Each of these four pieces steals something from the Renaissance dance music repertoire. 'La Bergamasca' and 'La Romanesca' are both bass lines (or harmonic schemes) that were commonly used by composers as a basis for variation, and by performers for extemporisation. ('La Bergamasca' came with its own melody, but this was not always used.) 'Wat zal men op den Avond doen?', a melody originally from Germany, was used by Jacob van Eyck in his compendium of recorder variations 'Der Fluyten Lusthof' (1649). The title translates as 'What shall we do this evening?', and I believe the lyrics provide a rather saucy answer. 'L'homme armé' ('The Armed Man') is a popular tune from the 15th Century, and was used as the cantus firmus for many settings of the Ordinary of the Mass, in other words, the line of the melody was worked into the polyphonic choral texture.
The melodies used have been given a new setting in this suite. 'La Bergamasca' is reinterpreted as a bombastic Stravinskian prelude, followed by a placid chanson version of 'L'homme armé'. 'Wat zal men op den Avond doen?' is set as a lively musette, which, given its title, has more than a hint of bagpipes in the texture. A stately pavan on 'La Romanesca' rounds off proceedings, with a further nod to Stravinsky in the final cadence.