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Hyperion Records

CDA67653 - Byrd: Hodie Simon Petrus & other sacred music
The Martyrdom of St Peter before Emperor Nero (M Fr 71 fol.28) by Jean Fouquet (c1420-1480)
Musée Condé, Chantilly, France / Giraudon / Bridgeman Art Library, London
CDA67653
Recording details: November 2007
Fitzalan Chapel, Arundel Castle, United Kingdom
Produced by Jonathan Freeman-Attwood
Engineered by Martin Haskell & Iestyn Rees
Release date: February 2009
Total duration: 67 minutes 47 seconds

'The performances are admirably directed, responsive to words, clear in their exposition of counterpoint, carefully blended in the homophonic passages. The Cardinall's Musick is an expert body of singers who know exactly what they are doing' (Gramophone)

'This performance is unparalleled in its depth of expression and intelligence. The Cardinall's Musick unerringly leads the listener to musical events that unlock Byrd's conception … crystalline sound reproduction ensures that every detail is captured. The imaginativeness of the selections for this disc attests to the scholarly expertise informing its production. In short, this performance brings us into the 'heavenly kingdom' longed for by Byrd' (BBC Music Magazine)

'The works for St Peter and St Paul … positively shimmer with exuberance … the beauties of these performances are revealed: litheness, energy and intelligence' (International Record Review)

'The Cardinall's Musick appeal like the most ardent supplicants at the altar rail. The flowing lines are rich with character and the blend is a bold mixture of individuals' (Classic FM Magazine)

'The completion of this series will be a landmark, but don’t wait to hear this beautiful disc' (Fanfare, USA)

'The Cardinall's Musick is certainly one of the world's more authoritative sources for well-researched, committed, fully engaging performances of Byrd's music, and anyone who wants to know the entire range of his work needs no further encouragement from me in making this newest release their next acquisition' (ClassicsToday.com)

'It may have been quite a long time coming but this eleventh disc from The Cardinall's Musick in their monumental exploration of William Byrd has certainly been worth the wait. The programme is built from the Cantiones Sacrae of 1591 and the Gradualia of 1607 and focuses on Byrd's recusant music. Throughout their series of recordings this method of interspersing the three books of Cantiones Sacrae with the two of Graduallia has been highly successful and what is most exciting is that it allows Andrew Carwood to be the first director to record the entire music from the Gradualia in liturgically appropriate combinations. Opening this album is the exquisite six-voice setting of Descendit de caelis which immediately confirms that these are performances that are every bit as good as the previous award-winning volume. There can be very few singers in the world just now that have such an understanding of Byrd's vocal works as The Cardinall's Musick and here they give impassioned and immediate performances that move on from the early music stereotypes that used to dominate in this field' (Musical Criticism.com)

Hodie Simon Petrus & other sacred music

This latest release in The Cardinall’s Musick complete Byrd Edition is surely one of the most eagerly awaited events in the early music calendar. Previous discs in this award-winning survey of the greatest composer of the age have commanded the highest possible critical acclaim. Performances of filigree clarity, yet great passion and sincerity, allow the composer’s particular genius to shine forth in an unhindered blaze of glory.

The works in this eleventh volume present Byrd the recusant: covering the last year of his fashionable career in London and moving to a quieter life in the Essex countryside. The music is from two sources: the magnificent Cantiones Sacrae of 1591 and the Gradualia from 1607. The seven motets from 1591 show Byrd to be pre-occupied with thoughts of desolation, loss, deprivation and separation—familiar ideas for the recusant Catholic community. A feeling of angst in the music is leavened by a sense of salvation and a glimmer of hope that is the composer’s constant refrain. The Gradualia contains some of the most imaginative, modern-sounding and energetic music that the composer ever wrote.

The Cardinall’s inspirational director Andrew Carwood sets the scene with fascinating booklet notes that illustrate the complex political and religious circumstances in which this great music was engendered.


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Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Fundamental change in the Church is rarely easy to achieve with unanimity and without pain and division. The people of early sixteenth-century England had only ever known one belief system, a complicated set of rules preserved and developed by a Church with its spiritual head in Rome. It governed their daily lives and although the conjoining of Church and State led sometimes to storms and tempests and division, it was ultimately secure. The Reformation destroyed certainty and left people only with questions. The English owed allegiance to their monarch and to their country but the spiritual focus of their lives, that which dealt with their immortal soul, was the Roman Church. Who had the right to tell the people what do? The King of England or the Bishop of Rome?

Musicians were not exempt from these weighty matters and in the early days they were all forced to react. John Merbecke, the Windsor-based composer, decided that his extended Latin votive antiphons were now useless, threw them to one side and embraced reform. Nicholas Ludford, the prolific composer and churchwarden of St Margaret’s, Westminster, also seems to have stopped composing his Latin works, but not because of any desire for change, rather because of a deep dissatisfaction with the way in which religious policy was unfolding.

Time is a great healer however and, as the century progressed, people forgot the old ways. Those who had grown up under Elizabeth’s intelligent and sensible settlement took the reformed Church as a given. Composers such as Thomas Weelkes, Orlando Gibbons and Thomas Tomkins found themselves part of a uniquely English institution which allowed them the freedom to produce exceptional music. Yet, for those who still held their allegiance to Rome these days were hard, full of persecution and deprivation. William Byrd had grown up not with the reforms of Elizabeth but with the Catholic restoration of Mary. Born in 1539 or 1540, he was probably a chorister in London and was a teenager during the politically and artistically stimulating early years after Mary’s accession. It must have been at this time that a desire for England to remain Catholic became embedded in his heart.

As a devout Catholic and a brilliant musician it is perhaps a little strange that Byrd should never have travelled abroad. All eyes looked to Italy for art, manners and etiquette and many left England either to experience the various styles and fashions of the Continent or to flee the Catholic persecution. Much of Byrd’s life however was spent in London (apart from a brief spell as the young organist of Lincoln Cathedral) until he moved to a quieter life in the countryside of Essex in the 1590s. He was truly an English composer and perhaps it is possible to see in this move, this nesting in the countryside, an even more definite statement of his beliefs. His writing is unmistakably English and it is likely that his view of Catholicism was also deeply English: these two elements are clearly brought together in his music.

With the exception of the Litany, the pieces contained on this disc, the eleventh devoted to the Latin Church music of Byrd, are from two sources: the Cantiones Sacrae of 1591 (published at the end of his time in London) and the second book of motets entitled Gradualia from 1607 (which contains music probably written for the Catholic community based around Ingatestone Hall in Essex). The seven motets from 1591 show Byrd to be preoccupied with thoughts of desolation, loss, deprivation and separation—thoughts which were obsessions for the recusant Catholic community. Yet it is rare for Byrd not to offer salvation in his music, indeed this is his constant refrain. Each piece provides at least a glimmer of hope and often contains an outright statement of positive thought.

Andrew Carwood © 2009


Other albums in this series
'Byrd: Laudibus in sanctis & other sacred music' (CDA67568)
Byrd: Laudibus in sanctis & other sacred music
'Byrd: Assumpta est Maria & other sacred music' (CDA67675)
Byrd: Assumpta est Maria & other sacred music
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'Byrd: Infelix ego & other sacred music' (CDA67779)
Byrd: Infelix ego & other sacred music
MP3 £6.99FLAC £6.99ALAC £6.99Buy by post £10.50 Studio Master: FLAC 24-bit 44.1 kHz £7.85ALAC 24-bit 44.1 kHz £7.85 CDA67779  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'Byrd: The Great Service & other English music' (CDA67937)
Byrd: The Great Service & other English music
MP3 £6.99FLAC £6.99ALAC £6.99Buy by post £10.50 Studio Master: FLAC 24-bit 44.1 kHz £7.85ALAC 24-bit 44.1 kHz £7.85 CDA67937  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
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