Hyperion Records

Sellinger's Rownde, BK84
composer
Nevell (No 37), FVB (No 64). [Neighbour, p 149]

Recordings
'Byrd: The Complete Keyboard Music' (CDS44461/7)
Byrd: The Complete Keyboard Music
MP3 £30.00FLAC £30.00ALAC £30.00Buy by post £33.00 CDS44461/7  7CDs Boxed set (at a special price)  
Details
Track 10 on CDS44461/7 CD1 [6'11] 7CDs Boxed set (at a special price)

Sellinger's Rownde, BK84
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One of Byrd’s most well-known pieces, this ‘round’ in Mixolydian G major is based on a popular tune, probably of Irish origin. (The name Sellinger’s Rownde may be derived from ‘St. Leger’s Round’, a reference to Henry VIII’s Lord Deputy for Ireland, Sir Anthony St. Leger.) This work dates from the composer’s middle period, probably the early 1580s and certainly before 1591 since it is in Nevell. A fine anonymous setting for two lutes survives, probably written by John Johnson, which must also date from the 1580s. Byrd’s work bears some clear resemblances to his earlier ‘Round,’ the set of variations called Gypseis Round (BK80), which is based on a similar 20-bar tune, which also has the same the jig rhythms and G major tonality. Nevertheless, Sellinger’s Rownde achieves what it sets out to do with greater perfection than its predecessor. Irrepressible dance rhythms bubble up and over in every bar. Michael Tippett quotes from Byrd’s setting in his Divertimento on Sellinger’s Round for chamber orchestra (1954).

Normally, Byrd adds a descant above the melody only in the last variation, but he does so here in Variation 5 as well as in Variation 9. Although he usually eschews ready-made figurative accompaniments, in Variation 6 he throws off in the left hand, with amused mastery, some traditional English scales in doubled thirds. (This potentially sterile technique is here varied in a sufficiently dangerous fashion to keep the player fully awake...). Then Byrd moves rapidly on to more interesting musical ‘matter’. At two moments, the music seems set to become more introspective, in the middle of Variation 7 and again, more intensely, in Variation 8; but these fleeting moments of hesitation are rapidly blown away by sunnier thoughts.

Glenn Gould, one of the few pianists to have expressed a passionate interest in Byrd’s keyboard music, was sufficiently impressed by the sudden B flat chord in the last variation to write about it. The chord is indeed striking, but I find myself considerably more struck by the exceptional nature of the whole piece and by its overall conception. The constant variety of keyboard technique, the melodic and rhythmic richness and the bouncingly youthful energy all firmly announce a composer clearly aware of his own exceptional skills, a musician who above all liked communicating his pleasure to other players and listeners. Thomas Tomkins rightly included Sellinger’s Rownde in his first list of Lessons of worthe!

from notes by Davitt Moroney © 1999

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