Four and Twenty Fiddlers: The Violin at the English Court, 1540-1690 / Edition 1

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On 1 May 1540 six Jewish string players newly arrived from Italy were given posts at Henry VIII's court. They were probably the first violinists to set foot in England, and the group they founded became one of the country's most enduring musical institutions, serving Tudors, Stuarts, and Hanoverians in turn. The 24 places established for it by Charles II only finally disappeared from the royal household in this century. On one level this book is a history of the first 150 years of this institution. It recognizes for the first time the central role of the court in the musical life of Tudor and Stuart England, and in doing so presents a novel and fascinating picture of the musical profession of the time. But it also explores a number of other issues, largely neglected until now. The first chapter is a new account of the origin of the violin, placed in the wider context of the development of instruments and instrumental music in the later Middle Ages. The second explains the role of music and musicians in the daily round of court life, and their dealings with the court bureaucracy. Running through later chapters is a concern to show how particular genres of consort music derive from the repertory of known ensembles at court and outside, and how the size and composition of these ensembles determined types of scoring and styles of writing. The author has examined a mass of archival material for this study, and, by relating it to the surviving musical repertory, shows how seemingly dry-as-dust documents can contribute a good deal to our understanding of music of the past, and can often have a direct bearing on how we should perform it. As befits the director of one of our leading early music groups, Peter Holman tackles head-on many thorny questions of scoring and performance practice raised by the English consort repertory from Henry VIII to Purcell, and reaches some startling conclusions. This book will be of interest not only to scholars of Tudor and Stuart music,
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Extremely ambitious, and the results successful in nearly every respect....This is a fascinating and very readable work of musicology, and it is not likely to be supplanted in the foreseeable future."—Choice

"Fills a gaping void in the available modern literature on the early violin....[Holman's] fascinating, stimulating and splendidly produced volume will be of great value not only to scholars of Tudor and Stuart music, but also to historians, string players and anyone involved in performing music of the period. It is a veritable mind of information and adds considerably to our sympathy and interest in an undeniably remarkable period of transformation in English music."—Strad

"Nearly a quarter century ago, when Peter Holman was still a student, Thurston Dart told him that the history of the origin of the violin in England could not be written for lack of surviving historical sources, music, and instruments. Now Holman triumphantly proves his distinguished teacher wrong with a seminal study that generously maps for the first time a fascinating terra incognita. This is required reading for anyone interested in Renaissance and Baroque instrumental music, or in the art of piecing together a convincing historical narrative from fragmentary, widely-scattered information."—Neal Zaslaw, Cornell University

"Scholars will happily pore over the academic documentation while others enjoy traversing the rich road of English musical history....References are abundant and clearly identified. Scholarship is thorough. Subject matter is more greatly varied than the title suggests. And the writing is pleasantly readable....Four and Twenty Fiddlers is one of the most highly recommended "reads" of recent early music publications."—Early Music Newsletter

"This is a study of magnificent proportions which has reoriented our perspectives of English baroque music beyond the absorbing discoveries of the violin's widespread use in court and country."—The Musical Times

"A very special book...much detailed information lurks between these covers: the many tables and lists, in which evidence is cited very precisely, will be a boon to other scholars....The reader who can resist applauding when the seemingly inevitable punch-line is reached much be rare indeed....In this volume Holman has succeeded in thoroughly mining what evidence there is and in making exquisite sense of it."—Notes

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780198165927
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 1/28/1996
  • Series: Oxford Monographs on Music Series
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 536
  • Product dimensions: 6.38 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.22 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Plates
List of Figures
List of Tables
List of Music Examples
Note to the Reader
1 'Quagmires of History and Terminology': The Origin of the Violin 1
2 'The Place of a Musicon in Ordinary': Place and Patronage at Court 32
3 'Mynstrelles with Straunge Soundes': Fiddles, Rebecs, and Viols at the Early Tudor Court 58
4 'Ministers of Pastime': The String Consort 1540-1558 78
5 'Musicke of Violenze': The Elizabethan String Consort 104
6 'Common Musicke': The Violin outside the Court 123
7 'Nach Englischer Art': A 'Lost' Repertoire of Elizabethan Dance Music 144
8 'In the Arte of Musicke and Skill of Danceing': The Jacobean Court Orchestra 173
9 'Coperarios Musique': The Households of Prince Henry and Prince Charles 197
10 'His Majesties Musique of Violins': The Caroline Court Orchestra 225
11 'The Fancy-Musick': The Violin and Court Chamber Music 1625-1663 251
12 'The Fideldedies': Charles II and the Twenty-four Violins 282
13 'Waiters upon the Violin': The Twenty-four Violins at Court 305
14 'By Intervals Design'd': Music for the London Stage 331
15 'Infinitely Gallant': Court Masque and Opera 359
16 'The French Fantastical Light Way': Violins in the Chapel Royal 389
17 'A Mighty Musique Entertainment at Court': Reform and Retrenchment 1685-1690 415
App. A. Succession of Places for String-Players at the Early Tudor Court 437
App. B. Succession of Places for Court Violinists 1540-1642 438
App. C. Succession of Places in the Twenty-four Violins 1660-1685 440
App. D. Some Sizes of Court Violin Bands in Performance 1607-1685 443
Bibliography: Books and Articles 447
Bibliography: Music 473
Index 479
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