Amongst the seventeenth-century harpsichord repertoire, the genre of pieces referring to a loss, whether or not the death of a person, takes a special place, and forms the leitmotif of this disc. These introspective pieces, actually being meditations or contemplations, achieve in a uniquely profound way an almost spiritual level. John Downland’s Lachrimae Pavan, initially a lute piece which the composer reworked as a lute song to the words Flow my Tears and as a consort piece, enjoyed great popularity in the seventeenth century. In fact, it occurs in more than one hundred manuscripts or prints in a variety of arrangements. For this CD I have included two of the finest of those transcriptions, by William Byrd and by Melchior Schildt. Byrd was one of the most influential composers of his generation, in his time called a Father of Musick and Brittanicae Musicae Parens.
After having been organist at the Lincoln Cathedral (1563-72), Byrd joined the Chapel Royal in London, where he remained until his death. Amongst his many keyboard works, Byrd was particularly active in producing the often connected pair of dances, the pavan and galliard, much favoured at the time. Characteristic of the form of these dances is that both contain three sections, each of which is repeated mostly in varied form. In contrast to Byrd, Melchior Schildt is a rather unknown figure today. A pupil of Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, Schildt worked as an organist at the Marienkirche in Wolfenbu?ttel (1623-26), at the Danish court in Copenhagen (1626-29) and at the Marktkirche in Hanover (1629-67). Amongst his surviving keyboard works, the Paduana Lagrima takes a special place. Just like Byrd’s version, Schildt’s setting of Dowland’s Lachrymae Pavan fully respects the sorrow and melancholy of the original, even if Schildt has incorporated unusual technical features such as runs in double thirds.