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Hyperion Records

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Christ on the Cross by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)
Reproduced by permission of The Wallace Collection, London
Track(s) taken from CDGIM345
Merton College Chapel, Oxford, United Kingdom
Produced by Steve C Smith & Peter Phillips
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: September 1984
Total duration: 22 minutes 17 seconds

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)
Westminster Abbey Choir, James O'Donnell (conductor)
The Tallis Scholars, Peter Phillips (conductor)
The Tallis Scholars, Peter Phillips (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: 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)  
'The Feast of Saint Peter the Apostle at Westminster Abbey' (CDA67770)
The Feast of Saint Peter the Apostle at Westminster Abbey
'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  
'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  
'Hyperion monthly sampler – April 2012' (HYP201204)
Hyperion monthly sampler – April 2012
HYP201204  Download-only monthly sampler   No longer available

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