MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing



CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS
Sound Samples & Downloads

Naked Byrd Two
Hermann CONTRACTUS (1013-1054) (attrib) Salve Regina** [3:23]
Thomas TALLIS (c.1505-1585), arr. Christopher MONKS The Spirit of Tallis*/**/+++ [3:07]
Samuel BARBER (1901-1981) Agnus Dei (arr. from Adagio for Strings) [7:36]
John TAVENER (b.1944) Funeral Ikos [8:07]
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695) Hear my Prayer, O Lord [2:37]
HILDEGARD of BINGEN (1098-1179) Spiritus Sanctus Vivificans ** [2:50]
Jonathan ROBERTS (b.1983) Never Seek to Tell Thy Love* [3:50]
Antonio LOTTI (1667-1740) Crucifixus [3:29]
HILDEGARD of BINGEN O Virtus Sapientiae + [2:16]
Tomás Luis de VICTORIA (c.1548-1613) Versa Est (Requiem) [4:56]
David BUCKLEY (b.1976) Strengthen ye the weak hands*/++ [2:18]
William BYRD (c.1540-1623) Agnus Dei from 4-part mass [4:05]
John TAVENER The Lamb [4:01]
* World premičre recordings
** Anna Sandström (soprano); + Kirsteen Rogers (soprano); ++ Rachel Robinson (soprano),
Peter Morton (tenor); +++ Kelly McCusker, violin
Armonico Consort/Christopher Monks
rec. Moreton Morrell Real Tennis Club, 11-12 February, 2010. DDD.
Booklet includes texts and translations
SIGNUM SIGCD235 [52:40]

Experience Classicsonline

This is the second CD to be inspired by Armonico Consort’s ‘Naked Byrd’ concert programme, which, to quote the Signum publicity material, ‘features music by Tavener, Purcell, Barber and Byrd, composers who wore their hearts on their sleeves, and whose art saw their emotions laid bare, in an atmospheric concert where magical musical moments are intertwined with sublime passages of plainchant and violin improvisation’ It’s similar in manner to Volume 1 which I reviewed in May 2010 – see review.

Let me say at once that, having cut though the publicity hype, I found the whole of this programme as beautiful and as excellently sung as the first. It also introduces the listener to some unfamiliar music, but let me also get two small complaints out of the way. The first is that 53 minutes is rather short value for a full-price CD, however good.

Secondly, as was the case with Volume 1, someone picking up the CD in a browser might buy it on impulse under the impression that the music is all or mostly by Byrd, when, in fact, there is only one 4-minute item by him. I’m afraid that the titles of Naked Byrd 1 and 2 do rather beg the question.

What we do have more than compensates – a very wide-ranging and eclectic programme of some of the most beautiful music ever composed, from the opening Salve Regina, attributed to the 11th-century composer Hermannus Contractus, via the two works by the wonderful Abbess Hildegard, to whose music I could listen all night, through the renaissance and baroque, Samuel Barber’s own arrangement of his Adagio and two by-now familiar John Tavener works, to three new compositions here receiving their first outings.

One of these new works is a re-working of an old one by the Consort’s artistic director Christopher Monks, revisiting the same piece from Thomas Tallis’s English settings in Archbishop Parker’s Psalter which Vaughan Williams employed for his Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. The result is not quite as magical as that VW composition, partly because Monks stays closer to the original – Tallis was stuck with setting some fairly banal English words and had to set them in a fairly limited manner, unable to make settings of English his own in quite the same way that his younger contemporary Byrd was able to do. Nevertheless, the Phrygian mode of the original is haunting and Monks’ reworking is impressive. I don’t always react favourably to this kind of reinterpretation of earlier music – Jan Garbarek’s realisations on ECM, Officum Novum* and its predecessors, leave me feeling profoundly depressed – but I found Kelly McCusker’s violin weaving around Anna Sanderson’s voice here very moving. As with most of the music here, both ancient and modern, from the soaring opening Salve Regina onwards, the epithet ‘ethereal’ is highly appropriate.

Even if you have the complete Byrd four-part Mass from which the Agnus Dei (tr.12) is excerpted or the complete Victoria Requiem whence Versa est (tr.10) is derived, you shouldn’t feel short-changed. You may, however, note that, as on Volume 1, slower tempi than usual are adopted for these and for most of the medieval and renaissance pieces, even by comparison with the Tallis Scholars, themselves no speed merchants.

The performance of Versa est takes 4:56 against the Scholars’ 4:37 – recently reissued in a wonderful budget-price 3-CD box to celebrate Victoria’s quatercentenary (GIMBX304) – and the Consort’s Agnus Dei weighs in at 4:05 against 3:20 (The Tallis Scholars sing William Byrd, 2 CDs for the price of one, CDGIM208). The contrast with The Sixteen in Victoria is even more extreme – they take just 4:05 for Versa est. (Coro CORSACD16033 or on a recent 4-CD set COR16089.)** For all that the Consort milk some of the music in this way, the effect is highly attractive. The singing is excellent and the recording does it full justice.

If Naked Byrd and Naked Byrd 2 lead you to explore some of the composers further, so much the better. There’s nowhere better to start than with Hildegard’s music A Feather on the Breath of God – Hyperion CDA30009, the first of my top 30 choices from Hyperion – see review – now at mid price and no overlap with the works on Naked Byrd 2.

The booklet contains the texts and translations, though some of these are a little rough. Spiritus Sanctus (track 6) is especially inaccurate, with est (it is) mistaken throughout for es (you are). Substitute the following translation: ‘The Holy Spirit is the life which gives life;/moving all things, its root is found in all creation,/and it washes everything from impurity, wiping sins clean, it anoints wounds./Thus it is a shining and praiseworthy life,/awakening and re-awakening everything’. The text of Lotti’s Crucifixus etiam pro nobis (tr.8) is translated as ‘he was crucified even for us’ when etiam here means ‘also’, not ‘even’. This passage is especially familiar, since it is taken from the Nicene Creed, so the mistranslation is all the more inexplicable. At least the texts are there this time, when they were conspicuous by their absence from Volume 1.

Minor grumbles about the lack of Byrd in the programme and about the quality of the translations apart, this second volume may be confidently recommended. As with Volume 1, the works from widely different periods sit much better together than I might have predicted. If in any doubt, subscribers to the Naxos Music Library can try it first and read the booklet there.

* ECM2125 – see review.
** see my March 2011/2 Download Roundup – here – for details of the Gimell and Coro recordings of Victoria.

Brian Wilson



Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Past and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.