'MY LADYE NEVELLS BOOKE' (1591) BY WILLIAM BYRD. HISTORY, STYLE, FORM, AND PERFORMANCE ASPECT OF THIS COLLECTION ('My Ladye Nevells Booke' (1591) Williama Byrda. Historia, styl, forma oraz wykonawcze aspekty zbioru)
This article presents a collection of works for the virginal, entitled 'My Ladye Nevells Booke' by William Byrd (1540-1623) of 1591. Most probably this collection was compiled by the composer himself, and also copied under his tutelage by John Baldwin. It contains 42 compositions among which are pairs of dances, such as pavane-galliard, the prototypes of the later suite, and also technically advanced examples of variations. Byrd was one of the first composers who undertook a form of keyboard variations after the Spanish composer Antonio Cabezon, which were usually based on the melodies of well-known songs or dances. The variations included in 'My Ladye Nevells Booke' belong to the most virtuoso works of Byrd, thanks to his exploiting such technically advanced ideas as quick passages performed according to the 'old' fingering, sequences of parallel thirds and sixths, as well as an unusual rhythmic variety. These compositions quickly became part of the world of Baroque variations. This group of works is supplemented by the variations based on the ostinato base called in England as the ground. 'My Ladye Nevells Booke' is an example of a collection created at the time of the change from the Renaissance to the Baroque. On the one hand we see here pairs of dances and inventive variations; on the other hand one also finds examples of fantasies based on ancient techniques, such as fauxbourdon and hocket, and also harmony which seemingly refers to the medieval modes. Yet there also emerge fragments which foreshadow the tonal system. Thus, Byrd's collection confirms the opinion of the Belgian musicologist Charle de Borren who observed that 'at the beginning the experience of tonality was an empirical one, still without its own theory'. Apart from discussing the aspects of the form of these works in this collection of the English composer, this article raises problems about the performance of the virginalists' music, such as the characteristic of the instrument itself, the issue of historical fingering, ornamentation, and the history of the edition of Byrd's collection. 'My Ladye Nevells Booke' certainly deserves interest on the part of both musicologists and performers, since it is one of the earliest sources of knowledge of the musical forms composed in England at the end of the 16th century, and of its style. Above all Byrd's oeuvre opens a splendid period in the history of the music of English virginalists, a era which also delights us today.
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