Sometimes there is a tension between words and music that disrupts the ‘perfect balance’ for which lute-song composers are famous. This must have been deliberate. Now, O now, I needs must part
is a good example. Few at the time, and certainly no one now, could say for certain whether there was any love involved in the duc d’Alençon’s unsuccessful suit of Elizabeth I. The Frog Galliard
was associated with d’Alençon’s departure, and Now, O now
put words to the tune. Elizabeth’s letters show that he wasn’t entirely convinced about her age. She disliked his pockmarked appearance; and they both felt aggrieved that the blandishments of love hadn’t produced enough hard cash to cement a marriage settlement. The jaunty triple metre may be intended to parody the supposed lovers’ sense of their own tragic misfortune or to reflect a courtship that had become something of a public farce, but the words and the nostalgia of the setting are unexpectedly moving.
from notes by Elizabeth Kenny © 2008