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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



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William Byrd (1539/40-1623)
Laudibus in sanctis: Volume 10 - The Cardinall’s Musick Byrd Edition
Cantiones sacræ, 1591: Quis est homo? [6:19]
Tribulatio proxima est [5:28] 
Apparebit in finem [2:33]
Propers for Ladymass in Eastertide, Gradualia, 1605: Salve sancta parens [4:37] 
Alleluia. Ave Maria … in mulieribus. Alleluia. Virga Iesse [3:39] 
Beata es, virgo Maria [2:06] 
Beata viscera [1:48] 
Regina cæli [4:48]
Cantiones sacræ, 1591: Salve regina [7:07] 
Fac cum servo tuo [4:41]
Gradualia, 1605: Ecce quam bonum [3:41] 
In manus tuas, Domine [2:14] 
Unam petii a Domino [3:50] 
Visita quaesumus, Domine [3:19]
Cantiones sacræ, 1591:
Domine, exaudi orationem meam, inclina [6:26] 
Laudibus in sanctis [5:44]
The Cardinall’s Musick/Andrew Carwood
rec. Fitzalan Chapel, Arundel Castle, 10-12 May 2006. DDD.
Booklet with notes in English, French and German; texts and translations.
HYPERION CDA67568 [68:20]

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William Byrd (1539/40-1623)
Hodie Simon Petrus: Volume 11 - The Cardinall’s Musick Byrd Edition
Cantiones sacræ, 1591: Descendit de cælis  [5:33] 
Gradualia, 1607: Tu es pastor ovium  [2:03]
Cantiones sacræ, 1591: Miserere mei, Deus  [3:04] 
Circumdederunt me  [4:50] 
Gradualia, 1607: Quodcumque ligaveris  [4:16] 
Cantiones sacræ, 1591: Recordare, Domine  [6:04] 
Exsurge, quare obdormis, Domine?  [4:17] 
Gradualia, 1607: Lætania: Kyrie eleison  [8:57] 
Nunc scio vere  [5:23] 
Constitues eos principes  [3:07] 
Tu es Petrus  [2:12] 
Levemus corda  [4:45] 
Hodie Simon Petrus  [3:53] 
Solve, iubente Deo  [2:40] 
Cantiones sacræ, 1591: Haec dicit Dominus  [6:43]
The Cardinall’s Musick/Andrew Carwood
rec. Fitzalan Chapel, Arundel Castle, 12-14 November 2007. DDD.
Booklet with notes in English, French and German; texts and translations.
HYPERION CDA67653 [67:47]
Experience Classicsonline

I was going to write that the Cardinall’s Musick complete Byrd series was continuing apace, except that eleven volumes produced between 1996 and February 2009 doesn’t quite qualify for that adverb.  Originally issued by ASV on their Gaudeamus label, the project switched to Hyperion with Volume 10 in 2006.  Inspired by Michael Greenhalgh’s detailed and appreciative review of that tenth volume, which he made a Recording of the Month, I asked Hyperion to include it with my review copy of Volume 11.  Not only do I fully agree with the accolade for Volume 10, I see no reason to withhold it from Volume 11.
 
It is surely not accidental that many of the pieces in the three books of Cantiones sacræ refer to trials and tribulations, or call for or look forward to better times, and there are several examples on these two volumes.
 
CDA67568
track 2, Tribulatio proxima est – tribulation is nigh and there is none to help;
tr. 3, Apparebit in finem – there shall appear at the end ... one who is coming and who will not be slow

CDA67653
tr.3, Miserere mei – have mercy upon me, O God;
tr.4, Circumdederunt me – my foes have surrounded me;
tr.7, Exsurge ... Domine – arise and sleep not, O Lord ...
 
Though an honoured composer for the Chapel Royal, whose Great Service and Second Service more or less set the tone for Anglican music – conservative yet reformed – Byrd, in common with his fellow Catholic recusants, longed for the restoration of the old faith or, at least, greater tolerance of it.  His private thoughts are expressed in some of the pieces on the Chandos recording The Caged Byrd (I Fagiolini on CHAN0609).  Look especially at the frustration of the words in Why do I use my paper, inke and penne? (tr.8 of the Chandos disc) or the settings of verses from the psalm Super flumina Babylon – ‘by the waters of Babylon we sat and wept ... how shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?’ which he exchanged with Philippe de Monte (tracks 9 and 10 of the Chandos CD).
 
I Fagiolini, like The Cardinall’s Musick, conclude their CD with Laudibus in sanctis but their time of 4:55 is rather brisker than the 5:44 on the Hyperion recording.  Both performances are very good, with the Hyperion just having the edge.  Both convey the sense of dignified grief in such pieces as Tribulatio proxima est (CDA67568, tr.2) and Quomodo cantabimus (Chandos, tr.10) and of restrained exuberation in Laudibus in sanctis (Chandos tr.15, CDA67568, tr.16).
 
Volume 11 concentrates on music associated with St Peter – his role as first Shepherd of the Church (Tu es pastor ovium, tr.2), his miraculous escape from prison (Nunc scio vere, tr.9 – the Introit and part of the Lesson for Mass on the feast of SS Peter and Paul) and his designation as the Rock on which Jesus would build His Church (Tu es Petrus, tr.11 – part of the Gospel for the feast). 
 
Byrd’s Anglican contemporaries would be using these same texts in English in their reformed liturgy and they would also be singing the English Litany, since the pattern on Sundays and red-letter days was to celebrate Mattins – Litany – Holy Communion in one lengthy service.    What the English Litany did not contain, however, was the invocations to the Saints contained in Byrd’s Latin Lætania; this is one of the settings in Book II of the Gradualia which could never have been employed in full in any service at the Chapel Royal – once again, Byrd is pinning his recusant colours to the mast.
 
You may think that nine minutes of repetitious petitions in the litany would be tedious – not so, however, in the performance here, where the sheer beauty of the singing silences all criticism.  The blurb for the new recording on the Hyperion website refers to ‘performances of filigree clarity, yet great passion and sincerity’: I couldn’t express my reaction to both CDs better.
 
As always with Hyperion, the recording and presentation set off the performances handsomely.  Andrew Carwood’s notes are informative and readable and the translations of the Latin texts are idiomatic.  MG spotted an omitted Amen on Volume 10, subsequently admitted by Andrew Carwood, with a promise to put things right on a later volume in the series.  I don’t think that Beckmesser himself could seriously fault Volume 11.  The covers, both paintings by Jean Fouquet (Volume 10 The Annunciation; Volume 11 The Martyrdom of St Peter) set off the contents perfectly.
 
Hyperion already had in their catalogue an excellent recording of some of the music for Marian Masses from Byrd’s Gradualia (William Byrd Choir/Bruno Turner on budget-price Helios CDH55047).  Inevitably, there is some overlap with CDA67568: Salve sancta parensAlleluiaEructavit cor meum (so divided across three tracks, 9-11, on Helios; track 4 on the new recording) is the Introit for Ladymass in Eastertide.  Bruno Turner takes 3:53 for the whole piece, Andrew Carwood 4:37.  Beata es, Virgo Maria and Beata viscera, Offertory and Communion respectively, on the other hand, are sung slightly more briskly by The Cardinall’s Musick.  Much as I like the older recording – and I am sure that I shall still listen to it frequently and I certainly continue to recommend it, especially at its very attractive price – the newer recording has a slight edge here.
 
I have recently recommended two sets of recordings of the Cantiones sacræ in my February, 2009, Download Roundup.  The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge/Richard Marlow perform a selection of pieces from the 1589 and 1591 collections on Chandos Chaconne CHAN0733, including Salve Regina, Laudibus in sanctis and Quis est homo? from Volume 10 of The Cardinall’s Musick.  In the first of these Carwood is the sprightlier, in the other two pieces, the boot is on the other foot.  Again, I must give the Hyperion recording a slight edge without qualifying in the least my intention to continue listening with pleasure to the Chandos recording.
 
The same is true in the case of those items which overlap with the recording by the Choir of New College, Oxford/Edward Higginbottom on their CRD CD of music from the Cantiones sacræ of 1591 (CRD3439): Laudibus in sanctis prefaces their collection, as it ends and provides the title for the Hyperion.  Tribulatio proxima est also overlaps with Hyperion Volume 10 and Circumdederunt me and Hæc dicit Dominus overlap with Volume 11.  Once more some pieces are taken more swiftly by Carwood, others by Higginbottom, and once again I continue to cherish both sets of performances.  In this case there is even more reason to recommend both, since New College continues to use boy trebles, whereas all the other performances under consideration here employ a mixed choir – there are strong arguments for both and also strong reasons to recommend the other two CRD/New College recordings from the 1575 (CRD3492) and 1589 (CRD3420) collections.
 
Even less expensive than the Helios recording is Harmonia Mundi’s Music for a Hidden Chapel, music for Mass in Eastertide from the Gradualia (HCX395 5182 – see review).  Only the Regina cæli overlaps The Cardinall’s Musick – 6:41 on Harmonia Mundi, 7:07 on Hyperion Volume 10.  The setting of Salve Regina on Harmonia Mundi is from the 1607 Gradualia, that on Hyperion from the 1591 Cantiones.  The very low price of this Harmonia Mundi recording makes it an almost essential purchase, whatever other Byrd recordings you may own.  Only the rather hideous cover – what a contrast with the splendid and appropriate artwork on all three Hyperion recordings, even the inexpensive Helios – detracts from its value.
 
If you don’t yet possess recordings of Byrd’s Three-, Four- and Five-part Masses, a recording of them should be your priority – either the two-for-one Gimell set with Byrd’s equally fine Anglican music, The Great Service (The Tallis Scholars, CDGIM208) or the three CDs on which Christ Church, Oxford, Choir perform the Masses with appropriate propers (Nimbus NI5302, NI5287 and NI5237 – see review).  After that, any of the recordings which I have mentioned above is well worth having, but none more so than these two volumes by The Cardinall’s Musick.
 
Brian Wilson

see also review of volume 10 by Michael Greenhalgh

 

 


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