White, Robert: Six Organ Fantasias
Reconstructed and edited by Paul Doe
Organists thrilled by the rich cadences of sixteenth-century English music will find the Fantasias of Robert White essential repertoire – and invaluable and striking new material for performance on instruments with manuals only. Master of the Choristers at Westminster Abbey from 1569 to his tragically early death from the plague in 1574, White himself was both a composer of choral music, including two notable sets of Lamentations, and a proficient organist and son of an organ builder.
Paul Doe has reconstructed and edited these fantasias from a surviving tablature, which is reproduced in the edition for scholarly comparison. Previously, it was assumed that the music was intended for performance by viols. On good internal evidence, however, it seems likely that a keyboard manuscript in staff notation, similar to the contemporary ‘Mulliner Book’, was the original source.
As keyboard works, the six fantasias are indeed fine examples of the motet style of writing for the instrument, and the length at which their material is developed, and its expressive weight, bear witness to White’s stature as one of the four or five leading English composers from the period preceding that of William Byrd.