Byrd: Cantiones sacrae; Propers for the Feast of the Purification

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LABELS: Gaudeamus
WORKS: Cantiones sacrae; Propers for the Feast of the Purification
PERFORMER: The Cardinall’s Musick/Andrew Carwood
Gaudeamus’s complete Byrd project is an admirable collaboration between scholarship and performance and it has already unearthed some musical gems not previously recorded. David Skinner’s perceptive scholarship and (occasionally contentious) new editions provide solid foundations for these consistently fine performances.


Vol. 8 includes a selection of Byrd’s second book of sacred Latin motets and Mass Propers from the 1605 collection of Gradualia. The predominant mood is penitential – reflecting the desolation of the Catholic recusants during this period – though there is also music of serene optimism. One of Andrew Carwood’s great strengths is his understanding of and ability to communicate the close interaction between music and words – both in terms of the minutiae (and Byrd can, at times, use a positively madrigalian expressivity) and the overall structure. This is most affecting in the ensemble’s darkly introspective account of Tribulationes civitatum, in the urgent, driving rhythms of Vigilate and in the starkly intense reading of Ne irascaris Domine.


Using one voice to a part gives these readings an apt intimacy, to which the resonant chapel acoustic lends a natural bloom – a musical compromise, perhaps, but an appealing alternative to the large-scale performances by collegiate and cathedral choirs. Kate Bolton