Hyperion Records

The firste pavian and galliarde, BK29
Nevell (Nos 10, 11), FVB (Nos 167, 168). [Neighbour, ‘Pavan & Galliard c1’ pp 86, 183, 189]

'Byrd: The Complete Keyboard Music' (CDS44461/7)
Byrd: The Complete Keyboard Music
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Movement 1: Pavian
Track 3 on CDS44461/7 CD6 [4'39] 7CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Movement 2: Galliarde
Track 4 on CDS44461/7 CD6 [1'43] 7CDs Boxed set (at a special price)

The firste pavian and galliarde, BK29
No known keyboard pavan by Byrd can be shown to predate this work, and indeed in the FVB a marginal annotation states that this is ‘the first that ever hee made’. However, since it is a keyboard version of an earlier work for 5-part consort (surviving under the title Pavinge in the part books BL Add MSS 37402-6), the FVB’s annotation may possibly refer unwittingly not so much to Byrd’s first keyboard pavan as to his first consort essay in this form, or perhaps it derives simply from the fact that Byrd placed it first in Nevell. Various other early keyboard pavans show signs of having begun life in consort form.

This work, which no doubt dates from about 1570, is a severe and serious ‘16-bar’ pavan, its six sections running to 96 semibreves. The full independence of the galliard from the pavan is also shown by the fact that it is not developed from the musical material of the pavan, a firm sign of Byrd’s own independence from the traditions that preceded him. Throughout all his dozens of galliards he maintains this distinction, always giving them new material. They are thus designed not so much as developments out of the pavans as in energetic contrast to them.

The C minor tonality, for an Elizabethan musician, was usually defined as the serious Dorian mode, twice transposed downwards a fifth, for even more sombre effect. Byrd used it for grave utterances, such as the motet Peccavi super numerum araenae maris (‘I have sinned above the number of the sands of the sea, and my transgressions have multiplied; and I am not worthy to behold the height of heaven for the abundance of my iniquity’) or the consort song ‘O that we woeful wretches could / Behold how soon this life doth pass / And mark with reason, as we should, / How flesh doth wither like the grass; / Then would we not for every straw / So highly break our Maker’s law’. C minor is a most unusual key in Elizabethan keyboard music, although curiously the only pavan in the earlier Mulliner Book, by Newman, is in the same key. (It dates from the 1560s and is probably also a transcription of a consort work, or possibly a lute piece.) Byrd used the same twice-transposed Dorian mode for the fifth Nevell pavan (see below) and Peter Philips later chose it for his grandly severe Pavana Pagget (FVB No 74). But it was avoided by most composers except organists, who were often required to transpose when accompanying a choir and were therefore more used to it than other musicians. Morley comments on a piece in a key with many flats that it is composed ‘in such a key as no man would have done, except it had been to have plaide it on the Organes with a quier of singing men, for indeede such shiftes the Organistes are many times compelled to make for the ease of the singers, but some have brought it from the Organe, and have gone about to bring it in common use’ (PEIPM, p 156). Byrd is thus clearly among the ‘some’ to whom Morley refers. The character of his first pavan is therefore heavily influenced by its deliberate choice of an unusually grave key and the thickly polyphonic five-part counterpoint derived from its consort origins.

from notes by Davitt Moroney © 1999

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