The Fitzwilliam Project

The Fitzwilliam project refers to the famous Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, the sumptuous manuscript that now resides in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. The manuscript contains nearly 300 pieces of keyboard music primarily by English composers such as William Byrd, Thomas Tallis, John Bull and Orlando Gibbons as well as their English and European contemporaries. Both in quantity and in quality, the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book is the most important source of keyboard music from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in England. Surveying the collection, one is astonished by the sheer volume and excellence of these musical wonders of the golden age of English music, consisting of almost 18 hours of music!

The Fitzwilliam project aims to make this music fully accessible to the public; indeed no complete recording of the manuscript has been achieved to date. In addition to realising a complete recording of all 297 pieces on 16 CDs, the project aims to give music lovers the opportunity to experience this extraordinary collection in its entirety, by organizing integral performances in 16 recitals throughout Europe. These concerts will be the first time in history that the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book will have been performed in its entirety.

To this end, eight internationally renowned harpsichordists/organists from four countries, came together to develop this extraordinary project. This variety of approaches will maximise both the historical relevance with authentic performance practices, and therefore the impact of the recording on the global market. It will be recorded by eight different players performing on all types of keyboard instruments known in England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: harpsichord, virginals, regal, organ, clavichord and claviorganum. As well as historical instruments, modern copies by the most eminent European makers will be used.

The concerts will be organized as marathon events, i.e. lasting between two to four days, or extending over a longer period, for example an entire season. Presentations based on the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, both highlighting its context within English music in general, and discussing the wide variety of appropriate keyboard instruments, will complement the concerts.

For the project, the artists are looking for as many European collaborations as possible, among which are institutions such as Cardiff University, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, Geneva, the Royal College of Music in London and the Royaumont Foundation in Paris.

The project will run between 2017 and 2019.

The Players:

Léon Berben, The Netherlands/Germany
Carole CerasiGreat Britain
Terence Charlston, Great Britain
Bertrand Cuiller, France
Jean-Luc Ho, France
Hadrien Jourdan, Switzerland
Thilo Muster, Switzerland/Germany
David Ponsford, Great Britain

Concerts with this Programme

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