This arrangement is based on one of Dowland’s most popular compositions. Diana Poulton considered this elegiac galliard to be ‘of all [Dowland’s] galliards ... perhaps the most beautiful’. He left it in four forms, all in G minor. The solo lute galliard was probably the earliest, and belongs with the highly expressive Mayster Pyper’s Pavyn in the same key (set for keyboard in A minor by Martin Peerson; see FVB No 182; also arranged in Morley’s compilation of Consort Lessons of 1599, No 4, in G minor). Dowland then transformed the galliard into the despairing song If my complaints, the fourth piece in The First Booke of Songs (1597), where it was presented in two versions – a solo song for voice and lute, and a four-voice Ayre. Finally, he published a consort version as Captaine Piper his Galiard, the eighth galliard in Lachrymae (1604).
In 1585, three years before Sir Francis Drake’s famous game of bowls, fear was already growing in the British Isles that Spain would soon send an ‘invincible armada’ of ships to invade the country. The young Cornishman Digory Piper (1559-1590) was authorized to patrol the Channel in his ship the Sweepstake and to attack Spanish vessels ‘for the apprehendinge and takinge whatsoever the shippes, goodes and merchaundizes belonging to the subjects of the Kinge of Spaine’. However, Diana Poulton has shown that he spent the next few months attacking French, Dutch, Flemish and Danish ships. He was finally arrested on 10 June 1586. Formally condemned for ‘plaine piracie’, he managed to escape execution but died three years later at the age of thirty. The original lute piece must date from about 1582-85, when Dowland was in his early twenties (as was Piper). Two particularly virtuoso keyboard settings by Bull (transposed up a tone into A minor) are found in the FVB (Nos. 182, 183), which clearly confirm a slow tempo for this sombre piece; a consort arrangement of the galliard, in G minor, is found in Morley’s 1599 volume of Consort Lessons (No 5).
The G minor keyboard version presented here has only recently been attributed to Byrd. It is anonymous in the only source. Another much less competent G minor keyboard setting of the same Dowland galliard, on f. 18 of Christ Church, Oxford, Music MS 431, is erroneously attributed to ‘mr Birde’. This Forster arrangement shows certain features of Byrd’s style, notably the manner in which the arrangement is not mechanical; indeed, it does not hesitate to rewrite and improve certain passages. It is impossible to date this transcription precisely, but the fact that it is based on the solo lute version points to a possible date of 1585-95. The last eight bars (the varied repeat of the last strain) are missing in the manuscript; the reconstruction played here is by Alan Brown.
from notes by Davitt Moroney © 1999