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The Word Unspoken
Sacred Music by William Byrd & Philippe de Monte
William Byrd, favourite of Queen Elizabeth I, was a confirmed and practising Catholic who worshipped in defiance of the Queen. His status and perhaps even his life was preserved thanks partly to the undeniable mastery of his music, and to the fact that he was careful to maintain an output of music appropriate for a Protestant Rite (simple and English) as well as a Catholic one (florid and Latin).
Byrd was by no means the only major Catholic composer working in England during these years. Furthermore, there were English composers whose faith drove them to work abroad, as well as foreign composers who offered sympathy and encouragement to English Catholics. Included in this latter category was the Flemish composer Phillipe De Monte who entered into a fascinating compositional correspondence with Byrd. Verses of Psalm 136 ‘Super Flumina Babylonis’ (containing many allegorical references to the plight of catholics unable to practice their faith openly) were set to music and exchanged, in what is now seen as an encoded message of mutual support and friendship between brothers in faith.
The texts reveal the Catholic community’s sense of isolation: “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”, Quomodo Cantabimus; and bereavement: “Jerusalem is wasted”, Ne Irascaris, and the elaborate, poetic nature of the encoded messages distributed within it through music.
The early-music consort Gallicantus (led by former King's Singer Gabriel Crouch) is drawn from the ranks of recent BBC Music Magazine award-winning choir Tenebrae.
“The intensity of the music is reflected in Gallicantus’s beautifully shaped performances, even if we miss now the raw sense of peril that English Catholics must then have felt.” Sunday Times, 9th July 2012
“The ensemble's view of this repertory, though hardly new, is delivered with such intelligence and rhetorical persuasiveness that the cumulative weight of their Byrd, in particular, is well-nigh symphonic in effect...Only the most prejudiced critics of 'the English sound', I'd say, could dispute that Gallicantus achieves something rather special here.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2012
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Dialogues of Sorrow
Passions on the Death of Prince Henry (1612)
In 1612, Prince Henry Frederick, son of James I and heir to the thrones of England and Scotland, died from a suspected bout of typhoid fever. His untimely death inspired a massive outpouring of artistic tributes in both verse and music, reflecting the mood of a nation mourning the loss of this popular future king at just 18 years of age. This is the second disc from early music consort group Gallicantus, joined by lutenist Elizabeth Kenny to perform works of the early 17th Century by a variety of composers. Their performances reflect the precision of Tenebrae, combined with a passion and commitment to crafting exemplary interpretations of the music they love.
“Crouch's programme of madrigals, lute songs and motets explores the public outpouring of grief and bitterness at the death of Prince Henry in 1612...The voices of Gallicantus milk every plangent suspension.” The Independent on Sunday, 5th September 2010
“Gallicantus has compiled a selection of the mourning songs written for Henry...exquisitely rendered with clarity and poise, either a cappella or with just lute accompaniment. There is a fine balance of high and low registers, while the individual singers' solos are marked by calm sincerity.” The Independent, 10th September 2010 ****
“The music is first-rate and Gallicantus creates an affecting picture of a nation in mourning with singing of textural and verbal clarity, suppleness and poignancy.” The Telegraph, 13th September 2010 *****
“The eight singers of Gallicantus balance finely, enunciate clearly and tune precisely...Their clear words are a joy.” Classic FM Magazine, December 2010 ***
“Despite the common theme and elegiac mood, there is some variety in the programme, in which madrigals alternate with lute songs...this is a well-sung, intelligently produced and exhaustively researched project, which deserves great success.” International Record Review, November 2010
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White - Hymns, Psalms and Lamentations
Robert White (d.1574) was an English composer who lived and wrote in turbulent musical times - born in the early 1530s shortly before Henry VIII embarked on the policies that would lead to a break with the church in Rome and unleash a wave of destruction on English religious institutions and their fabric. Gallicantus is a new vocal group that specialises in works from the Renaissance, with members drawn from the ranks of worldclass choir Tenebrae.Their performances reflect the precision of Tenebrae, combined with a passion and commitment to crafting exemplary interpretations of music they love.
“Gabriel Crouch’s group Gallicantus (eight male voices) sing on their first CD with a rapture and clarity made to measure for the Tudor church music of Robert White...Impassioned, exciting music.” The Times, 9th January 2010 ****
“The present recording is sung entirely by male voices and never once is there a loss of clarity, a hint of muddiness (the opening of the Lamentations, though coming at the end of the disc, could stand as a kind of illuminated initial at the beginning of a gorgeous manuscript, so transparent and luminous is it). The music is sublime... White's... mastery of large-scale form (most notably his monumental Miserere mei, Deus, which takes over 15 minutes) is breathtaking.” Gramophone Magazine, March 2010
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