Richard Egarr - One Byrde in Hande - All Music
As one of the most versatile composers of the English Renaissance, William Byrd is celebrated for his polyphonic choral works, consort music, and keyboard pieces, and most of the latter category have come down to us in My Ladye Nevells Booke (1591), a manuscript of preludes, fantasies, and character pieces. One Byrde in Hande, Richard Egarr's 2018 Linn release, presents selections from that compilation, as well as pieces published in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, such as Ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la and Ut, mi, re, and two grounds from Will Forster's Virginal Book. Byrd's elaborate counterpoint, intricate musical puzzles, and humorous allusions make this music fascinating to study, and it took hold of Egarr's imagination in his twenties and has stayed with him throughout his career. Egarr performs on a 1991 harpsichord built by Joel Katzman, after a 1638 Ruckers, and the tuning (a' = 393Hz) is noticeably lower than the modern standard pitch, thus lending a slightly darker coloration to the music. While this recording only offers about a quarter of Byrd's keyboard output, it is representative of the different styles he worked in, and provides a vivid portrait of perhaps the most original and influential keyboard composer before Johann Sebastian Bach.