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Fayrfax, Robert


Noted Renaissance composer of liturgical music; b. Deeping Gate, Lincolnshire, England, c. 1464; d. probably St. Albans, Oct. 24, 1521. By 1496, if not earlier, he was a gentleman of the chapel royal, and from 1502 was possibly choirmaster at St. Albans, although he retained connections with the chapel royal until his death. He took the degrees Mus.B. (1501) and Mus.D. (1504) at Cambridge and the earliest recorded Mus.D. (1511) at Oxford. He was first singer of the chapel at the Field of Cloth of Gold, June 1520. His works comprise six Masses (of which one is incomplete), two Magnificats, 13 motets, and a few secular songs, lute arrangements, and instrumental pieces. He was highly esteemed by his contemporaries and his music was recopied for a century after his death. His style represents a trend away from the florid manner to a simpler homophonic technique, and is distinguished for great variety in grouping of voices. An edition of his Collected Works has been prepared by E. B. Warren for the American Institute of Musicology [(Corpus mensurablis musicae, v.17 (Rome 1947)].

Bibliography: f. l. harrison, Music in Medieval Britain (New York 1958). "English Polyphony c. 14701540," New Oxford History of Music, ed. j. a. westrup 11 v. (New York 1957) 3:303348. g. reese, Music in the Renaissance (rev. ed. New York 1959) 774777. a. hughes, "An Introduction to Fayrfax," Musica Disciplina, 6 (Rome 1952) 83104. Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. e. blom, 9 v. (5th ed. London 1954) 3:5054. d. mateer and e. new, "In nomine Jesu: Robert Fayrfax and the Guild of the Holy Name in St. Paul's Cathedral," Music and Letters 81 (2000) 507519. t. messenger, "Texture and Proportion in the Masses of Robert Fayrfax: Medieval Formal Procedures in the Early Tudor Mass Cycle" (Ph.D. diss. University of Wales at Bangor, 1979). d. m. randel, ed., The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music 262 (Cambridge, Massachusetts 1996). n. sandon, "Robert Fayrfax" in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, vol. 6, ed. s. sadie (New York 1980) 443445. n. slonimsky, ed. Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Eighth Edition (New York 1992) 523.

[s. w. kenney]

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