William Byrd was part of a generation of innovating musicians: Claudio Monteverdi, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, Girolamo Frescobaldi and Fransisco Correa de Arauxo are among his contemporaries. The diversity of genre and form within his work is remarkable, and although he observed European developments, and was stylistically inspired by his foreign peers, his music remains marked by a strong individuality, showing only little resemblance with the continental genres. His work is based rather on indigenous traditions, which he fundamentally renewed, particularly in his instrumental music. His fantasies, for example, display the form from entirely new, incomparably varied, perspective: imitative sections alternate with episodes of toccata or canzone, or even with dance sequences. Now and then several tonalities can be found simultaneously within one phrase which — according to his colleague Thomas Morley — »may never be suffered« in fantasies.
LÉON BERBEN was born in 1970 in Heerlen (the Netherlands), but has been living for several years in Cologne (Germany). He studied harpsichord and organ in Den Haag (Koninklijk Conservatorium) and Amsterdam (Sweelinck Conservatorium) with Rienk Jiskoot, Bob van Asperen, Ton Koopman and Gustav Leonhardt, and finished his studies with a solo-diploma for both instruments. Since March 2000 he has been harpsichordist with Musica Antiqua Köln (Reinhard Goebel). As such he has given concerts all over the world, travelling throughout Europe, Asia, and North- and South America and has recorded several CDs for Deutsche Grammophon / Archiv Produktion. Musica Antiqua Köln dissolved at the end of November 2006, and Léon Berben has since focussed his work on chamber music and, increasingly, on the solo-repertoire. He gives solo-recitals on harpsichord and organ. His solo-CDs on historic organs and harpsichords — above all with the labels Ramée and Aeolus — have been highly acclaimed in the press, and received numerous awards, including the »Vierteljahrespreis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik« and »Choc« of Le Monde de la Musique. Besides playing the harpsichord and organ, Léon Berben engages in debates on historical performance practice by writing articles and is also a co-author for Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart. His repertoire stretches from around 1550 to 1750, with his main interest focussing on German music, the Virginalists and Sweelinck.