Hyperion Records

The Second Ground, BK42
composer
Nevell (No 30). [Neighbour, p 126]

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 12 on CDS44461/7 CD1 [8'56] 7CDs Boxed set (at a special price)

The Second Ground, BK42
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Here is one of Byrd’s finest compositions. The title derives from the fact that in the only source the first work in ground form is My Ladye Nevell’s Ground (BK57); this is thus the second one in the manuscript. The work’s presence in Nevell confirms that it had been composed by 1591, and probably by 1580. Like Hugh Ashton’s Grownde, it is based on a pre-existent bass, in the present case one in C major (Ionian mode) known as ‘Goodnight’. Byrd had already used the same bass for his Prelude and Ground for 5-part consort, but this quite independent keyboard piece is even more satisfying structurally, melodically, harmonically and rhythmically. The fact that the ground tune itself is genuinely melodic, rather than just outlining a chordal scheme, gives Byrd the opportunity not only to explore an astonishing range of harmonic variety but also to use the ground tune as a treble melody in the second half of the piece.

This bass melody is a ‘long’ ground (it lasts for twelve bars). There are two 4-bar phrases, the end of each of which is marked by a little 2-bar phrase of different character, creating a most original ‘4+2, 4+2’ form for each variation. The 2-bar phrases are either quiet in the context of a loud variation or loud in the context of a quiet one; or perhaps slow in a fast one or fast in a slow one; or triplets after duplets, duplets after triplets, etc. Particularly notable is the moment at the start of Variation 12 when Byrd lifts the ground melody out of the bass and into the treble. (A comparably striking use of the same effect occurs in Bach’s organ Passacaglia.) It stays there until the end of the work, although the little 2-bar interruptions remain in the bass, adding a still further element of contrast. Such features give a uniquely discursive quality to Byrd’s closely-argued musical structure, sustained over seventeen variations (indeed, this is one of Byrd’s longest works). The final variation explores both the lowest and the highest range of the keyboard.

The Second Ground is a compelling example of Byrd at his most creative, paying the greatest attention to detail. Listeners who pay it the compliment of listening with as much attention will find that it amply repays their efforts. Neighbour also mentions a final special feature, the ‘altogether exceptional lyric appeal’.

from notes by Davitt Moroney © 1999

Track-specific metadata
Details for CDS44461/7 disc 1 track 12
Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-98-55112
Duration
8'56
Recording date
31 March 1992
Recording venue
Ingatestone Hall, Ingatestone, Essex, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Edward Kershaw
Recording engineer
Mike Hatch
Hyperion usage
  1. Byrd: The Complete Keyboard Music (CDA66551/7)
    Disc 1 Track 12
    Release date: September 1999
    Deletion date: July 2010
    7CDs Superseded by CDS44461/7
  2. Byrd: The Complete Keyboard Music (CDS44461/7)
    Disc 1 Track 12
    Release date: September 2010
    7CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
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