around 1621, Albertus Bryne (pronounced
‘brine’ as in salty water)
lived through the turbulent years of the English Civil War, the Commonwealth and
the first few years of Charles II’s reign as restored monarch. He was trained
as a chorister at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London by John Tomkins whom he
succeeded as organist in about 1638.
professional life suffered several unfortunate setbacks. He lost his post at St.
Paul’s Cathedral twice, first when services ceased due to the outbreak of the
rebellion in 1642 and then again after the Great Fire of London in 1666. In fact
he was gainfully employed at St. Paul’s for only eight or nine years despite
nominally holding the post from the age of 17 until he was about 45. After the
Great Fire, he became organist of Westminster Abbey in succession to Christopher
Gibbons but only for the last two years of his life. These circumstances go some
way to explain his relative obscurity today.
the years of civil war and the ensuing administrative upheaval Bryne was by no
means idle although the political climate prohibited any musical employment in
church. The majority of his surviving keyboard music is designed for domestic
rather than church use and probably originates from this time. Like many of his
colleagues he may have sought refuge by travelling west perhaps visiting
Royalist strongholds such as Oxford, Hereford and Ludlow or the West Country. He
was certainly in London during the Protectorate as John Playford’s Musicall
Banquet (1651) lists him amongst the ‘excellent and able Masters’ who
taught organ and virginals there.
the Restoration his reputation was well established. John Batchiler’s
biography of the talented and greatly admired viol player Susanna Perwich,
entitled The Virgin’s Pattern
(1661), relates that Bryne taught at the Perwich family school in Hackney, gave
harpsichord lessons to Susanna’s sister and describes him ‘Mr. Albertus
Brian, that famously velvet fingered Organist.’ Matthew Locke considered Bryne
a good composer to be compared favourably with Bull and Orlando Gibbons while
Anthony Wood described him as ‘an excellent musician’. In May 1661 Bryne
petitioned Charles II to be made an organist in the Chapel Royal but there is no
record of his appointment so we must assume his request was unsuccessful.
died on 2 December 1668 in Westminster although the whereabouts of his grave is
not known. The contents of his house in Battersea were valued at £200 and
bequeathed to his three children Albertus, Elizabeth and Mary. Amongst his
domestic effects were ‘a paire of organs’ and some other unidentified
objects, possibly plucked keyboards, valued at £30 in total. His son Albertus
continued to draw his father’s salary at St. Paul’s and an organist of the
same name, though not necessarily the same person, is listed as the organist at
Dulwich College and All Hallows Barking by the Tower during the 1670s.
Had he lived only a few more years and played an active role in Restoration London posterity might well have treated Bryne and his keyboard music with a little more respect. As it is, his music is largely forgotten. This is a great pity since its attractive and well crafted qualities were greatly appreciated in its own day and to judge by the surviving copies, well into the 18th century. Like the keyboard music of his near contemporaries such as Locke, John Moss and John Roberts, Bryne’s suites occupy a unique position between the ‘Golden Age’ of the English Virginalists and the highly individual voices of English Baroque at the end of the century. It is hoped that this recording and the forthcoming edition of the music will help to redress three centuries of neglect.
Taken from Deux-Elles DXL1024.
Richard Gibbs' Almain and Corant