What is Beauty? 5 Madrigals (download)


Five madrigals in updated seventeenth-century style explore the ideal of beauty. For unaccompanied voices.

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What is Beauty? 5 Madrigals

SATB chorus or soli unaccompanied
Texts—Poems by Gibbons, Byrd, Weelkes and others
27 pages


madrigals image

William Hogarth, Analysis of Beauty, 1753

What is beauty but a breath,
Fancy’s twin at birth and death;
The color of a damask rose
That fadeth when the north wind blows.
Tis such that though all thoughts do crave it;
They know not what it is that have it.

Thomas Greaves, Songs of Sundry Kinds, 1604

Tell me where the beauty lies
In my mistress? or in my eyes?
Is she fair? I made her so.
Beauty doth from liking grow.
Be she fairer, whiter than
Venus’ doves or Leda’s swan,
What’s that Beauty if neglected,
Seen of all, of none respected?
Then tell my mistress that I love her,
Think her fair, ‘cause I approve her.

Walter Porter, Madrigals And Aires, 1632

The silver swan, who living had no note,
When death approached, unlocked her silent throat;
Leaning her breast against the reedy shore,
Thus sung her first and last, and sung no more:
“Farewell, all joys; Oh death, come close mine eyes;
More geese than swans now live, more fools than wise.”

Orlando Gibbons, First Set of Madrigals And Motets, 1612

Come woeful Orpheus with thy charming Lyre
And tune my voice unto thy skillful wire,
Some strange chromatic notes do you devise
That best with mournful accents sympathize,
Of sourest sharps and uncouth flats make choice,
And I’ll thereto compassionate my voice.

William Byrd, Psalms, Songs, and Sonnets, 1611

If beauty be a treasure,
Sweetheart enjoy your pleasure,
You need not fear the wasting
Of beauty everlasting.
For yours exceeds the measure,
Of any earthly treasure.

Thomas Weelkes, Madrigals, 1597

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