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Byrd, William: Nine Pieces from ‘My Lady Nevell’s Book’


Edited by Alan Brown from a Ms. in the hand for John Baldwin, c.1591.

Galliard Jig
My Lady Nevell’s Ground
Pavan: Canon 2 in 1
Pavan: Kinborough Good
Qui Passe: For My Lady Nevell
Ut re mi fa sol la
Voluntary: For my Lady Nevell
Woods so Wild

These nine pieces are here reprinted from Musica Britannica, Volumes XXVII & XXVIII (William Byrd: Keyboard Music I & II). For all of them the principal source is the famous manuscript My Ladye Nevells Booke (hereafter referred to as Ne). Details of other sources in which these pieces occur, and of editorial method, are given in the Musica Britannica volumes.

Formerly belonging to the Marquess of Abergavenny, Ne was acquired in 2006 by the British Library, where it now has the shelf-mark MS Mus. 1591. Ne contains 42 pieces, all by Byrd. The copyist was John Baldwin ‘of windsore’, himself a composer of some merit; he completed his task on 11 September 1591, Byrd at that time being in his early 50s. Baldwin’s musical script in Ne is a thing of beauty in itself, and his texts are consistently more reliable than those of other sources. Indeed, it seems likely that for much of the time he was copying from Byrd’s autographs. Three of the pieces bear Lady Nevell’s name and perhaps were written specifically for her; the remainder appear to have been carefully selected and ordered, no doubt by the composer himself. Certainly, the music of Ne demonstrates the inventiveness and the extraordinary diversity of Byrd’s mature keyboard style – features for which there is hardly any precedent in earlier keyboard music.

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