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Tudor Minute August 9: Nicholas Ludford is buried

Hey, this is Heather from the Renaissance English History Podcast, and this is your Tudor Minute for August 9.

Today in 1557 composer Nicholas Ludford was buried in St Margaret’s Church in Westminster. His festal masses are preserved in several musical manuscripts of the period, including the Peterhouse Partbooks, and the Lambeth Choirbook at Lambeth Palace. He seems to have stopped composing after about 1535 and it’s possible that he never adapted to the new style of music demanded in the Reformation.

Musicologist David Skinner has called Ludford “one of the last unsung geniuses of Tudor polyphony” and his music is currently being released by several early choral groups. One I recommend is the Peterhouse Partbooks recordings by The Blue Heron, which is available on all streaming services.

The few contemporary references to Ludford suggest that he was a private and highly religious man. He was not renowned in his own day, and his work cannot be identified with any of the major events of the time. In 1597, the Elizabethan composer Thomas Morley (c. 1557–1602), in his Introduction to Practicall Music, noted Ludford as an “authority”; but in the 17th century Ludford’s music was finally forgotten.

In 1913, scholar H. B. Collins drew attention to Ludford, whose unpublished masses were then being sung by the choir of Westminster Cathedral under Sir Richard Terry. In the 1960s and 1970s, scholar John Bergsagel published Ludford’s complete masses and wrote commentaries on his work.  The first recordings of Ludford’s works, in editions by David Skinner, were made in 1993–95 by The Cardinall’s Musick under Andrew Carwood.

Take some time out and listen to any of these recordings today, and remember Nicholas Ludford through his beautiful music.

That’s your Tudor Minute for today. Remember you can dive deeper into life in 16th century England through the Renaissance English History Podcast at englandcast.com

Learn more about Tudor Music through the Tudor Music Hour

Interview with David Skinner