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William Byrd

Byrd praised in FT

Richard Fairmann, Financial Times (13 January, 2023)

In the closing years of Elizabeth I’s reign, Byrd retreated to the village of Stondon Massey in Essex, where he continued to write for the Anglican church but, as a committed Catholic, also composed music for private, or clandestine, performances by the local Catholic gentry. Among his Catholic masterpieces are two masses. Stile Antico takes the Mass for Four Voices as the foundation for this programme and threads shorter pieces between the movements. Although this disturbs concentration on the Mass, it allows for heightened contrasts, for example with the beautiful, late radiance of Retire my soul and the closing glory of Tribue, Domine. The performances are scrupulously well balanced and more generously expressive than some, a valid alternative to the pure approach of an ensemble like the Tallis Scholars. As a wide-ranging introduction to one of the greatest of English composers, this starts Byrd’s anniversary year in some style.