All his life, Byrd retained an affection for popular tunes. These three dances in A minor are clearly arrangements (they also survive in a lute version in BL Hirsch M. 1353
). It is not known at what date they were written. The titles in Forster draw attention to the French origin of the melodies. The first coranto is melodically and harmonically related to the pavan Belle qui tiens ma vie captive
in Thoinot Arbeau’s Orchésographie
(1588), which reappears as La coranta
, arranged by Morley in his Consort Lessons
(1599) and survives complete in the FVB
(No 218). The second does also (FVB
No 205), but anonymously, without its varied repeats and transposed into D minor.
All three corantos are the same basic length of 24 bars but their structure is not identical: the first is in two 6-bar sections, each of which is followed by a varied repeat (making four 6-bar phrases), while the other two are in three shorter sections, each with its varied repeat (six 4-bar phrases). The first coranto has an extra bar at the end, filled by a sonorous scale down to the low D, possibly suggesting that it originated as an independent work.
from notes by Davitt Moroney © 1999