This CD includes Latin motets from Byrd’s Gradualia, used as instrumental preludes to the three services from (Matins, Communion, and Evensong) of the Anglican day, along with two simple psalm settings and a keyboard Verse and Prelude. These short introductions perfectly set the scene for the two five-part choirs, which Byrd writes are to face each other from either side of the church. Naturally, the ability to reflect the true acoustic setting of the choir and musicians of such works and their likely venues is difficult to recreate on disc; the sense of the grandeur and enormity of venue is, for me, somewhat lost in this recording. However, the wide textural variety in Byrd’s writing is well demonstrated, and the programming of this CD has been very carefully and masterfully thought out; there is a wonderful contrast between the sections for full choir against the verse sections for solo voice, coupled with Musica Contexta’s choice of scoring with brass and organ.
The CD inlay notes are informative and concise, and include the English text of the services, along with a short history on the pronunciation of English text during Byrd’s time.