Movement 1: Paven
Movement 2: The Galliard
I suspect that the epithet Eccho probably only became attached to them after their composition. The word is now somewhat misleading. Byrd’s echo technique does not rely on the use of separate manuals (as in Sweelinck’s Echo Fantasies, for example) since harpsichords and virginals (and most English organs) only had one manual. In the Eccho Paven and its galliard, the ‘echo’ is heard in the right hand, at the same pitch as the first statement: the first three notes of the right hand are immediately heard again, but the echo is not hidden or any less loud than the leading part. As such the work is perhaps closer to pieces whose imitative techniques are so dense that they are in effect written in free canon. Moreover, in the varied repeats of each strain the echo repetition is maintained.
The echo technique may be most easily understood by listening first to the galliard, one of Byrd’s most vigorous. With strict regularity, the melody heard in the right hand in each bar is repeated in the next, as if an extra voice were entering, enriching the texture. Only at the end does Byrd broaden this one-bar repetition scheme to allow for a two-bar delay in the last phrase, as it descends a full octave scale. In this rich closing passage Byrd works a fine alto imitation into the first statement of strain 3 which, curiously, appears to have been omitted by the copyist in the varied repeat but is perfectly playable and completes the harmonies; I have therefore restored it in the closing bars. Throughout the work, while the melodic fragments in the right hand are always strictly repeated, Byrd never once repeats the harmonies, textures or rhythms of the accompaniment in the left hand.
Turning back to the pavan, it is easily recognisable as a ‘16-bar’ pavan, with six sections running to 96 semibreves. It also has, unusually for Byrd, a tonal scheme similar to that of the galliard: the three strains of both start on chords of G major, C major and F major, this strong last key asserting the characteristic flavour necessary for the G-Mixolydian mode. The repetition-imitation is much freer than in the galliard. The pitches or the lengths of the notes of the ‘echoing’ part are not always literal, and are sometimes freely changed; the echoing repetitions are placed at first after one bar (at the beginning of each strain), then expanded to two bars (in the middle of the first strain), and finally contracted to half a bar (in the middle of the third strain). This supple repetition technique reinforces each phrase and indeed, in both these works the echo statements are almost always stronger than what they imitate, not weaker, as the word ‘echo’ might suggest.
The originality of these works ‘betrays its author in every dimension, from the precision and vitality of detail that characterize his late style to the masterly clarity and assurance with which the design is carried through’ (Neighbour).
from notes by Davitt Moroney © 1999