This ground is one of Byrd’s finest based on a long bass pattern, and probably dates from no earlier than the mid-1580s. It has an overall structure akin to, and perhaps derived from, the Qui passe, for my Ladye Nevell
, BK19. However, here he invented for himself a fundamentally more interesting harmonic pattern for the bass. The 24-bar ground contains three 8-bar phrases, each starting on the different chords of A major, G major and C major, respectively; the result is a considerably less foursquare phrase-structure than the one he was stuck with in the Qui passe
, and a wider harmonic palette, allowing the work comfortably to occupy different tonal areas. There are six variations of increasing complexity, leading to a short but florid coda in which Byrd’s delight in the piece is as tangible as his reluctance to leave it.
from notes by Davitt Moroney © 1999