William Byrd

Biography

Born: 1543   Died: 1623   Country: England   Period: Renaissance
Even in an era so richly stocked with great names, William Byrd demands particular attention as the most prodigiously talented, prolific, and versatile composer of his contemporaries. Byrd was born in about 1543, and it is assumed that he was a chorister in the Chapel Royal (his brothers were choristers at St. Paul's Cathedral) and a student of Thomas Tallis. He was named organist and master of choristers of Lincoln Cathedral at the age of 20, Read more where he wrote most of his works in English and music for Anglican services. This music and his anthems provided the young English church with some of its finest music. In 1570 he was appointed a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, where he shared the post of organist with Thomas Tallis. Queen Elizabeth I, despite Byrd's intense commitment to Catholicism, was one of his benefactors, and granted him and Tallis a patent to print music in 1575. Their first publication was a collection of five- to eight-part, Latin motets, but they published little else. Around the same time, Byrd began composing for the virginal. His contribution to the solo keyboard repertoire comprises some 125 pieces, mostly stylized dances or exceptionally inventive sets of variations which inaugurated a golden age of English keyboard composition.

During the 1580s and 1590s, Byrd's Catholicism was the driving motive for his music. As the persecutions of Catholics increased during this period, and occasionally touched on Byrd and his family, he wrote and openly published motets and three masses (one each in three, four, and five parts), which are his finest achievement in sacred music, almost certainly composed for small chapel gatherings of Catholics. Byrd had taken up the publishing business again, printing the first English songbook, Psalmes, Sonets and Songs in 1588. This and his other songbooks include Byrd's compositions in the leading secular genres of the day: the ayre or lute song, the madrigal, and the consort song for solo voice and viols. The consort song's finest hour came at the hands of Byrd, who preferred texts of a high moral (frequently religious) or metaphysical tone. They are notable for the way the viol parts lead an existence independent of the vocal line. He openly published two Gradualia in 1605 and 1607, with music for the Propers of all the major feast days. His last collection, Psalmes, Songs and Sonnets from 1611, consisted mostly of previously published works, but did include two of his viol consort works. Byrd is at his most distinguished in the free fantasias for consort, particularly the later pieces in five and six parts, works of exceptionally luxurious texture. Byrd's last songs were published in 1614, and he lived out his life comfortably at Stondon Massey, where he died in 1623. Read less

Work: Mass for 4 Voices

Browse 1-25 of 27 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Byrd: The Three Masses; Ave Verum Corpus
    Label: Hyperion   Catalog: 68038 Release Date: 09/09/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Byrd
    Conductor:  Martin Baker
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  • 2.
    Byrd: The Masses For 3, 4 & 5 Voices / Paul Hillier, Pro Arte Singers
    Label: Harmonia Mundi   Catalog: 1957223 Release Date: 02/11/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Byrd
    Conductor:  Paul Hillier
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Pro Arte Singers
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  • 3.
    Times Go By Turns / New York Polyphony
    Label: Bis   Catalog: 2037 Release Date: 08/27/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Byrd,  John Plummer,  Thomas Tallis,  Richard Rodney Bennett  ... 
    Performer:  Geoffrey Dunstan Williams,  Steven Caldicott Wilson,  Christopher Dylan Herbert,  Craig Phillips
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Polyphony
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  • 4.
    EMI Eminence - The Original Jacket Collection [50-CD Set]
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 393872 Release Date: 02/26/2013   Number of Discs: 50
    Composer:  Richard Wagner,  Richard Strauss,  Ralph Vaughan Williams,  William Byrd  ... 
    Performer:  David Nolan,  Jonathan Small,  George Malcolm,  William Bennett  ... 
    Conductor:  Karl Anton Rickenbacher,  Vernon Handley,  George Guest,  George Malcolm  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra,  Cambridge St. John's College Choir  ... 
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  • 5.
    Byrd: Masses For Three, Four And Five Voices
    Label: Regis   Catalog: 1336 Release Date: 01/29/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Byrd
    Conductor:  Stephen Darlington
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Christ Church Cathedral Choir
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  • 6.
    Magnificat - 500 Years Of Choral Masterworks [50-CD Set]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001664502 Release Date: 04/10/2012   Number of Discs: 50
    Composer:  Gregorio Allegri,  Antonio Lotti,  Orlando de Lassus,  Josquin Des Préz  ... 
    Performer:  Patrick Russill,  Marinella Pennicchi,  Michael Chance,  Mark Tucker  ... 
    Conductor:  Harry Christophers,  Paul McCreesh,  Stephen Cleobury,  Edward Wickham  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Sixteen,  Gabrieli Consort,  Gabrieli Players  ... 
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  • 7.
    Byrd: Masses For 4 And 5 Voices / Guest, St. John's College Choir
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 62015 Release Date: 01/04/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Byrd
    Conductor:  George Guest
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge St. John's College Choir
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  • 8.
    Byrd, Taverner: Masses & Motets / Willcocks, King's College Choir
    Label: Newton Classics   Catalog: 8802020 Release Date: 10/26/2010   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  William Byrd,  John Taverner
    Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
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  • 9.
    Byrd: Masses; Tallis: Lamentations / Higginbottom
    Label: Crd Records   Catalog: 3499 Release Date: 05/01/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Byrd,  Thomas Tallis
    Conductor:  Edward Higginbottom
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Oxford New College Choir
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  • 10.
    Byrd: Sacred Choral Music
    Label: El Records   Catalog: 161 Release Date: 12/09/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Byrd
    Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
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  • 11.
    The Tallis Scholars Sing William Byrd
    Label: Gimell   Catalog: 208 Release Date: 11/13/2007   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  William Byrd
    Conductor:  Peter Phillips
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tallis Scholars
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  • 12.
    Playing Elizabeth's Tune - The Tallis Scholars Sing Byrd
    Label: Gimell   Catalog: 592 Release Date: 11/14/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Byrd
    Conductor:  Peter Phillips
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tallis Scholars
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  • 13.
    Renaissance Giants / The Tallis Scholars
    Label: Gimell   Catalog: 207 Release Date: 11/14/2006   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Thomas Tallis,  John Taverner,  Josquin Des Préz,  Giovanni Palestrina  ... 
    Conductor:  Peter Phillips
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tallis Scholars
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  • 14.
    Playing Elizabeth's Tune - The Tallis Scholars Sing Byrd
    Label: Gimell   Catalog: 992 Release Date: 10/10/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Byrd
    Conductor:  Peter Phillips
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tallis Scholars
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  • 15.
    O Taste And See / St. Martin's Chamber Choir
    Label: St. Martin's Chamber Choir   Catalog: 006 Release Date: 06/02/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Orlando Gibbons,  Charles Wood,  John Ireland,  Clifford Harker  ... 
    Conductor:  Timothy J. Krueger
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Martin's Chamber Choir
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  • 16.
    Playing Elizabeth's Tune - The Tallis Scholars Sing William Byrd
    Label: Gimell   Catalog: 902 Release Date: 06/08/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Byrd
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tallis Scholars
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  • 17.
    Byrd: 3 Masses / David Hill, Winchester Cathedral Choir
    Label: Eloquence   Catalog: 467611 Release Date: 11/18/2002   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Byrd
    Conductor:  David Hill
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Winchester Cathedral Choir
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  • 18.
    Byrd: Masses For 4 & 5 / Christophers, The Sixteen
    Label: Virgin Classics Special Import   Catalog: 62013 Release Date: 11/05/2002   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  William Byrd,  Philippe de Monte
    Conductor:  Harry Christophers
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Sixteen
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  • 19.
    Royal Composers - Byrd, Purcell, Gibbons / Popplewell
    Label: Griffin   Catalog: 4011 Release Date: 03/26/2002   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Byrd,  Henry Purcell,  Orlando Gibbons
    Performer:  Richard Edwards [Margot & the Nuclear So So's],  James Michael McGuire,  Graham Trew,  Richard Popplewell  ... 
    Conductor:  Richard Popplewell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Children and Gentlemen of Her Majesty's Chapels
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  • 20.
    Byrd: The Three Masses / Phillips, The Tallis Scholars
    Label: Gimell   Catalog: 345 Release Date: 06/12/2001   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Byrd
    Conductor:  Peter Phillips
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tallis Scholars
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  • 21.
    Byrd: Motets And Mass For Four Voices / Paul Hillier
    Label: Ecm   Catalog: 439172 Release Date: 04/03/2001   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Byrd,  Richard Edwards,  John Sheppard,  John Taverner  ... 
    Performer:  Paul Hillier,  Paul Elliott,  Judith Nelson,  Drew Minter  ... 
    Conductor:  Paul Hillier
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Theatre of Voices
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  • 22.
    Byrd: Masses / Mary Jane Newman, Parthenia Xii
    Label: Centaur Records   Catalog: 2471 Release Date: 09/19/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Byrd
    Conductor:  Mary J. Newman
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Parthenia XVI
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  • 23.
    Byrd: Three Masses / Willcocks, King's College Choir
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 433675 Release Date: 05/28/1999   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Byrd
    Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
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  • 24.
    Byrd: 3 Masses, Etc;  Taverner / Willcocks, Et Al
    Label: London/Decca Double Decker   Catalog: 452170 Release Date: 06/10/1997   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  John Taverner,  William Byrd
    Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
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  • 25.
    Byrd: Mass For 4 Voices / Darlington, Christ Church
    Label: Nimbus   Catalog: 5287 Release Date: 01/07/1997   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Byrd
    Conductor:  Stephen Darlington
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Christ Church Cathedral Choir
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