Byrd, Tallis: Prelude in C; Laetentur coeli; Mass for Five Voices; O nata lux; Salvator mundi

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COMPOSERS: Byrd,Tallis
LABELS: Delphian
WORKS: Prelude in C; Laetentur coeli; Mass for Five Voices; O nata lux; Salvator mundi
PERFORMER: Dunedin Consort
CATALOGUE NO: DCD 34008
Over the last half-decade, the Dunedin Consort has aspired to be counted among Scotland’s leading early-music ensembles. A pity, then, that reticent booklet notes should be the damp fuse failing to ignite this early music collection. The context is estimable: Byrd’s five-part Mass, sung by solo voices and framed by a selection of his choral and organ works derived from the Latin liturgy, together with similar pieces by his teacher and fellow Catholic Thomas Tallis. Yet their use of the so-called ‘English cadence’ apart, the theme of their many mutual allegiances is scarcely developed in the poorly proof-read booklet, offering little of interest, it would seem, either to specialists or tyros. Even the chosen context for the Mass, the Feast of the Assumption, goes unmentioned, though a plainsong collect is provided.

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Well, such things are sometimes beyond the powers of small and parlously financed groups to influence. Besides, in Tallis’s reflective O sacrum convivium and Byrd’s Justorum animae the beauty of the music is palpable, untroubled by a prominent soprano tone that intrudes into the more outgoing items. Tallis’s two organ hymns on ‘Veni redemptor’ add to the solemnity, though John Kitchen’s deft account of Byrd’s Prelude in C lightens the picture. Nicholas Williams