The so-called Henry VIII's Book (London, British Library Add. MS 31922) contains two textless pieces by Isaac—his three-part Benedictus and the four-part La my—together with a number of other Franco-Flemish “songs without words” typical of the contents of manuscripts copied for the North Italian courts where the earliest viol consorts were being developed in the 1490s and early 1500s. Alongside these pieces are works by native English composers, including William Cornyshe, whose extended three-part Fa la sol has a number of stylistic traits in common with some works by Isaac (for example, his three-part Der Hundt) and Alexander Agricola (his three-part Cecus non judicat de coloribus) that were also transmitted in textless format. The fact that these latter two pieces were published in Hieronymus Formschneider's Trium vocum carmina (Nuremberg, 1538) while Cornyshe's Fa la sol was published in XX Songes (London, 1530) shows that this type of repertoire was still prized several years after the composers' deaths.
Analysis of musical connections between the work of Isaac and Cornyshe, as evident in pieces such as those from Henry VIII's Book—in particular, techniques employed by the composers to extend the structures of their “songs without words”—sheds fresh light on the reception in England of Isaac's music and that of his continental contemporary Agricola. Relevant considerations include the context in which these pieces were anthologized together and the introduction into England of viols similar to those Isaac may have known in Ferrara in 1502, when La my was composed. Such pieces are representative of a typical courtly repertoire that developed into the riches of the later Tudor instrumental consort music.
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