Infelix ego: The Byrd Edition
- Volume 13
Venite, exsultemus Domino [3:07]
Domine, non sum dignus CS 15 [3:06]
Visita quaesumus, Domine [3:34]
Domine, salva nos CS 20 [3:15]
Haec dies CS 21 [2:21]
Cunctis diebus CS 19 [5:35]
Propers for The Feast of All Saints
Gaudeamus omnes … Sanctorum omnium [4:56]
Timete Dominum – Venite ad me [4:33]
Iustorum animae [2:39]
Beati mundo corde [3:04]
Deo gratias [0:45]
Afflicti pro peccatis nostris CS 17 [4:58]
Cantate Domino CS 18 [2:09]
Infelix ego CS 16 [12:53]
The Cardinall’s Musick/Andrew Carwood
rec. Fitzalan Chapel, Arundel Castle, 27-29 April 2009. DDD.
Booklet includes sung texts with English translations.
HYPERION CDA67779 [61:17]
The invitation to Matins, Venite, exsultemus Domino (tr.
1) is brightly assertive from its opening leap and madrigalian
in manner throughout. Enjoy the gleeful imitation of ‘jubilemus
Deo’, ‘let us rejoice in God’ (0:22) as the six voices somersault
over each other. There’s a more sober central section before
‘jubilemus’ returns, the rhythm gradually quickened to add to
the excitement. This acceleration trick occurs in even quicker
transformation in the closing Alleluias before a noble peroration.
Domine, non sum dignus (tr. 2) is the first of seven
motets from Byrd’s 1591 Cantiones sacrae that form the
core of this CD, identified as CS in the heading, followed by
their numbering in the original and modern editions. This one
is a fluent, personal, emotive appeal to the Lord, the use of
all male voices here giving an ascetic feel with contrite descents
for ‘non sum dignus’ (0:26), ‘I am not worthy’ and the faster
rhythms at ‘sed tantum dic verbum’ (1:39). ‘But only say the
word’ offers a release, the hope of which is revealed in the
beaming ‘et sanabitur puer meus’ (2:01), ‘and my son shall be
For Byrd Visita quaesumus, Domine (tr. 3) is an unusually
radiant piece because scored only for high voices and of straightforward
structure. Homophonic passages alternate with imitative polyphony
whose most notable feature is the pearly descant echoing of
the two soprano parts in the luminous Amen. Carwood’s
revised recording (see my earlier review)
is kept flowing, direct and fresh.
Domine, salva nos (tr. 4) is an assertive appeal. Its
descents by the parts in turn are reserved for ‘perimus’ (1:03),
‘for we perish’, the savouring of which seems rather masochistic.
This is dispelled by a great gathering of the parts declaiming
‘impera’ (1:40), ‘command’, after which the descents are all
about ‘tranquilitatem’ (2:01), ‘peace’. Carwood show us this
is dramatic, not just intricate, counterpoint.
Haec dies (tr. 5) joyously greets the Lord’s day with
a rising figure on ‘dies’ enjoyed in turn by all six parts.
Carwood presents it lightly sprung but firmly articulated, a
winning combination. Its second section, ‘exultemus’ (0:38),
the call to rejoice, is fittingly more swinging with ebullient
quickening of rhythm, ending in a rush of florid counterpoint.
In the closing Alleluia section (1:03) a sense of contemplation
is achieved as well as serenity through a bright, beaming tone
in a grateful acoustic.
Cunctis diebus (tr. 6) starts dolefully with three parts
only, slowly yet relentlessly progressing and spotlighting ‘immutatio
mea’ (0:40), ‘my change’. The entry of all six parts is more
formal, the texture gradually becoming fuller and the emphasis
beaconing at ‘dolorem’ (1:28), ‘sorrow’. The prospective journey
‘ad terram miseriae’ (2:50), ‘to a land of misery’ is displayed
as an ascent and descent, like a trial of strength as well as
voice. However, the concluding melismata on ‘inhabitat’ (3:59),
depicting a dwelling place of everlasting horror, is an expanse
The Propers for All Saints’ Day begin with the introit Gaudeamus
omnes (tr. 7) and a soaring peal in the voices in turn before
the excitement of the quicker rhythms of ‘diem festum celebrantes’,
‘celebrating a festival day’ (0:22) then broadening out for
the creaminess of ‘sub honore Sanctorum omnium’, ‘in honour
of all the Saints’ (0:31). Carwood achieves a vivid combination
of intimacy and fervour. The angels rejoice, ‘gaudent Angeli’
(1:00), a merry bunch of rapid entries in turn. A resplendently
affirmative Gloria completes the picture, but not quite: the
opening is repeated to remind you what the affirmation is all
about. I compared the 1988 recording by The Sixteen/Harry Christophers
(Virgin Veritas 5620132). Using more than one voice to a part,
Christophers is more sonorous, less intimate, lively but more
smoothly fashioned, less spontaneous than the lighter, brighter
Carwood who reveals Byrd’s rhythmic dexterity and the wealth
of imitation between parts more clearly.
The gradual and alleluia, Timete Dominum (tr. 8) also
features an opening peal in the voices in turn, this one slower
and more searching. This time, moreover, a quiet but notable
intensity is achieved when the statements of ‘quoniam nihil
deest’, ‘for nothing is lacking’ go higher in the soprano parts
(from 0:43). A verse for the lower three parts spotlights those
pearly upper two again at ‘Venite ad me’, ‘Come to me’ (2:21)
while the relief of ‘et ego reficiam vos’, ‘and I will refresh
you’ (3:27) is palpable in its rapid rhythms suddenly scattered
across the parts and texture. Christophers’ performance here
is smoother, more reflective, but less immediate and personal
than Carwood’s which shows the witness of the text actively
progressing and a closing relief which is more joyous.
The offertory Iustorum animae (tr. 9) is presented with
simple yet telling conviction by Carwood, again actively progressing,
the seamless co-ordination of first and second sopranos creating
one long, glowing line. The clear descents of ‘insipientium’,
‘of the unwise’ (from 1:09) and ‘in pace’, ‘at peace’ (from
1:56) casts all care aside. Christophers’ beautiful performance,
sung a tone lower than Carwood’s, is a more grief-stricken memorial
than Carwood’s more affirmative presentation.
The communion, Beati mundo corde (tr. 10) is another
serene, yet from Carwood also purposeful, progression. It sets
three of the beatitudes, the first for three voices, the second
(0:39) for four, the third (1:29) for five. Thus the blessing
grows in radiance and the final descent, ‘est regnum caelorum’
burnished across all five parts from 2:25, promises ‘the kingdom
of heaven’. Here Christophers is notably slower (3:33 against
Carwood’s 3:04) and combined with his greater body of voices
is at first more mystical and finally more powerful. But Carwood
conveys more sense of individual identification with the text,
especially in the third beatitude concerning persecution.
Deo gratias (tr. 11), whose title is also its full text,
is a lovely, terse but warm setting, with buoyant five-note
rising motif on ‘Deo’ gently impelled by the four parts in turn.
Afflicti pro peccatis nostris (tr. 12) is a highly charged
piece for Lent in which five parts elaborately and imploringly
weave a penitential witness around a plainsong cantus firmus.
Notable is the plangent starkness of the sudden homophony at
‘Dolor cordis nostris’ (2:13), ‘the sorrow of our heart’ and
then the pained but adoring melisma on ‘Domine’ (2:53) as the
first part ends with the rising motif ‘ascendat ad te, Domine’,
‘rises to you, Lord’. The second part similarly works towards
the climactic statement ‘quae innovantur in nobis’ with the
melodic line opening out to descant on ‘nobis’ (from 4:39).
This emphasises the personal witness to the evils ‘which are
renewed in us’.
With an enthusiastic build up of the six parts in turn from
a single voice, Cantate Domino (tr. 13) flowers forth
at ‘laus ejus’ (0:31). It proves magnificently assertive with
its minefield of cross-rhythms. The central section, ‘Laetentur
Israel’ (0:56) is in a more lilting triple metre before the
purposeful thrust and battling imitative counterpoint of the
close. This is breathtakingly displayed by The Cardinall’s Musick.
Laudate Dominum, omnes gentes (tr. 14) who impress through
the great arching melismata on ‘populi’, emphasising the extent
of worship required. The central section (0:51) is at first
a little quieter, acknowledging the Lord’s mercy, but finally
beams forth (1:17) in the top two parts: the realization of
being chosen to receive mercy. The closing section combines
the energy of the affirmation of the rising figure of ‘et veritas
Domini’ (1:47), ‘and the truth of the Lord’, with the glowing
security of the falling figure, ‘manet in aeternum’ (1:58),
‘remains for ever’. The latter becomes dominant with its own
What Carwood’s performance of Infelix ego (tr. 15) made
me appreciate is the skilfulness of Byrd’s contrasts of scoring.
This serves to clarify the journey from despair to hope of redemption
with a mix of both along the way. The full six parts don’t enter
till ‘ad quem fugiam?’ (1:12), bringing a sense of desperation
in the question ‘to whom shall I flee?’ The hope of the rising
motif ‘ad coelum levare oculae’ (1:37), ‘lift my eyes to heaven’,
the natural order of things, is emphatically rejected by the
spattering repetitions of ‘non audeo’ (2:09), ‘I dare not’.
Yet in the second section the altos’ agony at ‘Desperabo?’ (4:45),
‘Shall I despair?’ is outflanked by the sudden illumination
of the sopranos’ rising five notes to acknowledge God, ‘Deus’
(5:21). This is confirmed by the calm descents of all parts
in imitation at ‘refugiam meum’ (5:47), ‘my refuge’. Those same
words are, however, given more expansive and questioning treatment
by the sopranos in the third section (8:25) before the affirmative
plea for mercy, ‘Miserere mei’ in all parts (10:49) and the
strength of the coda’s belief in it, ‘misericordium tuam’ (12:06).
Like all this CD’s performances, this one is of palpable commitment
and exceptional quality, clarifying Byrd’s emotional range and