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Friederike Chylek's Keybyrd musick

Harpsichordist Friederike Chylek's specialism is English keyboard music of the 16th and 17th centuries. Her three solo recordings, Time stands still (2017), From Byrd to Byrd (2019) and William Byrd: Keyboard Music (2022), all on OehmsClassics, have been met with critical acclaim from outlets such as Early Music Review, FonoForum, and BBC Music Magazine.

I came in touch with the music of William Byrd at the age of 19, soon after my decision to become a harpsichordist, when Lars Ulrik Mortensen sent me two pairs of Pavans & Galliards for the entrance exam. I chose „Kinborough Good“ (BK 32) and my first performance of a work by Byrd took place at the final exams in high school. The other Pavan & Galliard (BK 14) I recorded more than 20 years later for my latest album „Tallis, Byrd, Gibbons“.

headshot of artists Friederike Chalk
Photo credit: Foto Jessica Alice Hath

I had come across the name „William Byrd“ some years before on a vinyl record, a collection of Glenn Gould recordings, wondering who this mysterious composer that I had never heard of might be. But such early music didn’t catch my interest back then; Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt and Debussy were my favorite composers at this age.

When I began to play Byrd during the last year at high school I also discovered his consort music on a CD. The dignity and peacefulness of his musical style resonated with me and so I decided to choose a consort pavan for the moment when I would receive my high school diploma at the final ceremony. As all my classmates chose Pop/Rock/Heavy Metal songs for the receiving of their diplomas it must have been a most surprising moment for the audience when suddenly a piece by William Byrd was played.

During my studies in Basel Byrd’s music didn’t play an important role, the only pieces I worked on were Prelude and Fantasia in a minor (BK 13 & 14).

My ongoing journey with William Byrd’s music started much later, exactly ten years ago: In the process of recording my first CD („Italians in London!“ with Simon Standage, violin), this occupation turned out to be very fulfilling and I wished to continue it. Thinking about what to record next, one day the idea suddenly came into my mind to choose English keyboard repertory of the 16th and 17th centuries. As a teenager I was fascinated with the album „Delight in Disorder“ by Pedro Memelsdorff and Andreas Staier, containing English music from the 17th century, partly improvised. The beautifully constructed programme of this recording inspired me to spend a lot of thoughts on the most convincing progression of pieces for my four solo CDs to come, trying to make the programme a kind of unity, yet with a certain dramaturgical development.

Sometimes I am asked what I like so much about the music of William Byrd. First of all I appreciate that his music is so elaborated that you can spend endless time on refining your „interpretation“, which is something I have always liked to do. It is challenging to grasp all the independent voices and numerous imitations while playing and there are so many wonderful details to discover, even in the most simple pieces. What I also like is the fact that despite this complexity the music never sounds complicated in a tiring way. And last but not least playing Byrd can have such an uplifting, balancing and calming effect.

As a church organist (and sometimes pianist) I also play a lot of other music from different epochs (G. F. Handel and E. Elgar for example are two of my favorite composers - coincidentally they are English, too). But when I try to work on harpsichord repertory by other composers it never takes long until I feel attempted to get back to Byrd and starting a new project then feels a bit like coming home.

My dream now is to record the complete keyboard music of William Byrd within the next ten years. If I will win the lottery or find other financial support to fund this project I will go for it.

(Note: the title of this ByrdStory is editorial and I can only apologise to the author... - KB)


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