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