William Corkine & Alfonso Ferrabosco
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Nothing is known of the life of William Corkine except that he published two books of music which are devoted to solo songs and instrumental pieces for the lyra viol. His two publications are: Ayres, to sing and play to the Lute and Basse Violl. With Pauins, Galliards, Almaines, and Corantos for the Lyra Violl (London 1610) and The Second Booke of Ayres, Some, to Sing and Play to the Base-Violl alone: Others, to be sung to the Lute and Base-Violl. With new Corantoes, Pauins, Almaines; as also diuers new Descants vpon old Grounds, set to the Lyra-Violl (London, 1612).
William Corkine's significance is slight when considered in the light of the reputation and achievements of his contemporary, Alfonso Ferrabosco, the younger (c. 1575-1628). The younger Ferrabosco was the illegitimate son of the famous Italian composer Alfonso Ferrabosco (1543-1588), who resided in England from 1562 until 1578. At the departure of the elder Ferrabosco from England, the younger Ferrabosco and another illegitimate child (also born in England) were placed in the custody of Gomer van Awsterwycke, an emigree musician at Elizabeth's court. The respect for the elder Ferrabosco in England was so considerable that the court provided Awsterwycke with financial support for the upbringing of the two children. Undoubtedly, Awsterwycke also attented to the younger Ferrabosco's musical training, for after Awsterwycke's death in 1592, Alfonso entered the service of the Queen as musician for the viols. It was not until after the death of Elizabeth I that Ferrabosco rose to a position of musical prominence. Along with other court musicians Ferrabosco joined in the funeral proceeding of Elizabeth I, which marked the end of the Tudor monarchy. Subsequently, he was appointed one of the King's musicians for the violins in September 1604. However, it was his association with Prince Henry that ushered him into the centre of musical life in England. About this time he began collaborating with Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones in the production of lavish masques at the Stuart court, most of which were performed at Whitehall. Between 1605 and 1622 he was involved with the music for eight masques, seven of which had been produced by 1611. Ferrabosco's songs for most of the early masques prior to 1609, appear among the songs published by the composer in London of that year entitled Ayres, and dedicated of Prince Henry. This volume includes commendatory verses by Ben Jonson, N. Tomkins and some lines by Thomas Campion which describe Ferrabosco as "Musicks maister, and the offspring Of rich Musicks Father Old Alfonso's Image living". Shortly after, Ferrabosco published his Lessons for 1. 2. and 3. Viols (London, 1609), and thus achieved the distinction of printing the first book devoted entirely to instrumental music for the lyra viol. This book of short pieces is dedicated to the Earl of Southampton, who was also the patron of William Shakespeare.
The death of Prince Henry in November 1612 prompted musicians and poets to record their sense of loss in song and word; Thomas Campion, John Coprario, Thomas Tomkins and John Ward were only a few of the composers who commemorated the event in settings of elegies. Although contributed nothing to this national expression of grief, his position at court remained secure and his services as instructor to Prince Henry were nominally transferred to the younger Prince Charles. After this time there is little to indicate that Ferrabosco remained active as composer. His prominence at court was eclipsed eventually by John Coprario who became the principal musician and composer to Prince Charles. At some time Ferrabosco married Ellen, daughter of Nicholas Lanier, and of their seven children all three sons, Alfonso the third, Henry and John Ferrabosco became musicians. In August 1619, Ferrabosco entered a partnership with Innocent Lanier and Hugh Lydiard, all three of whom were jointly issued with a patent to dredge the Thames, to sell the sand and gravel, and to tax every vessel which used the port of London. However, some years later Ferrabosco fell into financial debt and was obliged to sell his share in the patent. With the death of Coprario in the summer of 1626, Ferrabosco was subsequently appointed to Coprario's position of composer-in-ordinary to King Charles I. Less than two years later, Alfonso died and was buried on 11 March 1628 in the Greenwich Parish Church.
Besides his secular songs, Ferrabosco composed 15 motets, a set of Lamentations, a few anthems, and a group of 23 madrigalette. His instrumental works include fantasias, danses and In Nomines for viols in addition to a number of miscellaneous pieces for lyra viol. Polyphonic texture predominantes in both is sacred vocal music and his instrumental pieces which together illustrate Ferrabosco's clever craftmanship, his preoccupation with balanced form, and his skillfull use of contrapuntal devices. It was undoubtedly his technical ability and melodic eloquence which encouraged later commentators such as Thomas Mace and Anthony Wood to speak so enthusiastically of his fantasias. Indeed Ferrabosco ranks with John Coprario in Importance in the development of an idiomatic instrumental style for string instruments in Jocobean England.
The lyra viol was a small bass viol popular in England during the seventeenth century with differed little from the standard bass viol. Writing A Brief introduction to Music (London, 1667), John Playford described the instrument as the smallest of the three kinds of bass viol - consort bass, division viol and lyra viol. Some years earlier, writing in his book The Division Violist (London, 1659), Christopher Simpson had referred to the lyra viol as having lighter strings and a less rounded bridge than those of the consort bass and division viol. While an instrument called the lyra viol did exist (a few of which have survived), it was little else than a bass viol of smaller dimensions with some minor differences. It was much more common for a seventeenth-century performer to play lyra viol music on any bass viol which was close to hand, and this accounts for the tradition of playing pieces "lyra-way". The term "lyra-way", refers to the manner of performing lyra-viol music, which is characteristically chordal and polyphonic, and similar to lute music in respect of the free appearance and disappearance of voice parts. The music is notated using symbols of French lute tablature of the sixteenth century, which employs a series of letters in alphabetical order to indicate the fret at which any given string is to be stopped. One of the most curious aspects of the lyra viol repertory was the development of various tunings for the six strings on the instrument. At the beginning of the seventeenth century only three tunings had achieved popularity; however, by the third quater of the century variant tunings had proliferated to such an extent that a recent survey of the sources carried out by Frank Traficante uncovered nearly 60 different tunings. The music for the lyra viol comprises a large repertory with music by such notable composers as John Coprario, Tobias Hume, John Jenkins, William Lawes and Christopher Simpson to name a few. The sources include music for one lyra viol, such as those which appear here, ensemble music for two and three lyra viols such as those which appear im Ferrabosco's Lessons (1609), for lyra viol with one or more instruments such as in some of works of John Jenkins, and lyra viol accompaniments for songs such as in Robert Jones, The Second Booke of Songs and Ayres ,... (London, 1601).
Two of the pieces on this recording are based on well-known seventeenth-centuries melodies, namely : William Corkine's piece entitled Walsingham which is a florid treatment of the popular tune bearing this name ; and Corkine's piece entitled If my complaints based of the song by the same name composed by John Dowland. _The Corkine piece The Punches Delight, with its modern sounding title, is a set of sprightly variations, while his other two pieces, Whoope doe me no harme good man and Come live with me, are doubtless derived from songs current during the period. The remaining pieces by Corkine and the pieces by Ferrabosco are dance forms which were in vogue in England from the reign of Queen Elizabeth I to the reign of King Charles II. Writing in 1597 in A Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke (London), Thomas Morley had precised the character of the pavan, galliard, almain and coranto. Morley's discussion of these dances reflects the requirements of the social dance, a point which is also demonstrated by the fact that Morley goes on to describe the strain and phrase lengths for actual dancing. However, the dances composed by Ferrabosco for his Lessons (1609) are abstract chamber compositions and are not intended for dancing, a fact which is demonstrated by their use of irregular, asymmetrical strains. This feature is unusual for this time and anticipates the almains and galliards in the fantasias-suites composed by John Coprario for Charles I, as Prince of Wales. This revolution in the function of dance music caused Christopher Simpson to comment in A Compendium of Practical Musick (1667): "The next in dignity after a Fancy, is a Pavan; which some derive from Padua in Italy; at first ordained for a grave and stately manner of Dancing... but now grown up to height of Composition made only to delight the Ear".
- Richard Charteris