ALBUM TITLE: Byrd- Harpsichord Pieces
WORKS: Clarifa me, pater; Volta
PERFORMER: Gustav Leonhardt
CATALOGUE NO: 73
The Victoria & Albert Museum has a rare ‘claviorgan’, harpsichord and organ sharing one keyboard. The organ is little more than a shell, but enough evidence has been gleaned from the harpsichord to build a fine-sounding instrument, rich and sonorous and recorded at a comfortable distance, clean but not in the least assertive. Leonhardt flexes (even occasionally anticipates) the pulse in Pavans, Galliards and an Alman, making less of their inherent dance character than does Davitt Moroney in his 1999 complete Byrd keyboard recording. Leonhardt approaches Byrd more respectfully – and often more slowly – than Moroney. His short programme is varied, including one of Byrd’s three settings of the plainsong ‘Clarifa me, pater’, the lively and familiar Volta and the extraordinary fantasia on the six-note rising scale, Ut-re-mi-fa-sol-la. The booklet gives very little information about this or any of the other pieces – a pity as their social and historical allusions help to bring them to life. There is, though, an extended essay on a contemporary portrait, an excellent read for both its historical and interpretative insights.
This is an enjoyable disc but Hyperion’s 77-minute distillation of Moroney’s seven-disc tour de force, on six different instruments, remains my benchmark. George Pratt