Byrd: Keyboard works

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Byrd
LABELS: Teldec Das Alte Werk
WORKS: Keyboard works
PERFORMER: Andreas Staier (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: 0927-42205-2
This disc offers a thoughtfully planned cross-section of Byrd’s vast output of keyboard music, from free fantasias to rigorous grounds, and from simple dances to virtuoso variations. The composer’s spare musical language embraces an extraordinary variety of moods, and within the briefest of pieces he can express melancholy, joy, lightness and intensity.

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Andreas Staier’s love of Byrd is everywhere apparent in this recording: these are brilliant, committed performances in which he shows off his dazzling technique as well as his mastery of early 17th-century keyboard idioms. He shines particularly in the more flamboyant pieces where his muscular, acrobatic playing brings out every detail of this intricate repertoire. He gives a jazzy swing to the Fantasia, BK13, and an earthy swagger to pieces based on popular tunes, like Sellinger’s Round and The Woods so Wild. The fantasias and preludes are freer, more introspective works and here Staier sounds rather steely and unyielding: Davitt Moroney offers a warmer approach in his set of Byrd’s complete keyboard works for Hyperion – though with seven discs, this is for keen Byrd watchers only. The Teldec selection, on the other hand, makes a perfect introduction to his keyboard music, and Staier’s impressive playing deserves every accolade. Kate Bolton