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|Davitt Moroney (muselar)|
The significant battle in the Irish Campaign took place in 1578, and Alan Brown has shown how several of Byrd’s different musical scenes in The Battell seem to correspond to some of the twelve engravings in John Derricke’s The Image of Irelande (published in 1581), showing battles between the English and the Irish, foot soldiers and horse soldiers on the march, the English accompanied by trumpets and the Irish by bagpipes, etc. Given the fact that The Battell is unremittingly in C major, it looks less interesting on paper than it turns out to be in sound; indeed commentators are more cautious of it than are concertgoers, who take it for what it is, an amusing piece of descriptive music, perhaps closer to the manoeuvres of toy soldiers rather than to the dust and blood of war. I chose to play The Battell on the muselar virginals, exploiting all its possible noises. The astonishing sound of the arpichordium stop (little metal hooks that touch the strings and make them twang) during The Trumpetts certainly made it worthwhile...
There is a long tradition of musical ‘battle pieces’, from Clément Janequin (La Guerre or La Bataille, commemorating the battle of Marignano, 1515) onwards. Other notable works include Bull’s keyboard work A Battle and no Battle. Quotations from well-known ‘battle tunes’ also occur in two lute works by Dowland, the Battle Galliard (also known as The King of Denmark’s Galliard), and Mr Langtons Galliard.
The two pieces associated with Byrd’s The Battell, The Marche before the Battell and The Galliard for the victorie, clearly form a separate pair of works in a different key (G major), and fine pieces they are. It is worth listening to them independently, omitting The Battell, just to appreciate their richness of invention. The March is called The Earle of Oxfords Marche in the FVB (No 259), although the Earl of Oxford took no part in the Irish campaign. Morley includes the tune in his compilation of Consort Lessons (1599), under the title My Lord of Oxenfords Maske. Dowland also drew on it for his somewhat different Lord Strangs March.
The nine sections of Byrd’s work are as follows: (a) the Souldier’s sommons; (b) the Marche of footemen; (c) the Marche of horsemen; (d) the Trumpetts; (e) the Irishe marche; (f) the Bagpipe and the drone; (g) the Flute & the droome; (h) the Marche to the fighte ; tantara, tantara ; the battells be ioyned; (i) the Retreat.
from notes by Davitt Moroney © 1999
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