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William Byrd Suite (ed Trachsel)

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Gordon Jacob

Gordon Jacob (arr. Andrew Trachsel)

General Info

Year: 1924 / 1960 / 2007
Duration: c. 18:40
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Unknown
Cost: Score and Parts - Unknown


1. The Earle of Oxford's Marche – 3:10
2. Pavana – 3:05
3. John Come Kisse Me Now – 1:55
4. Mayden's Song
5. Wolsey's Wilde – 2:15
6. The Bells – 4:20


(Needed - please join the WRP if you can help.)


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Keyboard music formed one of Byrd's main compositional endeavors, and the fruit of these labors provided the impulse for an entire school of Elizabethan keyboard composition. Most of these works were intended for performance at the virginal, a small relative of the harpsichord in many timbral and mechanical aspects (so named because it was often found in the bedrooms of unmarried young 17th century ladies). Although Byrd's keyboard works first appear in the 1570s, they only circulate in manuscript until the publication of My Ladye Nevells Booke (1591) and Parthenia (1611). However, the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book languished in obscurity until 1899 before receiving publication. This collection comprises the largest set of Byrd's keyboard works - around seventy - and is also regarded as England's foremost collection of keyboard works. All of the movements Gordon Jacob set in William Byrd Suite have the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book as their source.

Gordon Jacob considered William Byrd Suite "freely transcribed," as virginal players had no means of creating dynamic shading or timbral contrast on their instrument. Composers created dynamic intensity by adding voices above and/or below the melody. Similarly, composers created musical intensity by adding lines of increasing complexity, ornamenting the melody. Jacob remained mostly faithful to Byrd's original melody, harmony, form and figuration, but added his own orchestrational color and dynamic shading to intensify the aforementioned expressive qualities of the music.

It is an overstatement to describe each movement simply as growing louder and more complex due to layers of ornamentation, variation and imitation. Although Byrd utilizes these compositional devices in all the works represented, his genius lies in how he utilizes these effects in varying degrees to avoid monotony. In "The Earl of Oxford's March," devices of crescendo, ornamentation and imitation are clearly evident. This movement, marked un poco pomposo, begins its stately procession through the two iterations of its form simply and very quietly, growing steadily stronger and more complex into the climactic final sections. Although originally attributed to Byrd, the slow, stately "Pavana" is now placed within Anthony Holborne's works list. Jacob alters the harmonic scheme of this movement, beginning each phrase in a different tonality, yet emphasizing Bb-major in them all. "Jhon come kisse me now," "The Mayden's Song" and "Wolsey's Wilde" are sets of variations upon an eight and two sixteen bar melodies, respectively. Imitation and ornamentation are the primary developmental tools in the first two, while the third follows a more conservative approach with far less figuration and only one variation. Jacob's orchestration of "Wolsey's Wilde" takes advantage of the instrumental forces, alternating loud and soft dynamics, and effectively utilizing the timbral possibilities of the winds. "The Bells" is structured in large musical paragraphs, a continuous motivic variation emanating from a single two-note ground in the bass. The work culminates with a tubular bell solo amidst a grandiose layering of contrapuntal texture.

- Program Note by Brian K. Doyle

The different movements of the work are borrowed from music of the Renaissance era. William Byrd (c. 1540-1623), a pupil of Thomas Tallis, was known for his polyphonic choral and keyboard music, both sacred and secular. His keyboard works, along with those of several other English composers of the Elizabethan Age, were preserved in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book. To celebrate the tercentenary of Byrd’s death, Gordon Jacob selected six pieces for inclusion in this commemorative suite. The pieces were selected from the seventy of Byrd’s in the book because they seemed appropriate to the tonal framework of the British military band. Jacob would return to the Fitzwilliam Virginal for the inspiration for two other pieces for band: The Battell and the Giles Farnaby Suite.

William Byrd Suite (1923) was composed in honor of the 300th anniversary of Byrd’s death. The present suite was premiered by massed bands at Wembley Stadium on May 29, 1924.

- Program Note from University of North Texas Concert Band concert program, 24 February 2021


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Bowling Green (Ohio) State University Concert Band (Bruce Moss, conductor) - 21 November 2022
  • Lone Star Youth Winds (Dallas, Tx.) (Andrew Trachsel, conductor) - 15 May 2022
  • University of North Texas (Denton) Concert Band 2 (Slade Denham, conductor) - 24 February 2021
  • The Ohio State University (Columbus) Symphonic Band (Scott A. Jones, conductor) – 6 October 2016

Works for Winds by This Composer