> William Byrd - John Come Kiss Me Now [KM]: Classical CD Reviews- Jun2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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William BYRD (c. 1540 - 1623)
John Come Kiss Me Now

Fantasia, Bk 25
Sellinger's Round, Bk 84
Hugh Aston's Ground Or Tregian's Ground, Bk 20
Pavan : Ph. Tregian, Bk 60a
Galliard, Bk 60b
Walsingham, Bk 8
Callino Casturame, Bk 35
Prelude, Bk 12
Fantasia, Bk 13
My Lady Nevell's Ground, Bk 57
The Queen's Alman, Bk 10
Alman, Bk 89
Lavolta, Bk 91
Qui Passe For My Lady Nevell, Bk 19
The Woods So Wild, Bk 85
John Come Kiss Me Now, Bk 81
The Bells, Bk 38
Andreas Staier, harpsichord
Rec: August 2001, DeutschlandRadio Köln, Cologne, Germany
TELDEC 0927 42205-2 [73.12]

William Byrd is one of the finest keyboard composers ever to emerge from the fecund period of musical development in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Better known, during his lifetime, as an organist and composer of masses, he also played a key role in the development of music printing at the end of the 16th century. Byrd helped popularise the virginal, a keyboard instrument small and simple enough to be played in homes, and this music was collected in several books, such as Parthenia, the printing of which Byrd may have been involved in, My Ladye Nevells Booke, which contains 42 works by Byrd, and the Fitzwilliam Virginal book, a vast collection of works by different composers.

The centrepiece of Byrdís keyboard music is his pavans and galliards, though this disc contains only one of these paired dance movements; one can only hope that Staier will be releasing a recording of these fine works as well. This recording features a selection of works from a variety of sources, and gives a good overview of Byrdís music for the virginal.

Byrdís keyboard music is of four types. Fantasias, which are improvisatory in nature, Grounds, which are developed on repeating bass patterns, Variation sets, which are melodic variations on a theme, and Dance movements, such as pavans and galliards. Staier gives a fine selection of each of these forms. Callino Casturame is a simple example of a variation set, with six variations around a melody, with increasing complexity and ornamentation. This type of work shows off the virtuosity of the performer, and Staier is brilliantly exuberant here.

My Ladye Nevells Ground is a 24-measure bass ground with six variations. This is a more complex work, harmonically, and features rhythmic variety and some chromaticism. Staier sounds a bit confusing at times in this difficult piece, but, overall, gives a fine performance. The fantasias are where he excels, however. The opening Fantasia is a subtle, delicate piece, with layers of ornamentation and a free rhythmic structure. It sounds almost like a musical discourse as it increases gradually in phrases and melodic material. Staier masters perfectly the subtle differences in tone and rhythm needed to make this piece work, and, combined with an excellent sounding harpsichord, makes this one of the most satisfying works on the disc.

This excellent disc leaves one wanting more. While Davitt Moroneyís complete survey of Byrdís keyboard music still remains at the summit of the discography of this great composer, one can only hope that Staier records more of these works. His attention to detail and subtle manner of playing make this a very satisfying recording.

Kirk McElhearn

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