Thomas Robinson (c. 1560 – 1610 (Christian calendar)) was an English renaissance composer and music teacher, who flourished around 1600. He taught and wrote music for lute, cittern, orpharion, bandora, viol, and singing.
Renaissance music is vocal and instrumental music written and performed in Europe during the Renaissance era. Consensus among music historians has been to start the era around 1400, with the end of the medieval era, and to close it around 1600, with the beginning of the Baroque period, therefore commencing the musical Renaissance about a hundred years after the beginning of the Renaissance as it is understood in other disciplines. As in the other arts, the music of the period was significantly influenced by the developments which define the Early Modern period: the rise of humanistic thought; the recovery of the literary and artistic heritage of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome; increased innovation and discovery; the growth of commercial enterprises; the rise of a bourgeois class; and the Protestant Reformation. From this changing society emerged a common, unifying musical language, in particular, the polyphonic style of the Franco-Flemish school, whose greatest master was Josquin des Prez.
A lute is any plucked string instrument with a neck and a deep round back enclosing a hollow cavity, usually with a sound hole or opening in the body. More specifically, the term "lute" can refer to an instrument from the family of European lutes. The term also refers generally to any string instrument having the strings running in a plane parallel to the sound table. The strings are attached to pegs or posts at the end of the neck, which have some type of turning mechanism to enable the player to tighten the tension on the string or loosen the tension before playing, so that each string is tuned to a specific pitch. The lute is plucked or strummed with one hand while the other hand "frets" the strings on the neck's fingerboard. By pressing the strings on different places of the fingerboard, the player can shorten or lengthen the part of the string that is vibrating, thus producing higher or lower pitches (notes).
The cittern or cithren is a stringed instrument dating from the Renaissance. Modern scholars debate its exact history, but it is generally accepted that it is descended from the Medieval citole. It looks much like the modern-day flat-back mandolin and the modern Irish bouzouki, and is descended from the English Guitar. Its flat-back design was simpler and cheaper to construct than the lute. It was also easier to play, smaller, less delicate and more portable. Played by all classes, the cittern was a premier instrument of casual music-making much as is the guitar today.
Very little is known about Robinson's life, but it is possible to draw conclusions from the dedicatory pages of his works. He and his father were in service of the Cecil family: Robinson's father worked for the 1st Earl of Salisbury, Robert Cecil, and Robinson was in the service of the 1st Earl of Exeter, Thomas Cecil, who was Robert Cecil's brother. The Cecil family fostered several artists in these days, amongst others William Byrd and Orlando Gibbons.
A preface or proem is an introduction to a book or other literary work written by the work's author. An introductory essay written by a different person is a foreword and precedes an author's preface. The preface often closes with acknowledgments of those who assisted in the literary work.
Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, was an English statesman noted for his skillful direction of the government during the Union of the Crowns, as Tudor England gave way to Stuart rule (1603). Salisbury served as the Secretary of State of England (1596–1612) and Lord High Treasurer (1608–1612), succeeding his father as Queen Elizabeth I's Lord Privy Seal and remaining in power during the first nine years of King James I's reign until his death.
Thomas Cecil, 1st Earl of Exeter, KG, known as Lord Burghley from 1598 to 1605, was an English politician, courtier and soldier.
It was before 1589 that Robinson became Princess Anne's (1574–1619) and Queen Sophie's (1557–1631) private music teacher at Elsinore, Denmark. Princess Anne was the daughter of the King of Denmark, Frederick II (1559–1588). It is presumed that Robinson must have been in his twenties then, so that his birth can be dated back to around 1560.
Anne of Denmark was Queen consort of Scotland, England, and Ireland by marriage to King James VI and I.
Frederick II was King of Denmark and Norway and Duke of Schleswig from 1559 until his death.
The Court of Denmark, like other courts, employed many well-recognized musicians from Denmark and other countries, like England, France, Germany and the Netherlands. It is known that John Dowland – the most famous Renaissance lutenist nowadays – worked as a court lutenist in Denmark from 1598 to 1606. Besides Robinson's own mention of his employment there, no official record of it exists.
The Netherlands is a country located mainly in Northwestern Europe. The European portion of the Netherlands consists of twelve separate provinces that border Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest, with maritime borders in the North Sea with Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. Including three island territories in the Caribbean Sea—Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba— it forms a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The official language is Dutch, but a secondary official language in the province of Friesland is West Frisian.
John Dowland was an English Renaissance composer, lutenist, and singer. He is best known today for his melancholy songs such as "Come, heavy sleep", "Come again", "Flow my tears", "I saw my Lady weepe" and "In darkness let me dwell", but his instrumental music has undergone a major revival, and with the 20th century's early music revival, has been a continuing source of repertoire for lutenists and classical guitarists.
In 1603 Robinson published his first book, Medulla Musicke , of which no copy survived. It was even suggested (Ward JM, see "Literature"), that it was never published at all, although Robinson seems to be referring to it in the first pages of his second book: Right courteous Gentlemen, and gentle Readers, your fauourable acceptance of my first fruits from idlenesse, hath eccited mee further to congratulate your Musicall endeauours. [...]From: "The Schoole of Musicke", 1603
Also in 1603, Robinson brought out his second book, The Schoole of Musicke , a tutor for lute and other instruments. It displaced John Alford's book A Briefe and Easye Instruction from 1574 (an English translation of Adrian Le Roy's Briefve et facile instruction pour apprendre la tabulature ) as the most important lute tutor in England from then on.
John Alford was a lutenist in London. He published there in 1568 a translation of Adrian Le Roy's work on the lute under the title of A Briefe and Easye Instruction to learne the tableture, to conduct and dispose the hande unto the Lute. Englished by J. A., with a cut of the lute. A 1574 edition added additional music. The work was the dominant English lute tutor until Thomas Robinson's The Schoole of Musicke (1603).
Adrian Le Roy (c.1520–1598) was an influential French music publisher, lutenist, mandore player, guitarist, composer and music educator.
In 1609 Robinson's third book, New Citharen Lessons , was published. It was a cittern tutor for beginners and advanced learners.
Robinson's works for the most part consist of his own compositions. But there are also arrangements of other pieces of music, some of which are still rather popular: for instance "My Lord Willoughby's Welcome Home" (in: The Schoole of Musicke) or "Can she excuse my wrongs?" (in New Citharen Lessons) – both originally composed by John Dowland.
There is no further information available about Robinson's life after 1609.
Medulla Musicke (The Stationer's Company, London, 1603) was a music tutor now presumably lost. It is supposedto have included 40 canons on the then popular plainsong Miserere after arrangements by William Byrd and Alfonso Ferrabosco.
The Schoole of Musicke, (Tho.[mas(?)] Este, London, 1603), was a tutor for lute, bandora, orpharion, viol, and singing.
Furthermore, The Schoole of Musicke contains eight short pieces, seven of them called "A Psalme" in the chapter "Rules to instruct you to sing".
New Citharen Lessons, (London, 1609), was a cittern tutor for beginners and advanced learners. It included 53 compositions, the first 47 for four-course cittern (tuned e' d' g b), pieces 48 to 53 for fourteen-course cittern (tuned e' d' g bb f d G F E D C BBb AA GG).
There are some further pieces and arrangements from Thomas Robinson in other manuscripts:
The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book is a primary source of keyboard music from the late Elizabethan and early Jacobean periods in England, i.e., the late Renaissance and very early Baroque. It takes its name from Viscount Fitzwilliam who bequeathed this manuscript collection to Cambridge University in 1816. It is now deposited in the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge. Although the word virginals or virginal is used today to refer to a specific instrument similar to a small, portable harpsichord, at the time of the book the word was used to denote virtually any keyboard instrument including the organ.
Thomas Morley was an English composer, theorist, singer and organist of the Renaissance. He was one of the foremost members of the English Madrigal School. He was also involved in music publishing, and from 1598 up to his death he held a printing patent. He used the monopoly in partnership with professional music printers such as Thomas East. According to Philip Brett and Tessa Murray, Morley was 'chiefly responsible for grafting the Italian shoot on to the native stock and initiating the curiously brief but brilliant flowering of the madrigal that constitutes one of the most colourful episodes in the history of English music'.
Thomas Ford was an English composer, lutenist, viol player and poet.
Anthony [Antony] Holborne [Holburne] was a composer of music for lute, cittern, and instrumental consort during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
Robert Johnson was an English composer and lutenist of the late Tudor and early Jacobean eras. He is sometimes called "Robert Johnson II" to distinguish him from an earlier Scottish composer. Johnson worked with William Shakespeare providing music for some of his later plays.
Amazing Blondel are an English acoustic progressive folk band, containing Eddie Baird, John Gladwin, and Terry Wincott. They released a number of LPs for Island Records in the early 1970s. They are sometimes categorised as psychedelic folk or as medieval folk rock, but their music was much more a reinvention of Renaissance music, based around the use of period instruments such as lutes and recorders.
The Ceterone (Italian), was an enlarged cetera, believed to be similar to the chitarrone as a development of the chitarra and lute to enhance the bass capabilities of these instruments.
"Flow, my tears" is a lute song by the accomplished lutenist and composer John Dowland (1563–1626). Originally composed as an instrumental under the name "Lachrimae pavane" in 1596, it is Dowland's most famous ayre, and became his signature song, literally as well as metaphorically: he would occasionally sign his name "Jo. Dolandi de Lachrimae".
My Lord Chamberlain, His Galliard is a piece by John Dowland for the lute. It was printed in his The First Booke of Songs or Ayres. The Lord Chamberlain of the title was George Carey, 2nd Baron Hunsdon; to whom The First Booke of Songs or Ayres was dedicated.
Elizabeth Rogers' Virginal Book is a musical commonplace book compiled in the mid-seventeenth century by a person or persons so far unidentified. Of all the so-called English "virginal books" this is the only one to mention the name of the instrument in the title, the others being so-called at a far later date.
Gregory Doc Rossi is a citternist, composer and scholar born in Dayton, Ohio in 1955, emigrating to Europe in 1984. Today, he lives In Alsace after spending some years in Corsica. He studied music from an early age and began performing at 14. He has B.A.s in Music and English Literature, and was awarded the Ph.D. in 1991 from the University of London, where he wrote on Shakespeare and Brecht under the supervision of René Weis and Keith Walker. He studied guitar with Andrea Damiani and has had tuition from John Renbourn, Ugo Orlandi, Richard Strasser, Christopher Morrongiello, Ljubo Majstorovic and John Anthony Lennon.
Lachrimæ or seaven teares figured in seaven passionate pavans, with divers other pavans, galliards and allemands, set forth for the lute, viols, or violons, in five parts is a collection of instrumental music composed by John Dowland. It was published by John Windet in London in 1604 when Dowland was employed as lutenist to Christian IV of Denmark. The publication was dedicated to Anne of Denmark.
Anne Cromwell's Virginal Book is a manuscript keyboard compilation dated 1638. Whilst the importance of the music it contains is not high, it reveals the sort of keyboard music that was being played in the home at this time.
Christopher Wilson is a British lutenist.
Can She Excuse My Wrongs is a late 16th-century song by the English Renaissance composer John Dowland, the fifth song in his First Booke of Songes or Ayres. The words are set to a dance-tune, a galliard.
"My Robin is to the Greenwood Gone" or "Bonny Sweet Robin" is an English popular tune from the Renaissance.
The Hermit is the 1976 solo album by British folk musician John Renbourn. On this release, Renbourn drew from lute and harp sources, and pieces from Turlough O'Carolan such as O'Carolan's Concerto transcribed for guitar. The Lamentation Of Owen Roe O'Neill is featured in Francis O'Neill's Music of Ireland from 1903, Lord Inchiquin was collected in Edward Bunting's manuscripts currently residing at Queen's University Belfast and for Mrs Power it is said that it was written by O'Carolan during a virtuosity competition between him and the Italian violinist Francesco Geminiani while both of them may have been invited by an Irish nobleman, Lord Mayo. A Toye comes from the 1603 tutor Schoole of Musicke by Thomas Robinson. Lord Willoughby's Welcome Home is an Elizabethan piece. There are versions for solo lute by Thomas Robinson and Nicolas Vallet and by John Dowland with the second part of an anonymous composer, and an arrangement named Rowland by William Byrd in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book. It seems that this piece was made popular by William Kempe and his musicians who accompanied Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, in Holland. When Leicester was in disgrace and revoked, Lord Willoughby succeeded him, and hoping to find a new employer, Kemp renamed the song in his honor.