francis Tregian the Younger as music copyist: A legend and an alternative view. Music and Letters 2001 82: 1-31; doi:10.1093/ml/82.1.1

External links[edit]


From the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book. Performed by Ulrich Metzner on a harpsichord of the type used in the early 20th century

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