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


Support us financially by purchasing this from

The Sweetest Songs - Music From the Baldwin Partbooks III
Robert WHITE (c. 1535-1574)
Domine, non est exaltatum [8:43]
Portio mea [6:41]
William BYRD (1539/40-1623)
Tristitia et anxietas [9:35]
Peccavi super numerum [6:00]
Ne perdas cum impiis [4:52]
John MUNDY (c. 1555-1630)
In te Domine speravi [8:02]
Confitebor tibi Domine [3:36]
Robert PARSONS (c. 1535-1571/2)
Domine quis habitabit [3:56]
William MUNDY (c. 1528-c. 1591)
Memor esto verbi tui [7:13]
John SHEPPARD (c. 1515-1558)
Confitebor tibi Domine [6:14]
William DAMAN (c. 1540-1591)
Confitebor tibi Domine [2:25]
Contrapunctus/Owen Rees
Recorded in the Church of St Michael and All Angels, Oxford, 19-21 April 2016

This is the final, much anticipated part of Contrapunctus’ three-part exploration of the Baldwin partbooks, one of the most important sources of polyphony to come down from Tudor times, often containing the only extant text of certain music. Parts one and two had particular thematic focuses, and so, too, does this one: in this case it is the Psalm motet, a peculiarly English mode of choral worship which sets Latin verses of psalms as motets. That aspect unifies the disc, but is sufficiently diverse to allow a wide range of moods and themes to occur in each number.

It’s Contrapunctus at their best again. With only eleven singers listed in the booklet (and often using far fewer), they conjure up a phenomenally beautiful sound picture that evokes a lost world of Renaissance spirituality and soaring ecclesiastical architecture, the lines of polyphony cascading over one another like the levels of a waterfall. Glorious harmonies combine with exquisite precision to produce music that is artistically and spiritually delectable, and the beauty of Signum’s recording in the Oxford acoustic plays its part, too. Owen Rees directs the singers with clean sensibility and a fluid sense of line. This is clearly a labour of love for him, shown not only in his sympathetic direction but by his reconstruction of the (lost) tenor parts for many of these releases.

Byrd is the composer most represented on the disc. His Tristitia et anxietas, is full of distilled anguish, meditating on the sorrowful soul and God’s provision in loss. Byrd uses only male voices for this motet, a choice that makes a huge difference to the sound; but even when he includes sopranos, as he does in the similarly themed Peccavi super numerum, the music remains dark hued and no less compelling. There is a similar sense of pleading in Byrd’s Ne perdas cum impiis, brought to life with humanity and spiritual insight.

However, the more optimistic texts sound just as wonderful. John Mundy’s In te Domine speravi rings out with crystalline lucidity, and there is a glorious sense of optimism to Robert Parsons’ Domine quis habitabit with its meditation on the path of the righteous. That motet seems to gaze upwards towards those heavenly dwelling places it sings of, and there is a lighter, more airborne choral sound to go with it. Sheppard’s Confitebor tibi Domine has a glorious, resounding structure, as does William Daman’s setting of the same text, and gems like that of the anonymous composer make you wonder what other gifted composers have had their names forgotten by history.

Robert White’s Portio mea is a beautiful way to end the disc. The focused singing, exquisite in its precision, seems to burrow into the spirituality of the text, the solos ringing out with unfeasible clarity, and it led me as a listener to reflect not only on how lucky we are that the Baldwin partbooks survived, but how fortunate we are that they have such convincing advocates today.

I gave our “Recommended” award to parts one and two of this trilogy, and it seems only right to complete the hat trick by doing so again. In our time of stress, anxiety and anguish, this music is like balm for the soul, and it sounds sensationally good in the way these artists have brought it to life.

Simon Thompson

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