Richard Egarr - One Byrde in Hande - American Record Guide
William Byrd’s harpsichord music is well served in recordings. Its purity of contrapuntal line rewards aficionados of great craftsmanship. It offers a wide expressive range to enterprising performers. Beyond the dances and polyphonic fantasias, there are clever and humorous character pieces. What makes Richard Egarr’s album “One Byrde in Hande” different from similar single-disc programs by his colleagues? He includes Byrd’s fantasia on Ut mi re that is found only in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book. But most remarkable is his idiosyncratic and overwhelming performance of The Bells. He holds the notes down as long as possible, creating a grand smear that sounds like a bell tower. He conceives the piece as depicting a team of bell ringers who don’t quite have it together. Some of the players in his fictitious ensemble, especially the ringer of the note D, play their rhythms irregularly as they try to ring the changes. It’s chaotic and marvelous. This performance should challenge anyone’s preconceptions about the limits of a harpsichord’s evocative powers. It just takes a player with this level of imagination.