BYRD Infelix ego ('Byrd Edition, Vol 13')
Hyperion has done Byrd proud: to Davitt Moroney’s award-winning traversal of the complete keyboard music we can now add 13 volumes devoted to all of his sacred music. The membership of The Cardinall’s Musick has remained virtually unchanged in the many years it’s taken to complete. As with the last few volumes, this final instalment combines excerpts from the 1591 Cantiones sacrae and the Propers from Feast of All Saints from the later, monumental Gradualia of 1605/07. It’s a mixture also of the celebratory, as though the singers were congratulating themselves on a job well done – as well they might – and the penitential, concluding with the full ensemble in a finely judged and quite extrovert Infelix ego, surely one of Byrd’s most memorable motets.
Yet the same might be said of so much of this music, the craftsmanship of which is impeccable, and the expression seemingly so heartfelt (try the marvellously restrained Iustorum animae, for example). Most of it’s taken with trebles on the top lines (as the spirited opener, Venite exultemus Domino) but when the line-up consists only of men (as in Domine, non sum dignus and Domine salva nos), the blend of voices is perhaps still more convincing. There is and has been much to praise, and at a time when early music ensembles are finding it increasingly difficult to get concerts or make records, the commitment of singers and label alike is a cause for gratitude, perhaps even optimism. Congratulations to all concerned.