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Hyperion Records

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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
Track(s) taken from 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: 5 minutes 23 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' (

'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

Nunc scio vere
6vv; Graduali 1607 xxxviii
author of text
Introit at Mass, The Holy Apostles Peter and Paul; Acts 12: 11; Psalm 138 (139): 1-2

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
In the Gradualia volumes of 1605 and 1607, Byrd produced music for many of the Feasts of the Church’s calendar. One of the most complex sets is the six-voiced group of motets in honour of St Peter and St Paul. It may seem strange that the two most significant saints of the Church should have to share one Feast Day but in this sharing there is a powerful statement. The combination underlines the power of the Church itself, built on the rock of Peter and on the teachings of Paul. Byrd responds with music that it is cerebral, complex, witty and powerfully rhythmic. Indeed the set contains one of the most remarkable pieces of writing that Byrd ever produced. At the words ‘dicit Dominus Simoni Petro’ (‘says the Lord to Simon Peter’) in Quodcumque ligaveris Byrd indulges in a fascinating explosion of fast notes which require considerable vocal dexterity in terms of technique and tessitura. It is perhaps his way of highlighting that Peter’s authority (and thus the authority of all Bishops of Rome) came directly from Christ himself.

Unusually Byrd has varied the scoring in this set of pieces. Two of them (Tu es pastor ovium and Quodcumque ligaveris) are scored for a divided low bass part whereas the others are for the more usual AATTBarB combination. This strongly suggests that they were written at different times rather than all composed for one occasion (perhaps Byrd was even writing for the singers whom he knew would be present). The angst of the 1591 pieces is banished in these settings where Byrd gives his imagination free rein. Perhaps he felt more comfortable in Essex away from London; perhaps he was feeling the wind of change blowing through the country as Elizabeth gave way to James VI of Scotland who had promised (but was never to deliver) greater toleration for Catholics. We will probably never know, but the remarkable fact is that Byrd even in his later years could produce the most modern-sounding and the most energetic music that he had ever written.

He provides only three pieces (Nunc scio vere, Constitues eos principes, and Tu es Petrus) for Mass itself. There is no Communion setting which is certainly unusual and he relies on the fact that the Alleluia verse Tu es Petrus has the same text as the Offertory and that the same music could be used twice (a common occurrence throughout the two books of Gradualia). The set is completed by the short Solve, iubente Deo and the beautiful Hodie Simon Petrus which, appropriately enough in a collection of texts which otherwise refer only to St Peter, reserves its most telling music for the mention of the death of St Paul.

from notes by Andrew Carwood © 2009

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