The melody is not of English origin. It was already popular internationally in the 1560s; a version was published in Erfurt in 1572 with the title Von Gott will ich nicht lassen
(and a later version of this chorale occurs in several of Bach’s vocal and organ works: see BWV417-419, 658). Since Byrd’s arrangement of the Dorian G minor tune and his two lively variations on it probably date from the 1580s or 1590s, the dedicatee would appear to be Queen Elizabeth. The structure of the melody is of two unequal phrases, the first of four bars, the second twice as long, and each carries its own varied repeat. This whole structure is then repeated twice by Byrd. As is usual in such variations, a descant is placed over the original melody in the last section, and in this case it is particularly fine, soaring in vocal style to the highest note of the instrument. This work illustrates how misleading the titles of Byrd’s works can sometimes be. The Queenes Alman
is in many ways similar to Rowland
, where Byrd adds two variations onto a comparable pre-existent tune in G minor. To consider them as different just because one is a ‘dance’ and the other a set of ‘song variations’ would be an artifical and arbitary distinction which pays more attention to what Byrd started with than what he did with his material.
from notes by Davitt Moroney © 1999