David Clark Little, on the 'Virginal'

Watkins Ale							Anon.
Pavana: Clement Cotton					William Tisdale (1570-??)	
Coranto								William Byrd (1543-1623)
Toccata								Giovanni Picchi (1572?-1643)
Wolseys Wilde						W. Byrd
Pavana, Galiarda						W. Byrd 
A Toye								Giles Farnaby (1560-1640)
Praeludium Toccata						Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621)
Malle Sijmen	 						J.P. Sweelinck
Psalme 140							J.P. Sweelinck
Callino Casturame						W. Byrd
Pavana Bray & Galiard					W. Byrd
Capriccio VI (Livre de 1658)				Johann Jakob Froberger (1616-1667)	
Toccata Ottava (1st book of 1637)			Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643)
Aria detto Balletto (2nd book of 1637)		G. Frescobaldi

Program duration: 60 minutes including short talks about the music, composers, and instrument.
'Virginal' is an old term for a string-plucking keyboard instrument, or harpsichord, with a rectangular shape, called such because, like a virgin, it soothes with a sweet and gentle voice, according to a Czech physician and minor cleric called Paulus Paulirinus. The 'Virginalists' were a group of English composers from the time of Shakespeare, associated with Queen Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen. The music of this program is mostly selected from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, a thick 2-volume compilation of 297 separate pieces, from less than a page long up to 10 pages and more. There are many dance-like pieces common in Europe at the time, such as the slow processional Pavana and the athletic Galliard, and character pieces. William Byrd, one of the great masters of European Renaissance music, is central this program, having 69 pieces in the book, the most of any composer. Also included in this program are Italian pieces by Giovanni Picchi, Girolamo Frescobaldi, (composer and organist of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome); and his German student, Johann Jakob Froberger. The last two composers were enormously influential on later composers such as J.S. Bach, Henry Purcell, Handel, even Mozart and Beethoven.

The virginal played today was built by Lynette Tsiang in 1976, after an instrument in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, built by the Italian Francesco Poggio (d. 1634). It is a polygonal or 5-sided instrument with one set of brass strings and 52 keys. It is tuned lower than present-day concert pitch (A is at 415 Hz) , and with the Mean-tone Tuning System commonly used for keyboard instruments during the Renaissance. Characteristic of this tuning are 8 pure major thirds within an octave, giving an extraordinarily sweet sound.

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