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The Mayden's Songe, BK82
Nevell (No 28), FVB (No 126). [Neighbour, p 150]

'Byrd: The Complete Keyboard Music' (CDS44461/7)
Byrd: The Complete Keyboard Music
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The Mayden's Songe, BK82
A few of Byrd’s earlier sets of song variations are more strictly polyphony than others, more akin to his consort writing, and this work is a case in point. It suits the sustained tones of a chamber organ particularly well, although it would sound equally fine on almost any keyboard instrument, or even arranged for viols. The words of the original song are not known.

Byrd presents the opening with the simplicity of a folksong, with the first line unaccompanied, somewhat akin to the opening of the Walsingham variations. The 16-bar melody has four distinct phrases, in ABCC quatrain form, similar to the C major Corranto (BK45) and Wilson’s Wilde (BK37). It is always clearly audible throughout the eight variations. The lyrical quality of the original melody imparts its character to all of Byrd’s counterpoints, especially the fine descant added over the last variation. The work certainly predates 1591, being in Nevell, but is probably from the 1570s or even as early as the 1560s. (An earlier keyboard setting of the same tune, much shorter and simpler, is found in the Mulliner Book.)

from notes by Davitt Moroney © 1999

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