Renaissance Era Music (1450-1600) - An Introduction

During the Renaissance era humanity underwent the vital rebirth which defined the all round achievement of mankind. Fine arts asserted itself and broke free from the strait jackets of the bygone era. All music boundaries were shattered as composers explored new territories. Composers enjoyed unprecedented fame as the appreciative audience grew exponentially with the onset of printed music. In the almost two hundred years (1430 – 1600) composers increased their repertoire by scaling wider and higher with sophisticated music arrangement.

Secular music gained traction though it trailed sacred music. With the imitation technique (where one melodic line repeats another section or a previous line) composers were able to augment the listening pleasure of the audience. Vocal polyphony was predominantly used in sacred masses and motets as well as in secular motets, madrigals and songs. The era boasted a wealth of composers and arguably the notable among them were Josquin Des Prez, Pierre de La Rue, John Taverner, Thomas Tallis, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Orlando de Lassus, William Byrd, Giovanni Gabrieli, Thomas Morley, John Dowland, Claudio Monteverdi, and Orlando Gibbons. Melancholy music was considered fashionable in this era.

Below are music selections by composers of the medieval era:


ComposerProduct Details/ThumbnailISBNBest PriceDescription
Josquin Des Prez (1440-1521)Josquin Des Prez: Sixteenth Century Lute SettingsB00004TEVQ$29.99Arrangements of vocal music - large collection of Renaissance lute music.
Pierre de La Rue (1460-1518) Pierre de la Rue and Musical Life at the Habsburg-Burgundian Court 978-0198165545225.00Traces La Rue's life and career.
John Taverner (1490 – 1545)John Taverner: His Life and Music978-0754601425$130.00a full-length study of the composer.
Thomas Tallis (1510-1585)Thomas Tallis: Sacred Choral Works B000000A4H$18.98famous sacred works of Reformation England composer Thomas Tallis
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1526-1594)Giovanni Pierluigi Da Palestrina: Missa "Descendit Angelus Domini," Missa Beata Mariae Virginis II, and motets B00003000X $16.95Stunning recording of some of Palestrina's masterworks
Orlando de Lassus (1530-1594)Orlando di Lasso Studies 978-0521028134$50.00full-length survey in English of the music of the Flemish composer Orlando di Lasso
William Byrd (1543-1623)William Byrd: Gentleman of the Chapel Royal 978-1859281659 $140.00A study of William Byrd's life and works
Giovanni Gabrieli (1553-1612)The Glory of GabrieliB000F6YW5S $7.98Recorded at St. Marks
Thomas Morley (1557 – 1602)All At Once Well Met: English Madrigals B000002RPZ $8.13An excellent sampling of English madrigals.
John Dowland (1563 – 1626)Lute Songs of John Dowland 978-0486299358 $12.44The Original First and Second Books Including Dowland's Original Lute Tablature
Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)Opera's First Master: The Musical Dramas of Claudio Monteverdi978-1574671100$26.95detailing Monteverdi’s operas as vital theatrical experiences



Orlando Gibbons (1583 - 1625)Orlando Gibbons: Complete Keyboard Works B000W043UQ $92.88Beautiful rendering of Orlando Gibbon’s works.

Musical instruments also saw a major revamp during this period. The Calvichord and the virginal were new additions to the keyboard family. Lute became the favored instrument in family music making. Many of the existing instruments were fine-tuned and their families expanded to produce more pitch and volume.

Material on musical instruments of the era is summarized in the table below. Many of them are still enjoyed by musicians.



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