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Two of the UK’s leading artists present an intriguing programme highlighting political 'games' of renaissance Europe.

Elizabeth I plots to keep France, Spain and Scotland on her side through years of marriage promises, flirtation, pacts and treaties. Includes music by Dowland, Tallis, Byrd, Gibbons, Carissimi and others.

Queen Elizabeth I gloried in her reputation as the world's most famous virgin. Unmarried until the end, throughout her reign she used her maidenhood as a pawn, promising one great European after another the greatest gift she could bestow: her hand in marriage. Treaties were drawn up around suggested betrothals, and country allied to country on the basis of a possible marriage to the Queen of England. Among Elizabeth's suitors were Philip II of Spain, Archduke Charles of Austria, and two Dukes of Anjou, Henry and Francis. But her lasting love was for her courtier and lifelong devotee Robert Dudley, the one man she could not marry. Through all this turbulent time English Renaissance flourished. The Tudor court buzzed with music, and the cult of 'Oriana' gave rise to the madrigal and the popularity of the lute, with one John Dowland trying (but failing) to gain a place as court lutenist. Elizabeth employed two official royal composers: Thomas Tallis and William Byrd, but even here there was intrigue as both were devout Catholics in a Protestant court. The influence of continental music by Tessier, Francesco di Milano, and their contemporaries, permeates vast amounts of works by English and Scottish composers.

Elizabeth's suitors, too, presided over flourishing royal courts. Philip II reigned during Spain's 'Golden Age' which saw the rise of composers such as Victoria, Morales and Guerrero; and the Archduke Charles II of Austria counted Orlando de Lassus as his protégé among other Franco-Flemish composers.

Pressed to marry, and besieged by threats of war on all sides, Elizabeth trusted no-one, least of all her Tudor cousins, each of whom had a claim to the throne. Her most famous cousin, the alluring and adamant Mary Queen of Scots, was such a threat that Elizabeth eventually had her beheaded, turning Mary accidentally into a Catholic martyr who would be celebrated for centuries to come. Carissimi's telling of Mary's end through her own words is one of the greatest early laments to survive.

Prom Ticket/SP (on door only) £5

Elizabeth and Leicester miniatures by Hilliard

Anonymous   Pastime with good company
from A Musical Banquet
  Passava Amor su arco desarmado
Orlande de Lassus 1532–1594   Bonjour mon coeur
Philippe de Monte 1521–1603   La grand’amour
Claudin de Sermisy c.1490–1562   Secoures moy
William Byrd 1543–1623   O dear life
Anthony Holborne c.1545–1602   The countess of Pembroke’s Paradise
John Dowland 1563–1626   Come away, come away sweet love
Dowland   Now O now I needs must part
Dowland   Can she excuse my wrongs
Dowland   His golden locks
Anonymous16th century, Scotland   Woe worth the time
Giacomo Carissimi c.1605–1674   Ferma, lascia ch’io parli

Nicholas Hilliard (called) - Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I

Mary Queen of Scots Mourning