William Byrd (±1539-1623): Felix es, sacra Virgo

Byrd published this beautiful setting of the Alleluia at Mass for the Nativity of the Virgin  in 1605 in the first volume of Gradualia. He had a very specific agenda which was to set music for "the principal Feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary" together with antiphons and hymns to her.  It’s a beautifully flowing…

William Byrd (±1539-1623): Aspice, Domine quia facta est

Byrd’s  of the Matins Respond for November was published in the 1575 Cantiones Sacræ. The text is from The Lamentations and it’s a six-part setting for divided tenors and means that clearly shows Ferrabosco’s influence in its Italianate structure of lengthy imitative writing followed by very brief homophonic passages. The effect is quite dark but…

William Byrd (±1539-1623): Teach Me, O Lord

It must have been an agonising experience for Byrd to see his hopes for the five-year English Catholic renaissance of 1553–58 dashed with the death of Queen Mary. A devout, and stubborn Catholic he was to live the remainder of his life under protestant monarchs. Fortunately for him, and for us, he managed the difficult…

William Byrd (±1539-1623): O magnum misterium

O magnum misterium is Byrd’s SATB setting of this much-loved text. He published it in the 1607 Gradualia, it’s a lovely piece of music in which he conveys his sense of awe and wonder at The Nativity. In the performance below the Cambridge Singers have included Beata Virgo, which although it’s a separate motet, followed…

William Byrd (±1539-1623): Puer natus est nobis

Puer natus est nobis Et filius datus est nobis Cuius imperium super humerum eius Et vocabitur nomen eius Magni consilii Angelus Cantate Domino canticum novum Quia mirabilia fecit Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, in secula seculorum. Amen.    Introit for the Mass of Christmas Day

William Byrd (±1539-1623): Domine, quis habitabit?

Like Domine ante te omne desiderium about which I wrote on August 29th of this year (see: William Byrd (±1539-1623): Domine ante te omne desiderium | Saturday Chorale) Domine, quis habitabit? is a Psalm motet and like Domine ante te omne desiderium it’s an unpublished work. It’s a relatively early piece, in fact it’s undated…

William Byrd (±1539-1623): Non vos relinquam (SSATB)

Non vos relinquam is one of the motets from the 1607 Gradualia. It’s a five-part setting (SSATB) whose simple and flowing style conceals some very complex counterpoint. Whenever I listen to it I marvel at how Byrd wove the alleluias into the fabric of the piece and how he manages to portray the Apostles’ mixed…

William Byrd (±1539-1623): Plorans Plorabit

Byrd’s five part (SAATB) setting of verses seventeen and eighteen from Jeremiah 13 was published in the 1605 Gradualia. It’s a bit unusual in that unlike most of the content of the 1605 gradualia  it’s not a liturgical motet. Further more its text was manifestly chosen as a reference to  the situation of the English…

William Byrd (±1539-1623): Nunc Dimittis from the Great Service

Byrd’s settings for the Great Service took Anglican music forward from its hesitant and somewhat experimental phase into somewhat more splendid territory. He probably wrote the Magnificat (about which I wrote last Friday see: William Byrd (±1539-1623): Magnificat from the Great Service | Saturday Chorale) and the Nunc Dimittis last it’s beautiful music which manages…