THE QUEENES COMMAND (1685-1750)
Masterpieces of Elizabethan Keyboard Music
Orlando GIBBONS (1583-1625)
The Queenes Command
Mask: The Fairest Nymph
Mask: Lincoln’s Inn
Fantasia (Tone 2 Transposed)
The Wood So Wild
Galliard: Lady Hatton
John BULL (C.1562-1628)
Lord Lumley’s Pavan
Lord Lumley’s Galliard
[The] King’s Hunt
In Nomine (Ix)
William TISDALE (Late 16th Cent.)
Giles FARNABY (C. 1563-1640)
John DOWLAND (1563-1626)
Pavana Lachrimae (Est By William Byrd)
William BYRD (1543-1623)
The Queen’s Alman
Lord Willobies Welcome Home
The Carman’s Whistle
Joseph Payne, harpsichord
Rec: May and August 1991, Forde Estate, Boston.
BIS-CD 539 [74.25]
The Elizabethan period in England was a time of a musical
renaissance, if not the birth of a true musical culture and idiom in
England. Since the queen herself played music - she played lute and
keyboard - the kingdom became a hotbed of musical production and performance.
In a short period of time, English composers developed their own unique
sound and style, in music often for solo instruments - lute, viol, keyboard
- as well as for viol consort.
This recording is a panorama of the major composers
of this fertile period, and shows the diversity of styles and forms
used in keyboard compositions. Joseph Payne, ever the eclectic performer,
has chosen some well-known pieces as well as some less familiar works,
and plays them on three different instruments - two harpsichords and
Orlando Gibbons was one of the most important
keyboard composers of the time. His Fantasia is similar to a toccata,
in its use of different sections within the same work. This flowing
piece is a fine example of Gibbons’ keyboard works, with its interesting
combination of melodic and contrapuntal elements.
John Bull was an organist and keyboard composer
whose most famous keyboard works are his variations. His In Nomine (IX),
the longest piece on this disk at just under 8 minutes, is a work of
this kind, where a theme is played at a relatively slow tempo and variations
are added and embellished. One must listen closely to hear the theme
in this work; Bull’s variations tend to stray from their themes.
John Dowland is best known for his lute music
and songs; in fact, he did not write for the keyboard at all. The Pavana
Lachrymae (in an arrangement by William Byrd) is a keyboard version
of what was probably the biggest "hit" of the Elizabethan
period. Dowland’s Lachrymae, for lute, and its song version, Flow my
tears, was transcribed and arranged by composers all around Europe,
including Dowland himself, who even wrote seven "versions"
of it for viol consort. Byrd’s arrangement captures the melancholic
tone of the original, yet gives it an incisiveness that is not heard
on the lute, with its softer sound.
William Byrd was undoubtedly the greatest keyboard
composer of the time, in addition to writing sacred music and organ
music. The few works on this disc do not give justice to the wide variety
of his keyboard compositions, but nevertheless give a sample of his
work. His music can be very melodic, almost song-like, as in The Queen’s
Alman or Lord Willobies welcome home. These two pieces feature very
singable melodies, which Byrd embellishes and ornaments in a savant
manner on the keyboard. The Carman’s Whistle is a deceptively simple
sounding piece, based on a very short melody that is played and replayed
through as series of variations in 2, 3 and even 6 voices. This popular
melody, used by other composers as well, was used to create one of Byrd’s
finest, most melodic variation sets, and is the perfect closing piece
for this disc.
As always, Joseph Payne plays excellently, using subtle
variations in touch and a variety of instruments to best interpret each
piece. All the instruments here are excellent, the recording perfect,
and the only thing lacking is perhaps more extensive liner notes - while
they give an overview of the period, they do not discuss the individual
pieces at all.
An excellent selection and performance of some of the
finest English keyboard music of the Elizabethan period. A must-have
disc for anyone who wants to discover the infinite variety of music
from this time.