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William Byrd

The Times hails new album

Geoff Brown, The Times (11 January, 2023)

It’s 400 years since the deaths of William Byrd and Thomas Weelkes, masterly composers straddling the late Tudor and Jacobean periods…

Concentrating on Byrd, the ace British vocal group Stile Antico… offer a sumptuous and radiant progression of mostly sacred pieces written for home consumption or clandestine services by a composer who passed through Henry VIII’s English Reformation but always privately kept the Catholic faith.

Stile Antico (as always, conductor-free)… splendidly showcase Byrd’s intense imagination, exuberance and general magnificence, especially when the composer’s vocal lines spin off into repeated phrases, tumbling over each other in rapturous cascades. A Mass for four-part choir, printed in the 1590s, is interspersed with more grandiose settings of sacred songs, psalms and prayers: but whatever the dimensions and forces used, our spirits are lifted by Byrd’s powerful art and the singers’ tonal variety, expressive warmth and terrific ensemble panache.