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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67299
Recording details: May 2004
St Alban's Church, Holborn, London, United Kingdom
Release date: April 2005
Total duration: 65 minutes 21 seconds

'Beautifully performed and intelligently recorded' (BBC Music Magazine)

'The listener is left marvelling at the ingenuity and imagination that produced such an intriguing wealth of rhythmic, harmonic and textural effects from the interplay of just two voices. Red Byrd's performances convincingly recreate this distant sound-world, as well as conveying the excitement with which musicians must have explored the thrilling possibilities opened up by the idea of having two notes sounding simultaneously … an immensely rewarding disc' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Recorded in an atmospherically resonant acoustic, the singing is throaty rather than floaty, with just enough guttural emphasis to sound plausibly monkish' (International Record Review)

'In the hands of John Potter and Richard Wistreich, the two singers who constitute Red Byrd, the music is beguiling. It's surprisingly varied, ranging from pieces conceived as note-against-note, two-part polyphony to the extraordinarily ornate Sanctus Christe ierarchia, one of the two Parisian pieces included for the sake of contrast' (The Sunday Times)

'A first-rate addition for any collection … do not hesitate to acquire this, and put in a good word for more of the same' (Fanfare, USA)

'Written mostly for two voices in a stark, direct style, Red Byrd's austere performances project a wonderfully convincing harmonic picture of sacred music from the medieval Kingdom of Fife … these performances, with the skilled choral contributions of YORVOX, a York University vocal ensemble, offer something new at every listening' (Sunday Herald, Scotland)

'What impresses most in Red Byrd's approach is the way the clear rhythmicization of the musical phrases is yet so independent of any sense of regular, restrictive beat; this fluidity does not, however, prevent a formidably accurate sense of co-ordination' (Early Music)

'In bringing this repertory to life in so convincing a manner, they [Red Byrd] allow the listener to share in the beauty of polyphony coming into a period of rich blossom. That they have done so with such consummate artistry places us all in their debt' (Opera Today, USA)

Scottish Lady Mass
11th fascicle of W1
author of text

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Musical traditions in Paris were to set the solo sections of responsorial chants; this meant that the Magnus liber organi consisted of settings of graduals and alleluyas for the Mass and responsories for Matins and Vespers. This is the repertory copied into W1, one assumes, at the behest of a member of Mauvoisin’s entourage. Local practices north of the Firth of Forth were much less specific. The eleventh fascicle of W1 consists of troped Ordinary items for the Mass (Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei), tracts, sequences, offertories and other Proper items; there are no graduals, and the only point of overlap with the Parisian repertory is the alleluya.

Musical style differs radically between the Parisian and local parts of W1. The Parisian style of the Magnus liber organi is characterized by the careful combination of plainsong, sustained-tone organum (where the lower of the two parts is disposed in very long values and underpins a florid upper voice), discantus (where both voices move in a note-against-note measured counterpoint) and copula (which falls somewhere between the two). The music in the eleventh fascicle of W1 is largely written in a note-against-note style with the Parisian sustained-tone style much rarer and often reserved for cadential passages (the Gloria ‘Per precem’ is an example). Whether the note-against-note counterpoint is measured in the same way as Parisian discantus or whether it is to be performed more freely in the manner of the contemporary conductus repertory is an open question. The St Andrews style is simpler, more direct and – it might be argued – more accessible to the modern ear.

Although quite definitely not a liturgical reconstruction of a Lady Mass in St Andrews around 1230 or so, this repertory well reflects the liturgical inclusiveness of the musical culture that the cathedral engendered and that is to be found in W1. ‘Rex, virginum amator’, a troped Kyrie, is followed by the troped Gloria ‘Per precem’. ‘Missus Gabriel’ and ‘Hodierne lux’ are sequences, and further troped items are the Sanctus settings ‘Mater mitis’ and ‘Voce vita’ and the Agnus Dei ‘Factus homo’. This recording also includes two monophonic troped Ordinary items from the tenth fascicle of W1, ‘Christe ierarchia’ and ‘Archetipi mundi’; these last two works give a sense of the intellectual hothouse that the cathedral and its environs must have represented: the texts of both are stuffed full of subtle allusion and display a learnedness that extends to Greek.

It seems likely that performances of the St Andrews music were restricted to a couple of soloists with the schola participating only in those parts of the plainsong that were not set in polyphony. The same applies to the monophonic tropes, but there the balance between soloist and chorus is much more even.

from notes by Mark Everist © 2005

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