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Qui passe, for my Ladye Nevell, BK19
Nevell (No 2), Forster (No 9). [Neighbour, p 130]

'Byrd: The Complete Keyboard Music' (CDS44461/7)
Byrd: The Complete Keyboard Music
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Qui passe, for my Ladye Nevell, BK19
The starting point for this series of three variations, as John Ward pointed out, is the celebrated Chi passa per questa strada, first published as a Villotte alla Padoana by Filippo Azzaiuolo in Venice in 1557 (although no doubt of earlier origin). Its great popularity led to many arrangements being made all over Europe. Lassus sang it to his own lute accompaniment at the wedding of Duke William V of Bavaria and Renée de Lorraine in 1568. Over forty different sixteenth-century versions survive. Byrd need not have known the Italian original directly since versions circulated in Britain from the 1550s onwards, with titles such as Kapasse or Kapassa (as in Forster), or even Kypascie. In lute sources it is sometimes referred to as a galliard. The most interesting keyboard version before Byrd occurs as the last work in the Dublin Virginal Manuscript (Trinity College Library, D.3.30/i) which, although dated 1583, contains repertoire from the 1560s. John Johnson also wrote a fine setting for lute duet.

Byrd seems to acknowledge the Italianate origins of the work in his use of chordal accompaniments, with plenty of block chords, parallel octaves and fifths (normally forbidden in ‘serious’ composition), similar to those found in Italian music he might have played as a youth (for example, the Intabolatura nova di balli, Venice 1551). His piece may date from the 1570s, or possibly the early 1580s. The dedication in Nevell might seem to suggest the later date, yet the musical style seems somewhat closer to that of the early ‘short’ grounds (BK9, 43, 86). As in those three works, the bass notes (and therefore the harmonies they can support) are not very varied or even variable. Byrd brings them to life with unexpected cross-rhythms and imitations. He organised the bass into an 8-bar and a 12-bar phrase, and added varied repeats to each, making a 40-bar structure; he then added two complete variations on this 40-bar harmonic scheme.

If Lady Nevell received a work that Byrd had written some fifteen or twenty years earlier, it can only mean he was still rather pleased with it — pleased enough, anyway, to return to the scheme, probably in the later 1580s, to write a new piece for Lady Nevell based on the same approach. The result was My Ladye Nevell’s Grownde (BK57).

from notes by Davitt Moroney © 1999

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