Byrd: Hodie Simon Petrus; Cationes Sacrae 1591; Gradualia 1607

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COMPOSERS: Byrd
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Hodie Simon Petrus; Cationes Sacrae 1591; Gradualia 1607
PERFORMER: The Cardinall’s Musick/Andrew Carwood
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67653

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The previous disc in Carwood’s series of Byrd recordings gained two major awards – can he and the ensemble maintain the same standard? The answer is a resounding yes. In this, their eleventh foray into Byrd’s Latin Church music, the Cardinall’s Musick explores a terrain different from that of their tenth disc. Dark, intimate and stylistically more heterodox, the works of this programme contain broodings of a recusant Catholic who yields only occasionally to hopes of redemption.

The character of these compositions – with their sweeping lines, evocative word-setting and ravishing resolutions of contrapuntal tension – plays to the performers’ strengths. The bloom of their line lifts the spirit, the delicacy of their word emphases provokes thought, and their excitement at cadential points is irresistible.

Above all, this performance is unparalleled in its depth of expression and intelligence. The Cardinall’s Musick unerringly leads the listener to musical events that unlock Byrd’s conception. These may be either one word invested with meaning (‘miseracordium’ in the celebrated ‘Miserere mei, Deus’), a climax throughout a movement (in ‘Circumdederunt me’), or a gesture that accrues meaning (the descending triad in ‘Hodie Simon Petrus’). Crystalline sound reproduction ensures that every detail is captured.

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The imaginativeness of the selections for this disc attests to the scholarly expertise informing its production. In short, this performance brings us into the ‘heavenly kingdoms’ longed for by Byrd. Berta Joncus