It is particularly difficult to date this fine pair of works. They use low F sharps at the same time as low Ds in the left hand, in rather growling chords that are more typical of early seventeenth-century writing. These are Byrd’s only keyboard pieces in B flat major, a key that was extremely unusual at the time and apparently avoided even by composers of the next generation (apart from Thomas Warrock, in a pavan and galliard, FVB
No 97). Byrd treats B flat major as a double transposition downwards of the Ionian mode (close to modern C major), resulting in both movements of the work having a key scheme that now appears rather modern since the three strains of the pavan start on chords of B flat major, G minor and F major, whereas the three strains of the galliard start on B flat major, E flat major and F major; this arrangement defines the tonic major (to use modern terminology) by reference to the relative minor, subdominant and dominant. The hypothesis that these might be works dating from his maturity would be supported by the fact that they are not present in Nevell
. Nevertheless, their musical language seems closer to the strictly polyphonic consort tradition, an approach normally associated with Byrd’s works dating from the 1570s. Perhaps these pieces are simply arrangements for keyboard, made in the 1580s or early 1590s (consistent with their appearance in Weelkes
), of consort works originally written some twenty years earlier.
Another distinctive feature appears when the unusual phrase structure is perceived. Although the pavan is a ‘16-bar’ work, only the first two strains (and their ornamented repeats) are of orthodox length since the third strain and its repeat curiously last 18 semibreves each, thereby adding 4 semibreves to the normal structure. This would seem to confirm that the work is not conceived as music for dancing. Since the six sections last exactly 100 semibreves rather than the more normal 96, it may be noted that Byrd just manages to satisfy the rule, explained by Morley, that in pavans and galliards ‘you must cast your musicke by foure, so that if you keepe that rule it is no matter how many foures you put in your straine, for it will fall out well enough in the ende’ (PEIPM, p 181). Certainly, this work falls out well enough in the end, from all points of view, and is one of Byrd’s most satisfying.
from notes by Davitt Moroney © 1999