Gibbons "Behold, Thou Hast Made my Days"

Is a wonderful example of Gibbons’ style. The seemingly effortless canonic writing, florid melodies, and distinct drama of the piece is characteristic. There is, it seems to me, an expressive openness to Gibbons’ style; he is to Byrd, perhaps, as Handel was to Bach–a talented, innately musical soul with every technical resource at his command who nevertheless at times veered into intellectual and expressive simplicity. That glorious simplicity of utterance feels sometimes inspired, sometimes the result of writing the first thing that popped into his head. An understandable response for someone as talented as Gibbons.

This particular section of the anthem is my favorite. It comes a little after the 2/3 point, around the fetishized but utterly practical Golden Ratio. After this, the chorus comes in, reiterating the plaintive theme “oh spare me a little” and closes the piece with the same cadence

There is no question that Orlando Gibbons was absolutely dominant in his time. While the great Thomas Tomkins made his share of valiantly crafted masterworks, it was Gibbons who had that distinct musical gift which makes itself felt immediately. He also seems to be yawning at times; executing the exact sound he heard in his head with astonishing deftness and clarity. There is no question that Gibbons is Great like Bach or Brahms or Chopin. However, music of that time is so far removed from our common music education, and so far neglected in the grand timeline of music, that we often have difficulty understanding why any composer of Renaissance is “great” (excepting perhaps that most durable of Golden Cows, Palestrina). That is our fault, not his.


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