The melody of these six variations, which probably date from the 1570s, is not known elsewhere, although it must have been a popular Elizabethan tune. Byrd’s setting deserves to be better known (and is one of his few sets of variations that could work effectively on the organ). The nostalgic nature of the highly melodic writing is never interrupted. Rather than transforming the melodic basis into faster and faster notes, here Byrd keeps the slow notes of the melody as a constant counterpoint to more rapid fingerwork, creating a curious sensation of two levels, two speeds. The descant added in the last variation is particularly fine.
from notes by Davitt Moroney © 1999