Notes and Editorial Reviews
Tristitia et anxietas. Vigilate. Tribulationes civittum. Vide Domine. Ne irascaris. Quomodo cantabimus.
Domine quid multiplicati sunt. Miserere mei. Voce mea ad Dominum. O suavitas et dulcedo. Super flumina Babylonis
Gabriel Crouch, cond; Gallicantus
SIGNUM SIGCD 295 (69:17
Text and Translation)
No one should be surprised, seeing these composers paired on one disc, to find that the program concludes
Super flumina Babylonis
and Byrd’s completion of the psalm setting,
. This Psalm 136, the Jews’ lamenting their exile in Babylon, was a figurative lament of recusant Catholics in Elizabethan England. Sure enough, the notes make it clear that this coupling is the reason for bringing the sacred music of the two composers together. Monte, who had come to England in the choir of Philip II for his marriage to Queen Mary in 1554, may have encountered Byrd, which would explain why, 30 years later, he sent Byrd this eight-part motet set to the first part of the Psalm. The next year Byrd returned the compliment by finishing the Psalm and sending it to Monte. The two motets have been coupled before, most recently in the third disc of Andrew Carwood’s Byrd collection (
23:2) but also earlier by Harry Christophers (14:5) and I Fagiolini (21:3).
All the other Byrd motets are taken from the
of 1589, while Monte’s motets are taken from his Motets, Book 5 of 1579, except for the 1575
O suavitas et dulcedo
. The title of the disc, “The Word Unspoken,” refers to the underlying meaning of Scriptural texts that were heard by Catholics as referring to their own situation. Byrd’s 1589 publication is full of such hidden analogies. The notes credit Joseph Kerman and Craig Monson for clarifying these hidden meanings.
The first recording of this vocal ensemble was denied me after all the Robert White discs I had reviewed (
33:6), and their second has not been reviewed yet, but it is gratifying finally to hear the exquisite singing of this eight-voice mixed group. The Byrd motets can be heard in Andrew Carwood’s traversal of the composer’s works, while De Monte’s motets, except for
Voce mea ad Dominum clamavi
(apparently a first recording), are available on one disc or another. What sets this collection apart, of course, is the theme of recusant Catholics expressing their plight in music. Sally Dunkley’s notes serve this purpose, even pointing out the use of the term “gallicantus” (the name of the ensemble) in Byrd’s
. Well worth hearing.
FANFARE: J. F. Weber
Works on This Recording
Quomodo cantabimus? by William Byrd
Vigilate by William Byrd
Written: pub 1589; England
Super flumina Babylonis by Philippe de Monte
O suavitas by Philippe de Monte
Miserere mei by Philippe de Monte
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