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Byrd: Keyboard Music

Friederike Chylek (harpsichord) (Oehms)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Keyboard Music: Sellinger’s Round; The Seconde Grownde in C; Prelude in A minor; The Carman’s Whistle etc
Friederike Chylek (harpsichord)
Oehms OC 1724   57:02 mins


In her carefully researched programme, the German harpsichordist, Friederike Chylek has selected 13 pieces of varying form and character by William Byrd. The first part of the 17th century was a glorious period for English keyboard music. The best-known sources are the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, compiled roughly between 1609 and 1619, and a volume entitled Parthenia or the Maydenhead of the first musicke that was ever printed for the Virginalls. Both anthologies contain pieces by Byrd from which, albeit indirectly, many included here are taken.

The late Thurston Dart aptly remarked that virginals music could be played on any instrument that happened to be handy, though of course, he added, some pieces are better suited to one instrument than to another. Chylek has opted for a harpsichord throughout, a copy by Matthias Griewisch of a 1624 Ruckers. It sounds well, and Chylek’s apposite phrasing and articulation – Byrd’s particularity in the execution of his keyboard music foreshadowing that of François Couperin – further adds to our enjoyment. However, it is perhaps a pity that she has assigned her entire programme to a single instrument, and I sometimes found myself longing for the simpler stylised dances to be played on a virginals.

The pieces which best highlight the considerable attractions of her chosen instrument are the more substantial ones such as the brilliant Fantasia (Musica Britannica, Vol. 27, No. 3), the ‘Second Ground’ (MB, Vol. 27, No. 42) and ‘Hugh Aston’s/Tregian’s Ground’, the latter name to some extent, perhaps, reflecting the Italianate taste of the compiler of the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book.

Nicholas Anderson

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