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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

'Byrd: Hodie Simon Petrus & other sacred music' (CDA67653)
Byrd: Hodie Simon Petrus & other sacred music
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67653 

Nunc scio vere
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

Track-specific metadata
Details for CDA67653 track 9
Recording date
14 November 2007
Recording venue
Fitzalan Chapel, Arundel Castle, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Jonathan Freeman-Attwood
Recording engineer
Martin Haskell & Iestyn Rees
Hyperion usage
  1. Byrd: Hodie Simon Petrus & other sacred music (CDA67653)
    Disc 1 Track 9
    Release date: February 2009
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