William Byrd's three settings of the Mass are a remarkable testament to his immense compositional skill and tenacity as a defiant Roman Catholic in the midst of prevailing Anglicanism. Burning religious conviction is here palpably expressed in music of the most direct kind.
“These are solid, rich-textured, perfectly balanced performances.. Hillier emphasizes the more dramatic possibilities of the flowing, lyrical lines and finds intense energy in the rhythms of these gorgeous works, especially in the powerfully affecting four-part mass. There’s no more moving Agnus Dei than the one that concludes Byrd’s four-part setting, and here it’s given its most convincingly gripping performance, even slightly edging the Tallis Scholars’ exemplary rendition... if this Hillier/Pro Arte Singers set is your only version of these masterpieces you won’t be disappointed. As these American singers prove, you certainly don’t have to be English to “get” the proper Byrdian style, and you don’t have to come from a centuries-old tradition to project the requisite spirituality inherent in these works. I’ll not hesitate to recommend this Pro Arte Singers effort for newcomers to this essential, monumental repertoire.” Classics Today
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