Hyperion Records

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

Recordings
'Byrd: The three Masses' (CDA68038)
Byrd: The three Masses
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £10.50 Studio Master: FLAC 24-bit 96 kHz £12.00ALAC 24-bit 96 kHz £12.00 CDA68038  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'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  
'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  Boxed set (at a special price) — Download only  
Details
Movement 1: Kyrie
Movement 2: Gloria
Movement 3: Credo
Movement 4: Sanctus and Benedictus
Movement 4a: Sanctus
Movement 4b: Benedictus
Movement 5: Agnus Dei

Mass for five voices
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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

Track-specific metadata
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Details for CDGIM201 disc 2 track 11
Sanctus and Benedictus
Artists
ISRC
GB-ADM-84-00040
Duration
3'48
Recording date
Recording venue
Merton College Chapel, Oxford, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Steve C Smith & Peter Phillips
Recording engineer
Tony Faulkner
Hyperion usage
  1. The Essential Tallis Scholars (CDGIM201)
    Disc 2 Track 11
    Release date: April 2003
    2CDs for the price of 1
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