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Thomas Weelkes: Context

  • Leading English Composer of madrigals.
  •  Possibly published 1598 in a collection entitled ‘Balletts and Madrigals to five voices with one to six voices)
  • Late Renaissance Period
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Thomas Weelkes: Instrumentation

  • Soprano 1: Cantus, range from F sharp to G a 9th above
  • Soprano 2: Quintus, has exactly the same overall range as Soprano 1 and often crosses above it
  • Alto: Probably for woman's voice rather than male alto, range from middle C to C an octave above 
  • Tenor: Range from D below middle C to G an 11th above
  • Bass: Range from low G to D a 12th above, top D is reserved for places where Bass imitates Tenor at the unison
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Thomas Weelkes: Texture

  • Contrapuntual and Imitative: (B9-B11 through Bass Sop 2 and Sop 1)
  • Frequent imitative entries, imitative entry passes through all 5 voices (B2-27)
  • Four bar homophonic sections beginning of couplet 2 and 3 (B22-25)
  • Music often alternates between simple chordal style and interweaving contrapuntual style, using imitation to weave together and create a continuously flowing texture 
  • Composers aimed to blend together the strands of music rather than to contrast one part with another. Especially in Sacred music
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Thomas Weelkes: Tonality

  • G major, features of modal writing 
  • no key signature
  • Two types of diatonic scale – major and minor
  • Systematic use of modulation as an important structural device
  • Limited way of the value of tonal contrast, cadences away from G at ‘Keep the ground’ with perfect cadence in D major
  • Music is largely based on the medieval modes
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Thomas Weelkes: Harmony

  • Late renaissance chords (1 to 5) (B1 and B2) mainly in root position with 1st inversions.
  • Long Tonic Pedals (B77-B83 Alto Part)
  • Suspensions (B52) : Provide extra rhythmic movement and mild harmonic tension. Mainly on penultimate chords or cadences (B7)
  • Here have no expressive purpose (can be used in depiction of dark text in serious madrigal)
  • Diatonic
  • Consonant 4ths
  • Unaccented passing notes , numerous in descending scalic patterns used at ‘Whist we his praised sound’ sometimes two parts have passing noted simultaneously in 3rds or 6ths (B25) 
  • Perfect cadence, plagal cadence, imperfect cadences
  • A consonant style prevails, few discords and dissonances 
  • Great awareness of harmony and the flow and progression of chords
  • Minor third is avoided at cadences by writing either an open triad or substituting it for a major thid (tierce de Picardie) 
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Thomas Weelkes: Melody

  • Mixture of stepwise motion and leap to the octave
  • Two motifs with dotted rhythms, opening bars dominate the music
  • Even music written to be played on instruments still tend to remain comparable within vocal ranges
  • Weelkes uses: 
  • Much conjunct (stepwise) movement including scalic passages, especially at ‘Whilst we his praises sound’). 
  • Leaps of a 3rd  in particular the descending 3rds first heard at ‘Content is our treasure’. 
  • Leaps of a 4th or 5th notably where the bass outlines perfect cadences and other chord successions with roots a 4th or 5th apart. 
  • A few larger leaps (almost all octaves)  
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Thomas Weelkes: Rhythm

  • Dancing dotted rhythms (B5)
  • Syncopation (B7 alto part)
  • Hemiola in approach to cadence (B20-21) 
  • Generally Weelkes uses straightforward triple-time rhythms with an obvious beat and dance-like quality (after all, the ballett originated in the dance)
  • Strings of quavers in the second fa-la (in tenor and bass) bring Section 2 to a lively conclusion. 
  • The frequent quavers at ‘Whilst we his praises sound’ may be intended to reflect joy and praise
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Thomas Weelkes: Structure

  • Binary Form AB, A is repeated, ‘Fa la’ refrain at end of each section

Section 1: B1-22 (first time bar)

  • B1-8: Single rhyming couplet with imitation, feeling of homophony
  • B8-22: The fa-la refrain mostly contrapuntual 

Section 1: B1-B22 repeated exactly

Section 2: B22-B53

  • B22-B43: Setting of first line is homophonic 'Sweet Love shall keep the ground,' , second line is contrapuntual 'Whilst we his praises sound

The overall structure might be described a binary, with two sections each repeated but it lacks tonal contrast of most binary structures in the Baroque period. 

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