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William Brade

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William Brade (1560 – February 26, 1630) was an English composer, violinist, and viol player of the late Renaissance and early Baroque eras, mainly active in northern Germany. He was the first Englishman to write a canzona, an Italian form, and probably the first to write a piece for solo violin.

Little is known about his early life. Around 1590 he left England to pursue a musical career in Germany, as did several other prominent English musicians, sensing better job opportunities abroad. He switched employments often between the various courts in north Germany and Denmark. Between his arrival in Germany, sometime around 1590, and 1594 he worked for the Brandenburg court; between 1594 and 1596 he worked for King Christian IV in Copenhagen; then until 1599 he was back in Brandenburg. He returned that year to Copenhagen, where he stayed until 1606. From 1606 to 1608 he worked at Bückeburg in Brunswick. From 1608 to 1610 he was employed in Hamburg, but he returned to Bückeburg in 1610. Evidently by 1612 he was again planning on switching jobs, for a letter surviving from that year, written by the count at Bückeburg, tells the Hamburg court pithily that he was a “wanton, mischievous fellow” and should not be allowed to have his way.

However, in spite of the warning by his former employer, by 1613 he was working in Hamburg. Two years later—he liked to swap jobs every two years—he moved back to Copenhagen, but in 1618 he moved on to Halle where he obtained the position of Kapellmeister to the Prince of Magdeburg.

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