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Will yow walke the woods so wylde, BK85
Nevell (No 27), FVB (No 67), Forster (No 17), Weelkes (No 47). [Neighbour, p 156]

'Byrd: The Complete Keyboard Music' (CDS44461/7)
Byrd: The Complete Keyboard Music
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Track 1 on CDS44461/7 CD4 [4'36] 7CDs Boxed set (at a special price)

Will yow walke the woods so wylde, BK85
This song appears to have been especially popular in sixteenth-century England, and one of the most easily identifiable. Sir Peter Carew is said to have sung to Henry VIII a song with the text ‘As I walked the wode so wylde’. Sir Thomas Wyatt wrote a poem based on the same idea: ‘I muste go walke the woodes so wyld / And wander here and there’. The song ‘Will you walk the woods so wilde’, attributed to Charles Jackson, occurs in the Giles Lodge Lute Book (1571). The melody was later known as ‘Greenwood’. Snatches of it crop up in Dowland’s The Right Honourable Robert, Earl of Essex, his Galliard, and there is another fine keyboard setting by Orlando Gibbons, with nine variations (FVB, No 40).

Various versions of the title of Byrd’s piece are found (in the FVB: The Woods so Wild; and in another source: mr birds wandringe the woodes).The 8-bar melody has the beautiful characteristic of alternating two bars of F major with two bars of G major, creating gentle harmonic shocks not only throughout each variation but also between variations.

Byrd’s setting is dated 1590 in both Nevell and the FVB, and is the only piece by him to be precisely dated in the sources. It also survives in five other manuscripts, a sure sign of its popularity. Variations 12 and 13 are missing in Nevell, probably an indication that they were composed later, as part of a revision. Nevertheless, the original structure in Nevell is excellent. The melody is clearly audible in the first half of the work, migrating in pitch from the alto register (Variations 1, 3-6) and the soprano (Variations 2, 7). For Variations 8 to 12 it more or less disappears, although the ear supplies it without problem. For the last two variations it returns, first in the alto then triumphantly at the upper octave for the last variation. This is a newly thought-out approach to Byrd’s habit of adding a descant for the last variation; the melody, by being lifted up to the top of the instrument, itself serves here as a sort of descant, supported by rich 6-part chords. Unusually for Byrd’s variations, a little coda extends the cadence to reinforce the sense of finality.

from notes by Davitt Moroney © 1999

Track-specific metadata
Details for CDS44461/7 disc 4 track 1
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 4 Track 1
    Release date: September 1999
    Deletion date: July 2010
    7CDs Superseded by CDS44461/7
  2. Byrd: The Complete Keyboard Music (CDS44461/7)
    Disc 4 Track 1
    Release date: September 2010
    7CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
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