Byrd - Laudibus in sanctis
The Cardinall’s Musick / Andrew Carwood
The Cardinall’s Musick’s director Andrew Carwood describes William Byrd as “the finest composer of his age”. And faced with such exquisite music, it’s hard to disagree. Intelligent and richly melodic, the two major works presented here are also embedded in the creative tension between Catholic and Protestant beliefs and practices of the period. Byrd managed to tread carefully and successfully through this minefield, serving for many years in the Chapel Royal before moving to Essex where he composed – and even dared to publish – music for the Catholic liturgy. These works date from that time and reveal a strikingly inventive, progressive understanding of late-16th-century musical development, in the use of rhythm and in the melodic setting of the words. Carwood and his singers rise to sumptuous heights.
Andrew Carwood on this progressive and dangerous music
What makes Byrd so great? For me, it’s the mixture of wonderful music plus the extraordinary intellectual wit, invention and imagination which we keep finding in the music. This music would have been sailing close to the wind, particularly the Gradualia which is music specifically written for the Catholic Mass. The Cantiones sacrae are obviously Latin texts and they do speak quite directly to the Catholic community, but they could be sung on any occasion. But the Gradualia stuff is written specifically for the Mass. It is progressive, it’s got instrumental traits, it’s got madrigalian traits, and there is the sense that Byrd is pushing the boundaries with the late motets: they’re quite hard to sing and they use the extreme of the ranges, so it makes it quite dangerous music actually to sing, as well as to perform in the 16th century without being arrested.