Eminent composers of the madrigalian period offered an example to the world as writers of madrigals and Church music and were also distinguished as writers of instrumental music.
With the death of Orlando Gibbons (1625) the Madrigalian period may be said to draw towards a close. Gibbons was the last of the writers of the “great” period, and after his death music began to decline in those departments in which it had hitherto been finest, and to display energy in new directions.
In its way the country was as musical as ever; but the impulse of the Elizabethan age had spent itself, most of its masters were dead, the others were old men. The day of the great Elizabethans was gone.
As can readily be imagined, music and musicians received little or no countenance from the Puritans; for though Cromwell himself and a few others were fond of music, the great body of the Puritans regarded it at best with grave suspicion, and music lovers had to exercise a certain discretion in the pursuit of their favourite art.
By an Act of Parliament of the year 1643, the cathedral service had been declared abolished throughout the country; organs were pulled down, choirs disbanded, and such Church music as could be seized, destroyed.
Public musical performances were also interdicted, but beyond this, of course, legal enactment could scarcely go ; so that, Puritan disapproval notwithstanding, music was still very widely cultivated, albeit it had to be kept behind closed doors, as it were, and even then managed, as has already been said, with a certain discretion. The effects of legislation of this kind were, however, apart from the loss of many musical treasures, more apparent than real, and when the restriction was removed, music returned to its old position in the national life again, changed, it is true, but rather from natural causes than political ones.