William Byrd: Motets

Antonio Ezquerro, Goldberg Magazine
Onsdag, 30. april

Paul Hillier is without a doubt one of today’s best (if not the best) directors of this kind of music. And the Danish vocal group Ars Nova is a sure thing with this repertoire. Oddly, the booklet is published in English only, but translations are available at the web site www.arsnova.dk . It’s a pretty reasonable, albeit inconvenient, way to cut costs.

Even today it is hard to explain how William Byrd, a Catholic, got by for so many years in religiously turbulent England (with an Anglican court and queen who led that church). Track 7, O Lord, make thy servant Elisabeth our Queen, for 6 voices, is a fine example of Byrd’s amazing cohabitation with the court of Elisabeth I. This stands in contrast to some of his compositions in Latin, such as the Marian Antiphons recorded here, Salve Regina for five voices or Regina caeli for three, in addition to the powerful motets Infelix ego for six voices, Tristitia et anxietas and Laudibus in sanctis, both for five voices. The record also features several pieces in English, such as the 5vv Retire my soul and Prevent us, O Lord or the celebrated Sing joyfully for six voices.

Summing up, this record is a delight to listen to with the booklet in hand. We point out the completeness of the performance, strong in its cadences, with powerful bass and clear trebles, capable of conjuring up all the expressivity of the text. The latter is sung with good diction, independence of melodic lines and at the same time, a tight feel. It is a CD featuring the latest state-of-the-art polyphony the market has to offer.