Giles Farnaby and the virginal variation
Bron, Robert Philip
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Little is known of the Elizabethan composer, Giles Farnaby, although much has been published regarding Farnaby's contemporaries, such as William Byrd, Dr. John Bull, Orlando Gibbons, Thomas Tomkins, and Thomas Weelkes. Aside from Farnaby being mentioned briefly in some secondary sources, it is difficult for the researcher to glean information about this fascinating composer's life and music. This study presents a short biography of Farnaby, a discussion of the instrument which Farnaby preferred — the virginal -- and an analysis of some of Farnaby's virginal compositions. In order to understand the sort of music Giles Farnaby composed, it is necessary to examine the instrument for which he composed. The virginal was developed from a long line of early keyboard instruments. Both ancient and more modern forerunners of the virginal are described, followed by a detailed description of the instrument itself. Included in this study is a survey of the collected virginal literature of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Specific types of virginal music, such as the variation, the fantasia, prelude, dance forms, and various kinds of descriptive music are discussed. Information about Farnaby's contemporaries is presented, and the study concentrated at this point on composers who particularly influenced Farnaby. A survey of Giles Farnaby's career and works has been included. However, since the main body of this study is concerned with Farnaby's compositions for the virginal, no attempt has been made to make an exhaustive study of his other music. The composing techniques of the sixteenth-century virginal schools are presented. Charles Van Den Borren's Sources of Keyboard Music in England was an invaluable research reference. Included in the presentation is a brief discussion of some of Van Den Borren's observations and additional musical examples which are quoted from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, perhaps the greatest recognized collection of Elizabethan virginal music. The last chapter deals expressly with the virginal composition of Giles Farnaby. Representative selections have been analyzed both structurally and harmonically. Chief emphasis was placed on Farnaby's use of the variation form, since this was the form he used most often and in which he displayed his greatest talents, and his variations have been compared with those of some of his contemporaries. There is only one recognized study which describes Farnaby's life and works — Giles and Richard Farnaby, Volume XXIV, of the Musica Britannica. Much of the other published information is incorrect, biased, or superficial. The writer hopes this study will present valuable new information about Giles Farnaby's life and works.