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The Early Byrd: Early Works for Voices, Viols and Virginals, Vol. 1

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Audio CD, May 23, 1995
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Product Details

  • Performer: I Fagiolini, Fretwork, Sophie Yates
  • Composer: William Byrd
  • Audio CD (May 23, 1995)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Chandos
  • ASIN: B000000A60
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #598,633 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By ewomack TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 12, 2013
Format: MP3 Music Verified Purchase
"The Early Byrd," with its appropriately punning title, presents an almost overwhelming taste of the early works of the Tudor composer William Byrd. His stunning versatility at even a young age emerges in over an hour of this collection's music. Everything from sacred works in Latin, Virginal keyboard music and more secular music in English appear here, arranged not by type or category, which would have produced a more academic or encyclopedic feel, but in an order that showcases the true range of Byrd's compositional skill. Latin motets appear alongside rich arrangements of viols that seem to float before the listener. Then a virginal comes in to provide even more variety to the mix. Some early music collections suffer from repetition where the arrangements and melodies of each piece almost seem to blend into one, giving the false impression that so-called "early music" was monolithic in style. "The Early Byrd" sits at the farthest extreme from such compilations.

The first four pieces exemplify this. "Attollite Portas" starts off with a hypnotic polyphony of Latin infused and unaccompanied singing of Psalm 24, verses 7 - 10. Next, the viols come in to provide the gorgeous lilting undertow of "Triumph with pleasant melody" in which a "sinner" and Christ have a musical dialogue in English concerning salvation. Period pronunciation was used, so, for example, listeners will not hear the word "rejoice" in the modern pronunciation, but a word that sounds closer to "Rejwess." This lends a definite aura of authenticity, particularly accompanied by an explanation in the CD booklet (thankfully downloadable from the Chandos website) explaining that detailed descriptions of period phonetics do still exist. So these seemingly lost pronunciations do not represent a mere educated guess.
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Format: Audio CD
This disc of Byrd's music and its companion volume The Caged Byrd Caged Byrd are both excellent, I think. They present a finely judged mixture of his the range of his music, all of which is beautifully performed. It makes a thoroughly enjoyable and very rewarding programme.

It goes without saying that Byrd's music itself is simply wonderful. He was one of the greatest of Renaissance composers, and this is an excellent selection of his output, from deeply spiritual polyphony, beautiful secular songs and superb keyboard music - all of it immensely skilful, harmonically innovative and a pleasure to listen to. It is performed here by some of the world's best in this repertoire. I Fagiolini and the two viol consorts, Fretwork and Concordia, are now well established as international superstars and Sophie Yates is also very highly regarded. And quite right, too. The performances here are technically superb and also deeply felt: they get right to the heart of Byrd's music for me and simply make it glow.

Chandos's recorded sound is of the excellent quality we expect from them and the presentation and notes are very good. I have a lot of very fine recordings of Byrd by brilliant musicians like The Cardinall's Musick, The Tallis Scholars, Davitt Moroney, Robin Blaze and others; I think these stand very well with them and I like these discs very much indeed. Certainly as an introduction to the range of Byrd's music you couldn't do much better, but seasoned Byrd listeners like me will find plenty to enjoy here, too. Very warmly recommended.
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Wonderful presentation of early works by Byrd done by one of the best of today's early music groups, I Fagiolini.
What's makes I Fagiolini special is that they present Byrd's music with an emotional resonance sometimes lacking in other groups. They build the music, but know and feel out what's hidden inside of it. That makes it for me much fuller and more robust.
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Relaxing
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