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Live Performances

Seen and Heard relishes Byrd

Mark Berry, Seen and Heard International (1 July, 2023)

Temple Music’s William Byrd Festival, commemorating the 400th anniversary of the composer’s death, offers two lectures, three services, and four concerts. Prior commitments mean I have had to restrict myself to two of the concerts, but if the rest is anything like this opening event from Stile Antico, listeners would be well advised to flock to the Temple Church now….

The opening Emendemus in Melius made for a splendid concert introit, Stile Antico’s sound warm and rounded, doubtless assisted further by the Temple acoustic — and, of course, by Byrd’s music itself… O Lord, make thy servant Elizabeth… received a fine performance here, again of considerable warmth, with finely judged dissonances, none of which eclipsed a proper sense of direction…

The other ensemble members returned for a Nunc dimittis from the ‘Great Service’ with an apt sense of eventide peace, a ravishing surge of light for ‘thy people Israel’, and a warmly enveloping doxology… Three Latin motets from the Cantiones sacrae followed: works not for public worship, but private devotion (and connoisseurship). Vide, Domine, afflictionem nostrum and Ne irascaris, Domine, both implicitly comparing the fallen Jerusalem to the condition of the Roman Catholic Church, brought with them a sense of weight, even grief, balancing the latter with not a little defiance. The latter, dark, plaintive, yet illuminated, managed to inform our own very different current causes for grief more than four centuries later, its astonishing harmonies biting as if yesterday, yet never for their own sake, as one might hear in, say, Gesualdo.

Full review at