The Golden Renaissance

The Golden Renaissance: William Byrd
Stile Antico
Decca 4853951

Byrd’s later years are a fascinating time for Tudor music, and for this 400th anniversary Stile Antico dedicate a whole album to his works. It's the second release in a trilogy which also celebrates anniversaries of Josquin des Prez and Palestrina.

Beginning with the potentially autobiographical song, Retire, my soul, consider thine estate, Stile Antico pitch the music slightly lower and more wistfully than The Sixteen’s recent release (Psalmes, Songs and Sonnets 1611) and comparing the two there is an instant warmth about Stile Antico’s version; a fond, Werther’s Original hue that goes on to infuse this whole programme. And who’s to say that’s wrong? Certainly not Byrd Scholar Kerry McCarthy whose superb programme note emphasises the 'relative peace' offered to the composer in his twilight years as he lived 'under the protection of local Catholic gentry.' Built around a deeply moving performance of his Mass for Four Voices, the Propers for the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary are also performed. These are notoriously difficult pieces but Stile Antico sing them with great poise, particularly the complex flourishes in Propter veritatem. As an ensemble they also deftly navigate the many textural changes that Byrd demands such as the exquisite three-part verse Assumpta est Maria in which I especially enjoyed the imitation on gaudet exercitus. [...]

For the full text of this review please see Gramophone magazine (March 2023)


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