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Byrd, Cornysh and the Eton Choirbook

Peter Phillips shares his passion for Renaissance choral music by exploring the lives and works of two English composers born a century apart: William Cornysh and William Byrd.

Peter Phillips continues his six-part series celebrating the Glory of Polyphony.

Polyphony (literally, 'many sounds') reached its peak in choral music during the historic Renaissance period. Peter Phillips first discovered its magnificent sound world at the age of 16 and ever since has devoted his life to performing and recording it. He even formed his record label and choir -The Tallis Scholars - to share the music with others. In each programme in this series, Peter will share his knowledge of and passion for Renaissance choral music by exploring the lives and works of two very contrasting composers. He'll showcase their unique styles against the social backdrops of the late 15th to early 17th centuries by telling some of their personal stories and explaining the original purpose of the music. He'll also explore the music's meditative qualities and its power to affect worshippers and audiences past and present.

In this fifth programme, Peter will delve into the lives and music of two English composers born a century apart.

In England, the florid style of composers like William Cornysh who contributed to the illuminated anthology of sacred music known as the Eton Choirbook at the turn of the 16th Century changed beyond recognition with the effects of the Reformation. In just under a century, the grandiose embellishments of the Italian style which had been so influential up to Henry VIII's split from Rome were replaced by something far more intimate.
William Byrd was a favourite of the Anglican Queen Elizabeth I, but because of Byrd's Catholic faith, his sacred music was largely published and performed in secret so as to avoid arrest by Her Majesty's teams of spies.

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30 minutes

Music Played

  • William Byrd

    Civitas sancti tui

    Ensemble: The King’s Singers.
  • William Byrd

    Great Service (Benedictus)

    Choir: Tallis Scholars. Conductor: Peter Phillips.
  • William Byrd

    Gaudeamus omnes

    Ensemble: Cardinall's Musick. Director: Andrew Carwood.
  • William Byrd

    4-Part Mass (Agnus Dei)

    Choir: Choir of New College Oxford. Conductor: Edward Higginbottom.
  • William Byrd

    Laudibus in sanctis

    Choir: Stile Antico.
  • William Cornysh

    Magnificat (excerpt)

    Choir: Tallis Scholars.
  • William Cornysh

    Ave Maria

    Ensemble: Cardinall's Musick. Director: Andrew Carwood.
  • William Cornysh

    Salve Regina (excerpt)

    Choir: The Sixteen. Conductor: Harry Christophers.
  • William Cornysh

    Ah Robin!

    Choir: Oxford Camerata. Conductor: Jeremy Summerly.

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