William Cornysh

Biography

Born: 1470; England   Died: September 10, 1523; Hylden Manor, Kent  
The Eton Choirbook, compiled for liturgical use at Eton College around 1500, provides a unique view of English music at the turn of the sixteenth century; no other comparable repertoire source for this time has survived the depredations of the English Reformation. Among the 25 choice composers represented stands the name of William Cornysh, contributing eight pieces to this national anthology of devotional music. He also composed 13 of the Read more secular part songs in a 1520 anthology of music known as Henry VIII's Songbook, after its collector and principal contributor. Clearly Cornysh held the respect of King and Church alike; very little straightforward information about his life, however, survives. In fact, recent scholarship suggests that these two repertoires may be the work of two separate individuals: William Cornysh the elder, composer of the mature Eton Choirbook church music, and William Cornysh the younger (possibly his son), actor, singer, and courtier.

A small number of early documents list payments to a William Cornysh for compositions, and for participation in courtly dramas and "disguysings," the earliest dating from 1494. He spent time in prison starting in 1502, producing a pamphlet of versified defenses while incarcerated. Apparently his term was brief, as his 1501 appointment as a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal was never revoked, and he was appointed Master of the Children for the Chapel establishment in 1509, a position he held until his death in 1523. Records of court dramatic presentations in 1511 and 1514 credit him with musical collaboration, and his presence leading the royal singers across the Channel in 1513 and again at 1520 during the celebrations on the field of the Cloth of Gold is well-documented. As late as June 1522, the court received a play of his, celebrating the diplomatic visit by the Holy Roman Emperor.

The surviving sacred music of "Cornysh" in the Eton Choirbook shares with much of that repertory a thick, melismatic texture, a noble breadth of vocal range, and a penchant for biting cross-relations and other dissonances. His splendid and popular setting of the Marian text "Salve regina" from this source exemplifies the style. Indeed, his contributions to this volume bespeak a surprising maturity of hand. In his time, however, William Cornysh Jr. (presuming that both repertoires are his) seems to have been far better known for his secular work, as a song composer, actor, playwright, and stage director, and one at the center of the Tudor court's secular culture. A song of his from Henry VIII's Songbook, A robyn, gentle robyn, may have been the song Shakespeare intended the clown to sing in the fourth act of Twelfth Night. Read less
Browse 1-25 of 50 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Choral Collection
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8503298 Release Date: 10/25/2019   Number of Discs: 30
    Composer:  Alexander Agricola,  Kim Andre Arnesen,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Johannes Brahms  ... 
    Performer:  Alicia Rigsby,  Beryl Fanslow,  Sara Michael,  Juliane Dowell  ... 
    Conductor:  Michael Posch,  Joel Rinsema,  Hilary Davan Wetton,  Marin Alsop  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Unicorn,  Kantorei,  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $68.99
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  • 2.
    Door to Paradise: Music from Eton Choirbook / Darlington, Christ Church Cathedral Choir Oxford
    Label: Avie   Catalog: 2395 Release Date: 09/28/2018   Number of Discs: 5
    Composer:  John Fawkyner,  William Cornysh,  Walter Lambe,  Richard Davy  ... 
    Conductor:  Stephen Darlington
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Oxford Christ Church Cathedral Choir,  Christ Church Cathedral Choir,  Choir of Christ Church Cathedral Oxford
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    CD: $32.99
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  • 3.
    English Motets / Park, Gesualdo Six
    Label: Hyperion   Catalog: 68256 Release Date: 03/30/2018   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Thomas Tallis,  William Byrd,  Thomas Tomkins,  John Sheppard  ... 
    Conductor:  Owain Park
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gesualdo Six
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  • 4.
    Sacred & Profane / Christophers, The Sixteen
    Label: Coro   Catalog: 16159 Release Date: 03/02/2018   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten,  William Cornysh
    Conductor:  Harry Christophers
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Sixteen
    CD: $18.99
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  • 5.
    Voice Eternal / Robertson, The Thirteen
    Label: Affetto Records   Catalog: 1605 Release Date: 10/28/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Walter Lambe,  Robert Fayrfax,  William Cornysh,  King of England Henry VIII  ... 
    Conductor:  Matthew Robertson
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Thirteen
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  • 6.
    Western Wind / Parrott, Tavener Choir & Players
    Label: Avie   Catalog: 2352 Release Date: 04/01/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Traditional,  Anonymous,  John Taverner,  King VIII Henry  ... 
    Performer:  Uri Smilansky,  Steven Devine,  Charles [Tenor Vocals] Daniels,  Kirsty Whatley  ... 
    Conductor:  Andrew Parrott
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Taverner Players
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  • 7.
    Mynstrelles With Straunge Sounds
    Label: Delphian   Catalog: 34169 Release Date: 09/11/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Anonymous,  King VIII Henry,  Hayne van Ghizeghem,  Josquin Des Préz  ... 
    Performer:  Clare [Mezzo-soprano Vocal] Wilkinson
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rose Consort of Viols
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  • 8.
    Transeamus / Hilliard Ensemble
    Label: Ecm   Catalog: 002155502 Release Date: 10/27/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Anonymous,  John Plummer,  Traditional,  Walter Lambe  ... 
    Performer:  Hilliard Ensemble
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  • 9.
    16th Century Music For Viols
    Label: Regis   Catalog: 1333 Release Date: 08/13/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Thomas Tallis,  Christopher Tye,  William Cornysh,  William Byrd  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fretwork,  Rose Consort of Viols
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  • 10.
    The Passion of Reason / Sour Cream
    Label: Glossa   Catalog: 31102 Release Date: 06/03/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Guillaume de Machaut,  Solage,  Antoine Brumel,  Thomas Preston  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sour Cream
    CD: $34.99
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  • 11.
    Choirs of Angels - Music from the Eton Choirbook Vol 2
    Label: Avie   Catalog: 2184 Release Date: 05/14/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Browne,  William Cornysh,  Richard Davy,  Walter Lambe  ... 
    Conductor:  Stephen Darlington
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Christ Church Cathedral Choir
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  • 12.
    Music For Bird Lovers
    Label: Gift Of Music   Catalog: 1269 Release Date: 03/26/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Antonio Vivaldi,  Louis-Claude Daquin,  Jean-Philippe Rameau,  Traditional  ... 
    Performer:  Martin Souter,  Ian Giles,  James Gregory,  Jon Banks  ... 
    Conductor:  Alberto Lizzio,  David Croft,  Henry Adolph,  Julia Craig-McFeely
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Serendipity Singers
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  • 13.
    Tears & Lamentations / Pro Cantione Antiqua
    Label: Regis   Catalog: 1259 Release Date: 01/29/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Robert White,  William Cornysh,  Anonymous,  Gilbert Banastir  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Pro Cantione Antiqua
    On sale! $18.98
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  • 14.
    Passion & Resurrection / Stile Antico
    Label: Harmonia Mundi   Catalog: 807555 Release Date: 11/13/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Cornysh,  Orlando Gibbons,  Thomas Tallis,  Orlando de Lassus  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stile Antico
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  • 15.
    Harry Our King: Music for King Henry VIII Tudor / Bauml, Daniels, Capella de la Torre
    Label: Carpe Diem   Catalog: 16292 Release Date: 09/25/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Anonymous,  Johannes Ockeghem,  King VIII Henry,  Traditional  ... 
    Performer:  Charles Daniels
    Conductor:  Katharina Bauml
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Capella de la Torre
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  • 16.
    Royal Rhymes And Rounds / The King's Singers
    Label: Signum Classics   Catalog: 307 Release Date: 06/19/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  King VIII Henry,  William Cornysh,  Anonymous,  Ellis Gibbons  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  The King's Singers
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  • 17.
    Royal Manuscripts - The Genius Of Illumination / Christophers, The Sixteen
    Label: Coro   Catalog: 16098 Release Date: 05/08/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Browne,  Robert Wylkynson,  Anonymous,  Richard Pygott  ... 
    Conductor:  Harry Christophers
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Sixteen,  Hilliard Ensemble
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  • 18.
    Great British Choral Works
    Label: Coro   Catalog: 16092 Release Date: 09/13/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Byrd,  James MacMillan,  Thomas Tallis,  John Tavener  ... 
    Performer:  Kirsty Hopkins,  Grace Davidson,  Michael [Bass-Baritone Vocal] George,  Mark Padmore  ... 
    Conductor:  Harry Christophers
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Sixteen
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  • 19.
    A Golden Treasury Of Renaissance Music
    Label: Saydisc   Catalog: 65 Release Date: 01/11/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  King VIII Henry,  Christopher Tye,  William Cornysh,  Anonymous  ... 
    Performer:  Paula Chateauneuf,  Suzie LeBlanc,  Deborah Roberts,  Richard [Bass Vocals] Wistreich  ... 
    Conductor:  James Wood
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Musica Antiqua of London,  Fretwork,  The York Waits  ... 
    CD: $18.99
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  • 20.
    In Nomine - English Music For Viols / Fretwork
    Label: Amon Ra   Catalog: 29 Release Date: 01/11/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Johnson,  Alfonso Ferrabosco,  Thomas Tallis,  Robert Parsons  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fretwork
    CD: $18.99
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  • 21.
    Stabat Mater - A Journey Through The English Renaissance / Parsons Affayre
    Label: Cd Baby   Catalog: 5637688283 Release Date: 01/04/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Byrd,  Thomas Tallis,  John Sheppard,  William Cornysh  ... 
    Conductor:  Warren Trevelyan-Jones
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Parsons Affayre
    CD: $24.99
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  • 22.
    Tudor City / New York Polyphony
    Label: Avie   Catalog: 2186 Release Date: 04/13/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Byrd,  William Cornysh,  Worcester Frag Anonymous,  Thomas Tallis  ... 
    Performer:  New York Polyphony
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Polyphony
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  • 23.
    Ceremonyes Of Carolles / Nancy Hadden
    Label: Crd Records   Catalog: 3514 Release Date: 10/13/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Anonymous,  Benjamin Britten,  George Bannatyne,  Guillaume Morlaye  ... 
    Performer:  Nancy Hadden,  Esther Levin,  Kyoko Murai,  Poppy Holden
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  • 24.
    More Divine Than Human - Music From Eton Choirbook / Choir Of Christ Church Oxford
    Label: Avie   Catalog: 2167 Release Date: 09/08/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Fawkyner,  William Cornysh,  Walter Lambe,  Richard Davy  ... 
    Conductor:  Stephen Darlington
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Oxford Christ Church Cathedral Choir
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  • 25.
    Label: Kattenberg   Catalog: 5637621867 Release Date: 03/24/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Conrad Paumann,  Anonymous,  Guillaume Dufay,  Robert Ap Huw  ... 
    Performer:  Geert Van Gele,  Billy Taylor
    CD: $18.99
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