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Byrd - Lord Willobies welcome home

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by jim_24601, Sep 12, 2011.

  1. jim_24601

    jim_24601 New Member

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    Something of an underrated composer, I think, William Byrd. A lot of people think that music starts with Bach (of course, a lot of people think that music ends with Bach, too, but that's by the by. :)

    Anyway, if I'm not mistaken today is the 420th anniversary of the completion of My Lady Nevells Booke of virginal music by John Baldwin (Byrd's copyist). This is one of the most important collections of Elizabethan keyboard music in existence, so to mark the occasion I have recorded a little piece from the booke; Lord Willobies (or Wiiloughby's) Welcome Home. Like several of the pieces in the booke, it is a set of variations on a popular tune of the day (so please don't be mad at me for recording popular music!)

    I hope the recording quality is OK; I am doing my best with Jane's old upright piano and my single mic. I did give it a touch of reverb. I've taken a rather unsystematic approach to ornamentation, since on a modern piano it's impractical and probably not desirable to try and get them all in, so I took basically whichever seemed appropriate and didn't require tying my fingers in too many knots.

    Hope you enjoy it.


    Lord willobies welcome home (2:06)
     
  2. Didier

    Didier Member Piano Society Artist

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    Is it really a piano ? It sounds like an instrument without capability for modulating the sound intensity, which is quite suitable to this music. Very nice ! (Except for the harsh pedal removal noise at the end.)
     
  3. RSPIll

    RSPIll New Member

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    Very enjoyable piece and performance. I felt like I was watching "The Tudors" without all of the sex and violence (shucks :lol: ).

    I've tried from time to time to play some of these pieces, but usually I can't quite get my head around them. For some reason I get lost in the Renaissance modality and the plethora of ornaments. I feel that your use of ornaments works very well. I guess that I will try not to be so OCD about them the next time I try such.

    Scott
     
  4. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I like that your interests run from pre-Bach to Kapustin.

    Byrd is probably one of the best English early composers for keyboard, and it's good to see another recording being provided here. Nice, vigorous, and bouncy playing, I think you did right not to try and play all the ornaments, which gives this music a frilly and fussy quality that I personally don't care for. The ending is a bit abrupt indeed, but I know it's sometimes difficult to avoid pedal sound after the end.
    For one tiny criticism, I wished for a bit more colour and improvisational feeling. One should not be afraid to apply some agogics or even discreet rubato ro baroque music, and some dynamic contrasts (even though the instruments of that time could not do that).

     
  5. jim_24601

    jim_24601 New Member

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    Thankyou all for your comments!

    It is certainly a piano, I can assure you. I've been told before that my current recording setup produces a kind of fortepiano sound, but this works with the baroque/renaissance music I've been recording, so I'm keeping it for the time being. A pianist can never resist putting in some phrasing, but big romantic dynamic flourishes are not in keeping with the style of music. (Yes, those dampers do go back down with quite a thump, don't they? I wasn't using pedal, so that must have been just the final chord. Perhaps I was so pleased at getting to the end of the take that I pulled my hands away with a bit too much of a flourish!)
     
  6. jim_24601

    jim_24601 New Member

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    Thank you, Scott. (Talking of which, I got into a bit of trouble with my wife yesterday. She mentioned that one of her new art contacts turned out to be a saxophonist, and I said "well, I would suggest that you two do a collaboration with you on fiddle, but there's too much sax and violins in the arts already." Then I had to run away quite fast.)

    Love those Renaissance harmonies! I was the same about ornaments when I started trying to play Byrd, but as you say I got into a terrible pickle, so I eventually decided that you can't get them all in on a modern piano and to go for a sort of representative sample. (Byrd still does occasionally make me suspect that Elizabethan people had an extra hand, since lost to the species, though!)
     
  7. jim_24601

    jim_24601 New Member

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    Thank you, Chris. I like to think I've got broad interests--I picked a choir to join on the same principles, in large part because of the variety of repertoire. I may have got into the Piano Society habit of picking composers who aren't much recorded ... not that there's anything wrong with that, of course.

    Yes ... it might be possible to take out the damper noise at the end, but I don't think my editing skills are up to doing so unobtrusively.

    I put in some minimal phrasing, but as I said above, I didn't want to romanticise the music too much. Your point about improvisational feeling is taken--I am really just starting out on music of this period and I'm sure I have much to learn. I could perhaps have done more with the piece if I'd had more time to prepare, but I specifically wanted to record it yesterday because of the anniversary I mentioned. (But then, does one ever feel one's done quite enough with a piece when it's recorded?)
     
  8. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I would hope not - or else I'd be in trouble,

    Definitely not :D
     
  9. jim_24601

    jim_24601 New Member

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    :) Thanks Chris. If you want to put the piece up, I can give you a paragraph or so about my ladye Nevells booke, if you think it'd be appropriate for the Byrd page (and you reckon it's merited for 2 minutes of music ... I am planning on learning some more out of the booke eventually, though).
     
  10. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Yes of course we are going to put this up. Do post that info, and advise how this one is to categorized.
     
  11. jim_24601

    jim_24601 New Member

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    OK, let's see:

    My Ladye Nevells Booke is one of the most important collections of Elizabethan keyboard music. Completed by the musical scribe John Baldwin in 1591, it contains 42 pieces by William Byrd, likely selected and edited by the composer to suit the tastes and skills of the dedicatee. If so, the lady's tastes ran towards stately dances, particularly the pavanes and galliards that make up a substantial part of the book. Also among the contents are grounds, voluntaries and fantasias, several sets of variations on popular songs and folk tunes of the day, and an early suite of descriptive music, The Battell. After being given to the lady Nevill (a pupil or patron of Byrd, whose exact identity is uncertain), the book was later presented to Queen Elizabeth I, and passed in and out of the hands of the Nevill family and various collectors over the following centuries. It now resides in the British Library.

    Is that the sort of thing? As far as categorising goes, we seem to go by musical form rather than by collection, so it probably goes under "variations", albeit the shortest set in the book with only 2 variations not counting the initial theme.
     
  12. musical-md

    musical-md New Member

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    Jim,
    I finally listened to this and really like it. I love the sound of "Jane's upright" piano, and agree with Chris that is has an "unmodulated" quality to it, that I describe as, "sounds like a piano but doesn't behave as a piano." Your performance was really excellent, taking me to another time and place. Thanks for posting this. I believe this is the first W. Byrd I have heard.

    Regards,
    Eddy
     
  13. pianoman342

    pianoman342 Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Jim,

    I had a listen to your recording, I think you played quite nicely. I haven't of Byrd, but this type of music brought to my mind a festive occasion where (and when) many cuts of mutton and glasses of mead would be served at a round table :lol: I imagine Byrd prefigured the enlightenment as "Lord Willobies," seems to be from a time when the divine right of kings was indeed a divine right!

    The ornaments sound quite tricky, requiring a certain nimbleness in the fingers and your recording here seems to prove that you have that skill! For criticism I did hear the pedal noise but I don't think it spoiled the performance, and regarding the sound, I think it sounds better than most. The sound is intimate and I feel like I can hear details such as the felt hammers hitting the strings. I have trouble getting this type of sound but usually I record either in a highly reflective practice room or a very spacey choir room..

    Thanks for sharing your performance,

    ~Riley
     
  14. jim_24601

    jim_24601 New Member

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    Thank you, Eddy! I should really be less disparaging about Jane's piano (particularly since she knows about this site!)--in truth, it has a nice sound and a good action, some unevenness of tone notwithstanding. The only real problem is that it doesn't hold its tuning very well any more. (There is a certain very English habit of self-deprecation that I perhaps indulge in more than I should, and it probably sounds strange if you aren't used to it; I don't really mean anything by it.) But I am glad you enjoyed the music. I do think that Byrd deserves his place among the great British composers, and that the music of the Renaissance has a lot to offer even today.
     
  15. jim_24601

    jim_24601 New Member

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    Thank you, Riley. In 1591, Elizabeth I was on the throne of England. It was an age of culture and exploration, more than of science--as you rightly say, the Enlightenment had yet to get going. It would be a good 50 years before Isaac Newton was born (and nearly a century before Bach). The Tudors ruled not so much by divine right as by right of being the last men standing after the Wars of the Roses, but Elizabeth was a moderate ruler; she acknowledged that she ruled with the consent of the people and her own advisers. Byrd himself, although a Catholic, was allowed to live in peace and, for the most part, to indulge his muse. I'm sure the Queen was perceptive enough to recognise him as a national treasure and no threat to the regime. The Elizabethan era is still regarded as something of a golden age for England. Unfortunately, the Stuarts who followed her were not so enlightened, which caused them a spot of trouble--by which I mean civil war, a decade of Republican rule and their eventual replacement by the House of Orange. The divine right of kings really went out with Henry VIII. But I think that's enough history lesson ... :)

    I am fortunate in that I have always had a natural facility for ornaments. (But as I said, I didn't try to get all the marked ornaments in!) For this recording, I had the front off the piano and the mic recording direct off the strings. The studio is just our living room, and the piano is against the wall, so if I leave the piano together and record from out in the room as it comes I don't get a very good sound. I might have had the mic a bit too close in this instance, hence the loud damper noise at the end. But an intimate sound, as you say, is better suited to early music, which doesn't really want a big concert-hall effect.

    Thank you for commenting and I am glad you enjoyed the piece!
     

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