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Hyperion Records

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Phoenix. A glass window specially designed, made and photographed by Malcolm Crowthers.
Track(s) taken from CDS44461/7
Recording details: March 1992
Ingatestone Hall, Ingatestone, Essex, United Kingdom
Produced by Edward Kershaw
Engineered by Mike Hatch
Release date: September 1999
Total duration: 8 minutes 4 seconds

Hugh Ashton's Grownde, BK20
Nevell (No 35), FVB (No 60), Forster (No 65), Weelkes (No 45) [Neighbour, p 127]

Introduction  EnglishFrançais
Several sacred vocal works by Hugh Aston (c1486-Nov 1558) survive, but often in fragmentary form; his famous keyboard Hornepype, probably dating from no later than the 1530s, is a lively piece which possibly inspired Byrd’s own Horne Pype (BK39). The bass used in this ground is derived from one found in a set of consort variations entitled Hugh Aston’s Maske, a work by Aston probably based on a pre-existent popular bass tune. Other known compositions based on the same ground include an anonymous Mass setting and an exceptionally fine anonymous keyboard work found in Weelkes (f. 97v; see Musica Britannica Vol LXVI, No 57), which has some similarities to Byrd’s work and might just possibly be an unidentified late work by Thomas Tallis.

Byrd’s work probably dates from the late 1570s. It is perhaps his only composition to exploit a high G sharp, a note that did not exist on most keyboards of the time. The composer may therefore have written it for a special instrument or a special patron. Could this be why it is called Tregian’s Ground in the FVB? Indeed, only Nevell calls it Hugh Ashton’s Grownde. The two titles need not be incompatible since the piece could have been written by Byrd for a member of the Catholic Tregian family, but built on Hugh Aston’s bass.

This ‘long’ ground (constructed on a repeating 12-bar bass pattern) in Aeolian A minor is one of Byrd’s finest and most harmonically expressive works, balancing elaborate keyboard figuration and cogent contrapuntal discourse. There are twelve variations. The first five unfold gradually, with increasingly rich harmonies and subtle cross-rhythms until, at the end of Variation 5, the quavers break loose; the triplets of Variation 7 continue to carry the music forward. Variation 9 is the most closely argued in polyphonic terms; indeed, it is almost argumentative in nature. In Variations 10 and 11 the quavers run freely again and the work ends with a richly harmonised statement of the bass tune, finally exploiting the lowest part of the keyboard. Thomas Tomkins, an excellent judge of pieces, included this ground on his first list of Lessons of worthe, and himself wrote a ground on the same bass, unfortunately now lost.

from notes by Davitt Moroney © 1999

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