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Hyperion Records

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The Madonna delle Ombre (1450, detail) by Fra Angelico (Guido di Pietro) (c1387-1455)
Museo di San Marco dell'Angelico, Florence / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA68038
Recording details: October 2013
Westminster Cathedral, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Adrian Peacock
Engineered by David Hinitt
Release date: September 2014
Total duration: 4 minutes 43 seconds

'Byrd's double life, in public a member of Queen Elizabeth I's Chapel Royal in a newly Protestant England, in private a covert Catholic, directly shaped his music. Grand works such as the Great Service are among the glories of the English choral tradition. In contrast, the three Latin masses set here, long neglected, were for amateur, chamber performance in hidden Catholic communities. Westminster Cathedral Choir may sing them with more splendour and finesse than Byrd himself would have expected, yet the results are uplifting and moving. It's no slight to these musicians to say the disc is worth buying for the Byrd scholar John Milsom's incomparable notes: a masterly encapsulation of Tudor church music history in a few dense pages' (The Observer)

'Aided by the clarity of the recording, which nevertheless gives a sense of the ambiance of the Cathedral, all four parts (Agnus Dei, 4-part mass) shine through in a balance between the voices achieved at least as well as on any other recording … if I could have 24-bit sound on the island, the new Hyperion would have to be my first choice. It also sounds fine even in mp3—I haven’t tested the in-between 16-bit version—and it comes with a booklet of the usual high Hyperion quality' (MusicWeb International) » More

Ave verum corpus
composer
4vv; Gradualia I (1605)
author of text
Hymn to the Blessed Sacrament, Corpus Christi

Other recordings available for download
The Tallis Scholars, Peter Phillips (conductor)
The Tallis Scholars, Peter Phillips (conductor)
Westminster Cathedral Choir, James O'Donnell (conductor)
Winchester Cathedral Choir, David Hill (conductor)
Laudibus, Michael Brewer (conductor)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Gradualia includes the four-voice motet Ave verum corpus, which sets words specified in the Catholic liturgy for use on the feast of Corpus Christi. Today no composition by Byrd is performed and recorded more often than this one, partly because it is such a gem, partly because it offers such rich opportunities for expressive singing, and partly because it is technically not hard for choirs to sing. Nonetheless this motet, like Byrd’s Masses, attained its popularity only in the modern era; being strictly a Catholic work, it was totally shunned by English church musicians until its revival by Catholic choirs late in the nineteenth century. In an age of greater religious tolerance its popularity quickly spread, and by a pleasing twist of fortune Byrd’s Ave verum corpus is now a staple not only of Catholic choral worship, but of Anglican too. Ave verum corpus at Evensong: again, Byrd would have been amazed.

from notes by John Milsom © 2014


Other albums featuring this work
'All in the April Evening' (CDH55243)
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'Byrd: Mass for five voices' (CDH55348)
Byrd: Mass for five voices
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'Byrd: Playing Elizabeth's Tune' (CDGIM992)
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'Byrd: The Tallis Scholars sing William Byrd' (CDGIM208)
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'Byrd: The three Masses' (CDGIM345)
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'Exultate Deo' (CDA66850)
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'Sacred Music in the Renaissance, Vol. 1' (GIMBX301)
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