Painting: Holy Family with Music Making Angels
Artist: Attributed to the Master of Frankfurt
Date: Circa 1515
Technique: Oil on wood panel
Location: Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
As with so many Tudor era composers information about Pygott's early life is scarce, what we do know about him is that he was taken up by Cardinal Wolsey and that by 1517 he had risen to be Master of the Children in Thomas Wolsey’s household chapel. He came to the notice of Henry VIII who considered Wolsey's choir to be better than his and praised Pygott for how well he had trained a chorister who had transferred from Wolsey's household to the royal one. Wolsey rewarded Pygott with pensions from Bridlington Priory in 1526 and Whitby Abbey a year later in 1527. Pygott was evidently both grateful and loyal because he remained in the cardinal's household until Wolsey's death in disgrace and in danger of being put to death by the king he had served so well. Shortly after his patron's death Pygott became a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal. Henry VIII was obviously pleased with him because he presented him with various livings and properties including one in Greenwich that had previously been occupied by William Cornysh he remained a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal until his death in 1549 although it appears he had mostly retired by then.
His music is interesting, very polished, and quite often shows considerable musical imagination it compares favourably with Taverner's music although I think it fair to say that Taverner's music has a greater sense of forward motion and he integrates his melodies more fully. Quid petis, O fili? is interesting because it's a carol. As we saw during Advent the English medieval carol had a particular form:
Carols emerged in England during the Middle Ages they were related in form to the French dance songs called Caroles and were either in Latin, or English, or were macaronic – a mix of the two. Their structure was both distinctive and rigid with the singers alternating between a refrain called the "burden" and stanzas and could be on any subject, but were mostly about the Virgin or the Saints of Christmas for example.
These carols were popular music and were often considered by the clerical and musical establishment to be crude and tending to encourage excessively boisterous performance by the laity notwithstanding this disapproval carols were so popular that somebody as firmly embedded in the establishment as Pygott composed carols using their mixture of sacred and profane, Latin and vernacular,burden and verse for performance at the courts of his patrons. There's some very nice imitative writing in the burden and first verse that Pygott sets off by using rests before reverting to a more traditional style of imitation in the remaining verses. Enjoy :-)
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