This latest release in The Cardinall’s Musick complete Byrd Edition is surely one of the most eagerly awaited events in the early music calendar. Previous discs in this award-winning survey of the greatest composer of the age have commanded the highest possible critical acclaim. Performances of filigree clarity, yet great passion and sincerity, allow the composer’s particular genius to shine forth in an unhindered blaze of glory.
The works in this eleventh volume present Byrd the recusant: covering the last year of his fashionable career in London and moving to a quieter life in the Essex countryside. The music is from two sources: the magnificent Cantiones Sacrae of 1591 and the Gradualia from 1607. The seven motets from 1591 show Byrd to be pre-occupied with thoughts of desolation, loss, deprivation and separation—familiar ideas for the recusant Catholic community. A feeling of angst in the music is leavened by a sense of salvation and a glimmer of hope that is the composer’s constant refrain. The Gradualia contains some of the most imaginative, modern-sounding and energetic music that the composer ever wrote.
The Cardinall’s inspirational director Andrew Carwood sets the scene with fascinating booklet notes that illustrate the complex political and religious circumstances in which this great music was engendered.