Byrd: The Great Service & other works

Byrd: The Great Service & other works

Westminster Abbey Choir, James O'Donnell (conductor)


It is not known when or for whom William Byrd wrote his monumental ‘Great Service’, but we can be sure that he would approve of this new recording from Westminster Abbey.

The second half of the sixteenth century was a heady time for the post-Reformation Church of England. Out of the ashes of the Catholic tradition a new—and decidedly Anglican—musical enthusiasm arose, and with it three distinct styles for settings of the Canticles, so central to Cranmer’s vision for the liturgy: ‘short’ services presented their texts efficiently and simply, while ‘verse’ services complicated proceedings with the addition of soloists and more intricate textures; ‘great’, or ‘full’, services extended this development to create musical structures of astonishing diversity, and at the very peak of the genre comes William Byrd’s masterpiece, widely regarded as the finest unaccompanied setting of the service ever made.

The ‘Great’ Service is here presented in its correct liturgical order (with the inclusion of the frequently omitted Kyrie) and is complemented by six of Byrd’s finest anthems and two organ voluntaries from My Lady Nevells Booke, a collection of Byrd’s keyboard music put together in 1591.

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