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Byrd: Pavans & Galliards; Variations & Grounds

Daniel-Ben Pienaar (piano) (Avie)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Pavans & Galliards, Variations & Grounds
Daniel-Ben Pienaar (piano)
Avie AV2574   156:32 mins (2 discs)


How times change! Fifty years ago, it was the exponents of period instruments who felt impelled to justify their approach in detailed liner notes. Now the boot is on the other foot as Daniel-Ben Pienaar justifies his choice of a piano for this two-disc set of Byrd’s keyboard works released to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the composer’s death. After a cogent overview of the music itself he turns to issues of performance and poses nine questions only some of which are answered, and somewhat opaquely at that. No matter. Let the ears do the heavy lifting.

For his 1999 survey of the complete works for keyboard on Hyperion, Davitt Moroney enlisted some half-dozen instruments (plucked and ‘piped’) to ring the changes; but Pienaar’s unaugmented piano doesn’t pall; and whilst he harbours no completist ambitions, all the pavans and galliards to be found in My Ladye Nevells Booke and the Parthenia are included alongside 15 sets of variations, among them Sellinger’s Round, Walsingham and that tour de force of 16th-century minimalism (its theme deploys just two notes!), The Bells. Pienaar, indeed, is in his fantasy-fuelled element in the variations which feature a spry traversal of Sellinger; an astutely delineated O Mistress Mine; and there’s coy flirtation aplenty as John Come Kiss Me Now flashes a come-hither glance. The ruminative aspects of the pavans are answered by the pithy playfulness of the galliards, and other highlights include the pearly opulence of Mistress Mary Brownlow’s Galliard, and the heel-kicking virtuosity of Go From My Window. Under Pienaar’s fingers this Byrd soars!


Paul Riley