Byrd: Propers for the Nativity; In exitu Israel; Ave regina caelorum

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COMPOSERS: Byrd
LABELS: ASV Gaudeamus
WORKS: Propers for the Nativity; In exitu Israel; Ave regina caelorum
PERFORMER: The Cardinall’s Musick/Andrew Carwood
CATALOGUE NO: CD GAU 178
The Cardinall’s Musick reveals Byrd’s fascinatingly different creative aspects in this second volume of its complete edition. Ave regina caelorum may not be authentic Byrd, but is given a committed performance. O salutaris hostia, on the other hand, is one of Byrd’s most adventurous pieces, and this choir’s superb tonal control underlines the expressive relevance of the startling harmonic invention. The severe clashes arising out of the counterpoint vividly depict the ‘hostile wars’ mentioned in the text.

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After the delightful Alleluya, Confitemini Domino, the Cardinall’s Musick applies its liturgical awareness and scholarship in a persuasive account of In exitu Israel (jointly composed by Sheppard, Byrd and Mundy) that cleverly avoids the muddy textures of the original by transposing the polyphony up an octave. They are likewise eloquent in communicating the miracle of the virgin birth in the plainer musical style of the Gradualia propers for the Nativity.

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The Cardinall’s Musick rejoices in this music’s exceptional emotional range, most notably in the richly varied Deus in adjutorium. Ultimately, though, it is Ad Dominum cum tribularer, with its heartfelt pleas for Divine assistance, that leaves the deepest impression. Nicholas Rast