Movement 1: Paven
Movement 2: Galliard
The eight notes of the bass pattern are here stretched out to fill the 32-bar phrases by making each one last four bars. Although the Passamezzo moderno bass is subjected to a sort of double augmentation, the bass tune itself is never really audible. Certainly, every four bars Byrd has a pre-ordained meeting with the appropriate note of the Passamezzo bass, but between these encounters his free-wheeling bass line continues on its way in a harmonically rich and unexpected manner. It follows that the phrase lengths are exceptionally long, even for Byrd. Since the first strain is followed by its varied repeat, the whole first paragraph of music occupies 64 bars, longer than many of his complete pavans. The Quadran works are only superficially in the ‘dance’ forms of pavan and galliard; since they should clearly be played linked together, they are transformed by the unifying presence of the Passamezzo moderno bass into a uniquely large-scale ground that defies comparison with anything else in English or continental keyboard music of the sixteenth or early seventeenth centuries. Byrd here created a unique musical language; the pavan also contains some of the most grinding dissonances found in any of his keyboard works.
The title ‘Quadran’ is related to the key G major, and to the square-shaped sign used in musical notation to define a natural for the B which is the major third in the tonic chord of G major. (The Passamezzo antico bass is in G minor, and has a B flat in the key signature to indicate the minor third in the tonic chord.) Since the note B natural was then referred to as ‘B quadratum’ the origins of the nickname ‘Quadran’ (sometimes written as Quadrant or Quadro) are clear. Morley refers to a popular version of the bass sung in barbers’ shops as a Gregory Walker: ‘That name in derision they have given this quadrant pavan, because it walketh amongst the barbars and fidlers more common than any other’ (PEIPM, p 120).
Three interesting Quadro settings for lute by John Johnson are known, which must predate Byrd’s settings. Morley and Bull also wrote early keyboard pavans with 32-semibreve sections (Forster, p 96 and FVB No 31, respectively), probably both in the late 1580s and under the influence of Byrd’s Passinge mesures; Byrd then seems to have replied with his Quadran setting in the 1590s, incorporating as he went, and perhaps in homage, little melodic and harmonic references to their less elaborate works. Bull later also wrote another more virtuoso setting, FVB No 32, some details of which, in turn, seem to return the compliment and pay tribute to Byrd’s Quadran.
Thomas Tomkins included Byrd’s remarkable Quadran pair on his first list of Lessons of worthe, going out of his way to note that they were ‘Excellent For matter’. Bull’s Quadran settings are included on the list as being ‘Excellent For the Hand’. This choice of words was no doubt not intended as a slight to Bull, whose Quadran works are technically brilliant. However, Tomkins was well placed to be able to recognise in his master’s work the quite exceptional quality of the musical material and of how it is handled.
from notes by Davitt Moroney © 1999