Born: 1540 · Lincoln, England
Died: Jul 14, 1623 · Stondon Massey, United Kingdom
William Byrd was an English composer of the Renaissance. He wrote in many of the forms current in England at the time, including various types of sacred and secular polyphony, keyboard, and consort music. He produced sacred music for use in Anglican services, although he himself became a Roman Catholic in later life and wrote Catholic sacred music as well. Byrd obtained the prestigious post of Gentleman of the Chapel Royal in 1572.
Byrd's output of about 470 compositions amply justifies his reputation as one of the great masters of European Renaissance music. Perhaps his most impressive achievement as a composer was his ability to transform so many of the main musical forms of his day and stamp them with his own identity. Having grown up in an age in which Latin polyphony was largely confined to liturgical items for the Sarum rite, he assimilated and mastered the Continental motet form of his day, employing a highly personal synthesis of English and continental models. He virtually created the Tudor consort and keyboard fantasia, having only the most primitive models to follow. He also raised the consort song, the church anthem and the Anglican service setting to new heights. Finally, despite a general aversion to the madrigal, he succeeded in cultivating secular vocal music in an impressive variety of forms in his three sets of 1588, 1589 and 1611.
(from Wikipedia, 20 November 2015)