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Byrd: Pavans & Galliards, Variations & Grounds

Byrd: Pavans & Galliards, Variations & Grounds

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Daniel-Ben Pienaar continues his campaign of performing early music on a modern piano with an abundant selection of Pavans & Galliards, Variations & Grounds by William Byrd. The 16th-century composer’s finest sets of dances and variations, featuring some of the Elizabethan era’s most popular tunes, set the standard for English keyboard music for generations to come. With astonishing virtuosity, Daniel-Ben elicits a wealth of color and textures from his Steinway model D. Two-and-a-half hours of music spread over two albums, this is most substantial survey of Byrd’s keyboard music ever recorded on a modern piano, and ranges from frequently-heard works such as the First Pavan and Sellinger's Round to little-known gems like Callino Casturame and the late, great Quadran Pavan and Galliard.


With Bach, pianists have ever determined his music too important to be left just to harpsichord or other period instruments. Not with Byrd. Daniel-Ben Pienaar’s 2-CD set of 28 keyboard pieces appearing in the quatercentenary year of Byrd’s death is its largest album presentation on piano, with 13 items, noted in the contents list at the end of this review, recorded on piano for the first time. Its title, ‘Pavans & Galliards, Variations & Grounds’ shows Pienaar concentrates on the two categories in which Byrd was most prolific.

Pienaar’s Pavan & Galliard in C minor (CD1, tr. 1) begins with a Pavan of majestic beauty and breadth, the opening four chords spaciously arpeggiated...The Galliard (tr. 2) is livelier and more robust, with more bounce from Pienaar and clipped shorter notes.

The Pavan & Galliard in A minor is surprisingly gorgeous: the Pavan of underlying sadness with enough gleams of light to allow also a calmness, breadth and sublimity in Pienaar’s presentation...The Galliard is from Pienaar rampant verve, the repeats of all three strains with constant running quavers in either treble or bass.

The Pavan, Galliard & Second Galliard, The Earl of Salisbury is well-known, perhaps because short and straightforward. Pienaar plays the Pavan with an easy familiarity, like welcoming an old friend. It manages to be both dignified and convivial, its first phrase confidently shaped...In the Galliard the emphasis of its first phrase is on bold, rising motifs in constant interplay between treble and tenor voices.

Go from my window (CD2, tr. 10) is simple, cheery and folksy. Pienaar presents it with an attractive lilt and feel of cheekiness as the short theme gradually rises in sequences to climax and then quickly recover its opening position...Pienaar makes it enchantingly effective.

[In the Walsingham Variations] Pienaar conveys a new airiness and sense of fantasy extension of the dance...Pienaar breathtakingly conveys this work’s ever new discoveries and dimensions around the theme’s secure return as mantra in, as Pienaar has written, “its range of mood from sober exposition to ecstatic culmination.”

My Lady Nevell’s Ground (CD2, tr. 3) is another where the melody above is the chief feature...lengthy semiquaver flourishes [are] deliciously lightly realized by Pienaar, like chancing on a byway of imaginative fantasy. I love the sparkle of his fast arpeggiation of the final chord, the byway terminated.

-- MusicWeb International

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Product Description:

  • Release Date: November 18, 2022

  • UPC: 822252257427

  • Catalog Number: AV2574

  • Label: AVIE Records

  • Number of Discs: 2

  • Period: Renaissance

  • Composer: William Byrd

  • Performer: Daniel-Ben Pienaar