You mention early on being fascinated by the Elizabethan virginalists as music that you didn’t quite understand. Why do you mean by that?
Well, I suppose that in a sense we don’t really understand any of the music we love. Didn’t Stravinsky say that he felt music rather than having understood it? (I’m probably getting the paraphrase wrong…) Anyhow, this music is not exactly mainstream repertoire, even though much of it has been in publication for over a century – so there’s very little of a modern performance tradition around it, and some of it is truly mysterious. But ever since I heard it, it touched me and told me that I needed to make an effort to live with it. That’s it, really.
Mahan Esfahani. Photo © Kaja Smith
When we think of Elizabethan music for keyboard we tend to think of Byrd. Was he simply the best, or do others deserve equal billing?
William Byrd isn’t the first to exercise this remarkably high level of compositional technique as far as the keyboards are concerned in England (that honour goes to the likes of Cabezon and Tallis), but he’s a sort...