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Tudor Minute June 5: Orlando Gibbons Death Anniversary

Hey, this is Heather from the Renaissance English History Podcast, and this is your Tudor Minute for June 5.

Today is the anniversary of the death of Orlando Gibbons, a famous composer of madrigals, in 1625. One of the most versatile English composers of his time, Gibbons wrote a large number of keyboard works, around thirty fantasias for viols, a number of madrigals (the best-known being “The Silver Swan”), and many popular verse anthems, all to English texts.

In the 20th century Gibbons’ work found renewed interest thanks to the championing of it by Glenn Gould, the famous pianist. Gould wrote of Gibbons’s hymns and anthems: “ever since my teen-age years this music … has moved me more deeply than any other sound experience I can think of.” In one interview, Gould compared Gibbons to Beethoven and Webern:

…despite the requisite quota of scales and shakes in such half-hearted virtuoso vehicles as the Salisbury Galliard, one is never quite able to counter the impression of music of supreme beauty that lacks its ideal means of reproduction. Like Beethoven in his last quartets, or Webern at almost any time, Gibbons is an artist of such intractable commitment that, in the keyboard field, at least, his works work better in one’s memory, or on paper, than they ever can through the intercession of a sounding-board.

Gibbons’s death, on 5 June 1625, is regularly marked in King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, by the singing of his music at Evensong.

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