Notes and Editorial Reviews
2010 GRAMOPHONE RECORDING OF THE YEAR!
Hyperion has done Byrd proud: to Davitt Moroney’s award-winning traversal of the complete keyboard music we can now add 13 volumes devoted to all of his sacred music. The membership of The Cardinall’s Musick has remained virtually unchanged in the many years it’s taken to complete. As with the last few volumes, this final instalment combines excerpts from the 1591 Cantiones sacrae and the Propers from Feast of All Saints from the later, monumental Gradualia of 1605/07. It’s a mixture also of the celebratory, as though the singers were congratulating themselves on a job well done — as well they might — and the
penitential, concluding with the full ensemble in a finely judged and quite extrovert Infelix ego, surely one of Byrd’s most memorable motets.
Yet the same might be said of so much of this music, the craftsmanship of which is impeccable, and the expression seemingly so heartfelt (try the marvellously restrained Iustorum animae, for example). Most of it’s taken with trebles on the top lines (as the spirited opener, Venite exultemus Domino) but when the line-up consists only of men (as in Domine, non sum dignus and Domine salva nos), the blend of voices is perhaps still more convincing. There is and has been much to praise, and at a time when early music ensembles are finding it increasingly difficult to get concerts or make records, the commitment of singers and label alike is a cause for gratitude, perhaps even optimism. Congratulations to all concerned.
— Fabrice Fitch, Gramophone [4/2010]
The musical imagination of The Cardinall's Musick does full justice to that of Byrd. The group's delivery is a sensual delight, as an individual singer's colours will flash up in polyphonic lines, then pool together with others in homophony.
— BBC Music Magazine [3/2010]
The Cardinall's Musick's award-winning Byrd series reaches its final volume, which includes some of the composer's most sublime and adventurous music, drawn in the main from the 1591 Cantiones Sacrae collection. Throughout this series it has become evident that a comprehensive survey such as this shows the genius of the composer in a uniquely effective way: by demonstrating the extraordinary variety and unsurpassed quality of his musical and liturgical achievements.
Andrew Carwood defines Byrd as the greatest composer of the age in his booklet note--as he writes:
"If there is an English musician who comes close to Shakespeare in his consummate artistry, his control over so many genres and his ability to speak with emotional directness it must be William Byrd."
The 'title track' of this volume, Infelix ego, is the crowning glory of Byrd's achievement as a composer of spiritual words and one of the greatest artistic statements of the sixteenth century. This remarkable text, taking the form of a number of rhetorical statements and questions, shows the whole gamut of emotion from a soul in torment--guilt, fear, embarrassment, anger, but crucially the gift of release when Christ's mercy is accepted. It can be seen as a microcosm of Byrd's sacred music and a fitting crown to this series.
Works on This Recording
Deo gratias by William Byrd
The Cardinall's Musick
Featured Sound Samples
Liber secundus sacrarum cantionum: Infelix ego
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