The keyboard music of
Orlando Gibbons -
'... technique and panache ...'
Robert Cecil, secretary of state to both Elizabeth and James I, then
lord high treasurer as well, was created Earl of Salisbury in 1605. High-minded
and physically deformed, he knew the loneliness and melancholy of supreme
position, writing to a friend: 'Good Knight, rest content and give heed
to one that hath sorrowed in the bright lustre of a court, and gone heavily
even on the best-seeming fair ground.' William Byrd (1543-1623) put Salisbury's
name to a pavan and galliard that have since become the delight of any keyboard
player. Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625), born at Oxford, but a chorister at
King's College, Cambridge, became organist at Westminster Abbey in 1623.
There he played the following year for a visit of the French ambassador:
'At their entrance, the organ was touched by the best finger of that age,
Mr Orlando Gibbons.' He lived just long enough to preside over the king's
funeral in 1625. He too composed a pavan and galliard for the Earl or maybe
in his memory, winding its way through lengthy sequences [listen
-- track 4, 0:00-1:02]. The cares of this life over, Salisbury now lies
in St Ethelreda's, Hatfield, near the great house he planned but never occupied.
His monument shows him in Garter robes on a black marble slab; beneath is
a life-sized skeleton bedded miserably on straw.
Copyright © 23 March 2003
Robert Anderson, London, UK