The virginal (an early kind of harpsichord) was the instrument of choice for a school of Renaissance-era English composers, from Byrd and Gibbons to Bull, Morley, and Tomkins—thus the group's n

The virginal (an early kind of harpsichord) was the instrument of choice for a school of Renaissance-era English composers, from Byrd and Gibbons to Bull, Morley, and Tomkins—thus the group's nickname of "the English virginalists." They penned pieces especially for the keyboard, along with arranging popular polyphonic works for the instrument that were originally written for lute, voices, or consort of violas da gamba; so, a famous lute piece like Dowland's "Lachrymae Pavan" finds its way on this album, joining Byrd's gravely beautiful "Pavana: The Earle of Salisbury" and other works from such 17th-century keyboard publications as The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book. Playing a Flemish virginal and an Italian harpsichord, the enterprising Skip Sempé has produced a fluid and involving conspectus of Renaissance sounds, with the instruments, recording, annotation and packaging all of the highest standard. Distributed in the U.S. and the U.K. by Harmonia Mundi.—BB

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