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Hyperion Records

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St Peter enthroned as Pope, initial from the Litlyngton Missal (1383/4).
Westminster Abbey Library / Copyright © Dean and Chapter of Westminster
Track(s) taken from CDA67770
Recording details: February 2009
Westminster Abbey, London, United Kingdom
Produced by David Trendell
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: August 2010
Total duration: 21 minutes 40 seconds

'A sumptuous banquet of choral delight awaits the hungry listener, laid out in three carefully balanced courses, to be savoured slowly, the whole programme sung and played with superlative skill … James O'Donnell, his Westminster musicians and the Hyperion team have produced another jewel of a disc' (Gramophone)

'The choir sounds best in Stanford's quintessentially Anglican Service in B flat and in Walton's The Twelve (1965) to a text by Auden. Its flamboyant organ part and fugal 'Twelve as the winds and the months' finale are intriguin and uplifting' (The Observer)

'This superb CD … now that sung Matins is virtually extinct in all but the most august establishments, Stanford's Te Deum and Jubilate from his B flat Service have become comparative rarities, and they make a terrific impact here, organ and choir combining with exultant, spine-tingling resonance … this is cathedral choral singing at its finest and most inspiring' (The Daily Telegraph)

'This glorious disc from Hyperion, celebrating what the Abbey choir is all about … the centrepiece of the disc is Byrd's glorious Mass for five voices, superbly delivered in a performance of outstanding clarity and sensitivity under James O'Donnell … Dupré adds his gloss to a Bach cantata movement to provide Robert Quinney and the Abbey organ a magnificent showpiece with which to round off this sumptuous musical feast with suitable exuberance … Hyperion's excellent recording perfectly captures the unique atmosphere. It's as good as being there—without the babble of tourists' (International Record Review)

Mass for five voices
composer
probably composed in late 1594 or early 1595; SATTB
author of text
Ordinary of the Mass

Other recordings available for download
Winchester Cathedral Choir, David Hill (conductor)
The Tallis Scholars, Peter Phillips (conductor)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
It was only recently established by bibliographical analysis that William Byrd’s three settings of the Ordinary of the Mass—in three, four and five parts—were almost certainly published in the early 1590s, coinciding with Byrd’s move from London to a Catholic enclave in Stondon Massey, Essex. The Mass for five voices, scored for treble (or soprano), alto, two tenors and bass, is thought to have been the last of the three to have been composed, probably in late 1594 or early 1595, and is, by any reckoning, a masterpiece. It is probable that Byrd composed his Latin liturgical music for use in the domestic chapels maintained, often at considerable personal risk, by recusant Catholic families. Here they would probably have been sung by a small group of singers, perhaps one to a part. This does not of course preclude performance by a larger group, and indeed these works have been well established in the choral liturgical repertory since their rediscovery in the early years of the twentieth century.

Unlike most of the Mass-settings of the Continental polyphonists, Byrd’s Masses are not based strictly on a single theme or other unifying material, but rather are freely composed. Many of the movements begin with a similar opening motif, or ‘head motif’, but then go their own way. The Mass for five voices represents something of a distillation of Byrd’s Latin style. It is highly compact and closely argued. The practicalities of liturgical performance in Byrd’s day dictated an economy of style and scale and suggested a restrained, rather than opulent, approach. The vocal texture, constantly varying in scoring, always enables the text to come across with great clarity and closely reflects, and also clarifies, its structure. For example, Byrd adjusts the scoring of each successive invocation of the Agnus Dei; first, three voices are used; then four; finally, all five. In the masterly Credo Byrd seems to place special emphasis on the phrase ‘Et unam sanctam catholicam et apostolicam ecclesiam’, which for the Catholic composer undoubtedly had particular resonance.

from notes by James O'Donnell © 2010


Other albums featuring this work
'Byrd: The three Masses' (CDA68038)
Byrd: The three Masses
Pre-order CD by post £10.50 CDA68038  September 2014 Release  
'Byrd: Mass for five voices' (CDH55348)
Byrd: Mass for five voices
MP3 £4.99FLAC £4.99ALAC £4.99Buy by post £5.50 CDH55348  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
'Byrd: The Tallis Scholars sing William Byrd' (CDGIM208)
Byrd: The Tallis Scholars sing William Byrd
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £11.75 CDGIM208  2CDs for the price of 1  
'Byrd: The three Masses' (CDGIM345)
Byrd: The three Masses
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £11.75 CDGIM345  Last few CD copies remaining  
'The Essential Tallis Scholars' (CDGIM201)
The Essential Tallis Scholars
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £11.75 CDGIM201  2CDs for the price of 1  
'Sacred Music in the Renaissance, Vol. 1' (GIMBX301)
Sacred Music in the Renaissance, Vol. 1
MP3 £15.99FLAC £15.99ALAC £15.99 GIMBX301  4CDs Boxed set (at a special price) — Download only  

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