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The Cardinall’s Musick are acknowledged as the foremost performers of Byrd’s music. Under their director Andrew Carwood they have recorded the complete Latin church music, the final volume of which won the Gramophone Record of the Year. Now they turn to Byrd’s English church music, a genre which shows the composer treading a path between his own innate Catholicism and the requirements of the reformed Church of England. But far from sublimating Byrd’s genius this difficult situation gave rise to one of his most fertile periods.
The Great Service was described as ‘the finest unaccompanied setting of the Service in the entire repertory of English church music’ upon its discovery in 1922. Written for ten voices, it is gorgeously lavish and grand—very different to the simple, unmelismatic style demanded by the Anglican clerics. Byrd did not publish it in his lifetime.
Also recorded here are five beautiful English settings on sacred themes, but probably written for performance in the home. They are masterpieces in miniature: each work is so distinctive and demonstrates Byrd’s genius for word-painting, his typically Elizabethan wit and of course his imaginative handling of polyphony.
Byrd: The Great Service
2. Te Deum
7. Nunc Dimittis
Byrd: Praise Our Lord, All Ye Gentiles
Praise Our Lord, All Ye Gentiles
Byrd: Unto The Hills Mine Eyes I Lift
Unto The Hills Mine Eyes I Lift
Byrd: Make Ye Joy To God All The Earth
Make Ye Joy To God All The Earth
Byrd: Turn Our Captivity, O Lord
Turn Our Captivity, O Lord
Byrd: This Day Christ Was Born, "A Carroll For Christmas Day"
This Day Christ Was Born, "A Carroll For Christmas Day"
“The singing is neat, clear and fluid, with beautifully elastic phrasing from the two tenors. The Nunc Dimittis provides the sweetest moments in the Great Service itself”
“This is good news indeed...Carwood is particularly good at lightening the mood when Byrd adopts triple time...[The Great] really needs a larger body of singers for the contrast between 'verse' and 'full' sections to be effective. In the Magnificat the proud aren't scattered vigorously enough for my taste...Don't be put off by my reservations: the performances overall are excellent”
“this new recording is something special. Wheter it's because of the sheer experience of having sung so much of Byrd's music as to have assimilated his musical language utterly, or whether it's simply the raw musicianship and cultivated intelligence of the performers, there's a clarity and intensity in each verse that is spine-tingling.”
Click on any of the works listed above for alternative recordings.