D. James Ross
Early Music Review
October 2012

The contents of this album may be easily summed up in the tide of the opening motet by Byrd, 'Tristitia et anxietas'. While, as Sally Dunkley points out in her programme note, 'only a handful of the 1589 and 1591 Cautiones Sacrae present cheerful texts', and these are studiously avoided in this programme built upon the sufferings of the believer in a hostile land. Culminating in beautiful performances of Byrd and Monte's famous collaboration (one might almost say commiseration) Super flumina Babylonis/Quomodo cantabimus, this album brings together some of Byrd's most agonized musical utterances with some surprisingly melancholy works by Monte. While it is easy to understand Byrd's anguish as a recusant catholic trapped in a hostile religious climate, it is harder to understand the source of Monte's suffering, blessed as he seemed to be as a catholic in a catholic empire, bent on the conquest of Europe. But Byrd's religious alienation found a direct counter-part in Monte's exile from his beloved Flanders. Both men it seems were 'singing the Lord's song in a foreign land', and what powerful music this feeling gave rise to! Galicantus give highly charged, heart-rending accounts of this work, and the final coming together in psalm 137 is almost unbearably poignant.