Hugh Aston [Ashton, Assheton]

(ca. 1485- d. Nov. 1558?)

English composer. Hugh Aston, with seven large-scale works to his credit, is the most important of the less famous composers represented in the Forrest-Heyther and Peterhouse partbooks. He graduated Bachelor of Music at Oxford in 1510. It was fitting therefore that the choirmaster's post at Cardinal College, Oxford which Taverner was persuaded to take was first offered to him. Aston may have been in London and associated with the royal court from 1510 to 1525.Aston was master of the choristers at St Mary Newarke College, Leicester in 1525, and remained there until the College was dissolved in 1548. Drew a pension in Newarke granted in 1544 until Nov. 17, 1558. He was not the eponymous Archdeacon of York (d. 1522) or Canon of St. Stephen's, Westminster (d. 1523).

He has 'A Hornepype' for keyboard in a MS in the British Museum; he may also have composed My lady Careys dompe and The short mesure off my lady Wynkfyld's rownde.

Much of Aston's music is in fact very vigorous and forceful, sometimes rather in the manner of Taverner, but with a fondness for tiny florid touches which sometimes produce rather rough unessential dissonances. Some of the imitative writing for full choir in the Mass Videte manus meas (cantus firmus an antiphon from Vespers of Easter Tuesday) is similar in its energetic quality to parts of Taverner's Gloria tibi Trinitas, especially at 'rex coelestis' or 'descendit de coelis'; but in general there is a far more mechanical handling of less interesting shapes.

The best of Aston is probably to be found in the antiphons Gaude virgo mater Christi and Ave Maria divae matris Annae. The melodic style here occasionally points ahead quite strikingly to that of later composers in the new boldness of outline of some important melodic phrases; in particular one notes in several places a new kind of melodic expansion in which an important interval is enlarged when imitated to help create a sense of growth and climax.

A Partial Hugh Aston Discography  |  IV M: England Through 1635  |  English Keyboard Composers Index   |   Latin Church Music 1460-1575: The Composers