The Consort Music of William Lawes, 1602-1645

The Consort Music of William Lawes, 1602-1645

John Cunningham


Boydell Press



An examination of the work and music of the Royalist composer William Lawes.
William Lawes is arguably one of the finest English composers of the early seventeenth century. Born in Salisbury in 1602, he rose to prominence in the early 1630s; in 1635 he gained a prestigious post among the elite private musicians of Charles I (the "Lutes, Viols and Voices"). With the outbreak of civil war in 1642, Lawes took arms in support of the king; he died during the Siege of Chester in September 1645.
This book is divided into three sections. The first is a contextual examination of music at the court of Charles I, with specific reference to the abovementioned arcane group of musicians; much of Lawes's surviving consort music appears to have been written to be performed by this group. The remainder of the book deals with William Lawes the composer. The second section is a detailed study of Lawes's autograph sources: the first of its kind. It includes 62 black and white facsimile images, and complete inventories of all the autographs, and presents ground-breaking new research into Lawes's scribal hand, the sources and their functions, and new evidence for their chronology. The third section comprises six chapters on Lawes's consort music; in these chapters various topics are examined, such as chronology, Lawes's compositional process, and the relationship between Lawes's music and the court context from which it arose.
This book will be of interest to scholars working on English music in the Early Modern period, but also to those interested in source studies, compositional process and the function of music in the Early Modern court.

JOHN CUNNINGHAM is a Senior Lecturer in Music, at Bangor University.


July 2010
69 black and white, 61 line illustrations
374 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Music in Britain, 1600-2000
ISBN: 9780954680978
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Boydell Press
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Table of Contents

The Lutes, Viols and Voices
The Autograph Manuscripts
The Music for Lyra-Viol
The Royall Consort
The Viol Consorts
The Fantasia-Suites
The Harp Consorts
The Suites for Two Bass Viols and Organ


(A) thorough and highly authoritative account, which will no doubt long remain essential reading for anyone interested not only in Lawes but also in his close contemporaries (...) an indispensable first port of call for all studies of Lawes's instrumental music. JOURNAL OF THE SOCIETY FOR MUSICOLOGY IN IRELAND

(T)his is a beautifully produced book. (...) John Cunningham has produced a very fine account of Lawes's instrumental music, shedding new light on its chronology, style, and compositional method. His book will surely take its place as one of the most substantial and important studies of English consort music yet to have appeared. MUSIC AND LETTERS
This is an ambitious and wide-ranging book. (...) Cunningham's study deserves to be seen as a scrupulous and positive addition to musicological literature. THE CONSORT
(T)o have such a detailed, proficient and comprehensive survey of what William Lawes actually wrote in the consort genre is a delight. (...) together with Cunningham's approachable manner of writing (...) this not only the definitive volume on its subject. But an extremely readable one too. CLASSICAL.NET
(I)mpressive in its precision and scholarship: there is no doubt that it will remain an essential point of reference in the study of 17th-century English consort music for many years to come. EARLY MUSIC
Cunningham's account of Charles's court is vivid, and he describes the music made for it precisely. To the specialist, the chapter on Lawes's autograph manuscripts alone will keep the book current for many years, since here one may catch Lawes in the process of composition. TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT (Peter Phillips)

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