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In the Company of William Byrd (2012)

Byrd Ensemble, directed by Markdavin Obenza


Released September 2012

iTunes, Spotify

CD Booklet (PDF)



Markdavin Obenza, director


1. William Byrd (1540-1623) - Ne irascaris Domine (8:10)
2. Philip van Wilder (c.1500-1553) - O doux regard (4:03)
3. William Byrd - Plorans plorabit (4:54)
4. Alfonso Ferrabosco (1543-1588) - Da pacem Domine (4:12)* 
5. William Byrd - Tristitia et anxietas (9:31)
6. Clemens non Papa (c.1510-1555) - Tristitia et anxietas
7. William Byrd - Libera me Domine (7:29)
8. Thomas Morley (1557-1602) - Domine Dominus noster (3:45)
9. Philippe de Monte (1521-1603) - Filiae Jerusalem (3:11)
10. William Byrd - Ad Dominum cum tribularer (10:32)

Total time: 64:03

*word-premiere recording



This CD places the English Renaissance composer William Byrd (1540–1623) alongside five other musicians whose work he knew well. It is a diverse group, spanning several generations and reaching far beyond the borders of England. Byrd himself seems never to have visited continental Europe—although he did own a copy of a printed travel book, a sort of sixteenth-century Michelin guide, with advice for first-time travelers abroad. (He was duly warned against the dangers of warmer climes, from “popish superstition” to “the daily use of Garlic.”) Although Byrd was no more than an armchair traveler, he certainly stayed in touch with international musical life. He kept up a lively correspondence with fellow-musicians both at home and abroad. He had access to the best collection of imported music in England, everything from old chant manuscripts to Monteverdi’s new books of madrigals. Like the great composers of later centuries, he had a keen ear for what his contemporaries were doing, and he spent his whole life learning from them. The closest comparison may be with Shakespeare, who never hesitated to beg, borrow, or steal from the rich Renaissance tradition of drama and poetry.


With the exception of one elegant little French song by Philip van Wilder, all the pieces on this CD are Latin motets. The motet enjoyed an unexpected revival of sorts in Elizabethan England, with Byrd himself taking a leading role. Latin motets had been banned from the reformed services of the Anglican church, but they took on a new life as sophisticated chamber music, sung by small groups of skilled musicians. This sort of music was no longer welcome in cathedral choirs, so it resurfaced in academic circles, the private rooms of the well-to-do, and the sometimes heroic efforts of scribes and collectors. Now that settings of the Catholic mass (the traditional grand genre of Renaissance music) were out of the question in England, the motet offered English musicians their only real opportunity to write large and complex works for many voices. It was also a very good choice for a cosmopolitan figure like Byrd, because there was no language barrier: educated people in any country could understand and enjoy musical prayers in Latin. The point was not lost on the printer of Byrd’s first book of motets, who advertised it as “worthy to be published throughout the world.” This recording is a small attempt to restore his music to its rich international context. 

In the Company of William Byrd (2012)


    "The Byrd Ensemble displays the sterling qualities found in their previous CD - beautiful blending, excellent intonation, soaring lines, ringing chords - and if they keep up at this level (and why not?), Seattle will be drawing singers just to work with them. This CD is a must for lovers of choral song. I can only hope that we may expect such a gift every year."

    Moore, Tom. “Recording Reviews.” Early Music America July 2013.

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