Notes and Editorial Reviews
Vigilate. Tristitia. Ne irascaris. Prevent us. O Lord, make thy servant Elizabeth. Magnificat
. Mass for Four Voices.
Ave verum corpus
Peter Phillips, dir; Tallis Scholars
GIMELL 992 (65:54
This program was recorded at Tewkesbury abbey four years ago for a BBC-TV production, already issued on DVD two years ago (GIMDN 902). Focused on the Catholic composer’s relation to Queen
Elizabeth, the content is somewhat diffuse, beginning with three Latin motets from the 1589 “Cantiones sacrae” collection, then two prayers and an English
(from the Great Service) from Byrd’s Anglican works, and concluding with the Mass for Four Voices and the
Ave verum corpus
from the Gradualia, late works for recusant Catholic use. The group has recorded most of these earlier, all but the first four pieces. The texts were chosen pointedly for metaphorical references to the plight of his coreligionists: “Keep watch” for those who would arrest them, a prayer for God’s consolation in their “sadness,” and a plea “not to be angry” with his faithful people. The DVD has two additional motets from the Gradualia.
The Mass is slower than the group’s previous recording, except for the crucial Agnus Dei. This is still not as broad as the ethereal Hilliard Ensemble version, unmatched on records since it first appeared with the other two masses but, inexplicably, long deleted from the EMI catalog. To be sure, there are other fine versions from both college choirs and vocal ensembles, but this new disc benefits from the latest engineering (it is also issued on GIMSA 592 in surround sound, not received). All in all, this is an admirable presentation of Byrd’s music in the light of his position at the Chapel Royal.
FANFARE: J. F. Weber
Works on This Recording
Mass for 4 Voices by William Byrd
Written: circa 1592-1593; England
Vigilate by William Byrd
Written: pub 1589; England
Cantiones sacrae, Book 1: Tristitia et anxietas by William Byrd
Written: by 1589; England
Liber primus sacrarum cantionum: Ne irascaris Domine by William Byrd
Written: by 1589; London, England
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