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Byrd Edition Volume 13 - Infelix ego
The Cardinall’s Musick’s award-winning Byrd series reaches its final volume, which includes some of the composer’s most sublime and adventurous music, drawn in the main from the 1591 Cantiones Sacrae collection. Throughout this series it has become evident that a comprehensive survey such as this shows the genius of the composer in a uniquely effective way: by demonstrating the extraordinary variety and unsurpassable quality of his musical and liturgical achievements.
Andrew Carwood defines Byrd as the greatest composer of the age in his booklet note—as he writes: ‘If there is an English musician who comes close to Shakespeare in his consummate artistry, his control over so many genres and his ability to speak with emotional directness it must be William Byrd.’
The ‘title track’ of this volume, Infelix ego, is the crowning glory of Byrd’s achievement as a composer of spiritual words and one of the greatest artistic statements of the sixteenth century. This remarkable text, taking the form of a number of rhetorical statements and questions, shows the whole gamut of emotion from a soul in torment—guilt, fear, embarrassment, anger, but crucially the gift of release when Christ’s mercy is accepted. It can be seen as a microcosm of Byrd’s sacred music and a fitting crown to this series.
“The musical imagination of The Cardinall's Music does full justice to that of Byrd. The group's delivery is a sensual delight, as an individual singer's colours will flash up in polyphonic lines, then pool together with others in homophony.” BBC Music Magazine, March 2010 ****
“the craftsmanship [is] impeccable, and the expression seemingly so heartfelt...There is and has been much to praise...the commitment of singers and label alike is a cause for gratitude, perhaps even optimism. Congratulations to all concerned.” Gramophone Magazine, April 2010
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Byrd Edition Volume 12 - Assumpta est Maria
In this latest volume from The Cardinall’s Musick acclaimed Byrd series, the composer’s overtly Catholic agenda is clearly displayed. In an age when censorship was rife and spies were everywhere, it is not surprising that possession of the first volume of Gradualia should have been cited as one of the reasons for the arrest of a Jesuit priest called de Noiriche (although obviously the spies had other more compelling evidence to hand). Only one set of the 1605 partbooks remains intact, although they have had their introductory material removed and perhaps these volumes were considered too dangerous to own. This fear, whether real or perceived, was not enough to dissuade Byrd and his publisher from producing a second book of Gradualia in 1607, or from re-printing both volumes in 1610.
All of the music on this disc is drawn from the first volume of Gradualia published in 1605. The music is a world away from the dark broodings of the Cantiones Sacrae from 1589 and 1591 where Byrd is preoccupied with the melancholy which dominates his middle years. In the later publications Byrd achieves a fusion of styles, mixing the energy, word-painting and rhythmic vitality of the secular madrigal tradition with the spirituality and liturgical context of words from the Mass and Divine Office. The witty use of short bursts of melody often thrown from one voice to another, together with the energized rhythmic cells, suggests a man who is not obsessed with a hopeless cause. It may be that in the Essex countryside, surrounded by sympathetic folk, Byrd had found a real home away from the political maelstrom which raged in London. These pieces show a glimpse of the man which is rather different to our more usual perception of the composer racked with misery at the deprivation of Catholics in England. Here we see a man in the later stages of life, affected by the aftermath of the Reformation (as his earlier publications clearly show), yet who is now sufficiently relaxed and secure to be able to indulge his considerable wit and imagination, and who is confident enough to use the most up-to-date musical styles. Here there is no wringing of hands, nor downcast eyes but rather the musical embodiment of an unshakeable faith.
“A lively addition to this impressive series from The Cardinall's Musick. Some of the three-part hymns are masterly in their technical assurance, setting the voices free to wander and with the lightest touch recalling them to the fold for a cadence.” Gramophone Magazine, Awards Issue 2009
“Sublime music, then, an inspired and inspiring director and a series that Hyperion rescued from another label and has persevered with against all odds” International Record Review
“The Cardinall’s Musick under Andrew Carwood show the deep feeling as well as the dignity of these illicit and originally secret settings” The Independent on Sunday
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Ave verum Corpus
Motets and anthems of William Byrd
'exceptional performances by this quite wonderful group of singers'
Church Music Quarterly
Usually despatched in 2 - 3 working days.