William Byrd: back on top after 400 years

Wed Oct 6, 2010 4:43am EDT
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A recording of Renaissance composer William Byrd's setting of the text "Infelix Ego" by the book-burning 15th-century monk Savonarola, who in turn was burned on a cross, seems an unlikely must-have CD of the year.

But in the hands of the British vocal group The Cardinall's Musick, this, too, has come to pass.

At the British music magazine Gramophone's annual ceremony last week, the group with the oddly spelled name, founded in 1989, got two awards for Infelix Ego (Unhappy am I): best early music recording and best recording of the year.

Despite the CD's name, conductor Andrew Carwood couldn't have been happier.

"I think we've got more than any other early music group," Carwood told Reuters in a telephone interview, before he knew that his group also was going to get the coveted best recording award -- making it five Gramophone awards in all since 1995.

"It's great for the singers to get that sort of recognition ... and in terms of the wider world people will think this group must be quite good, so let's get them."

But 16th-century vocal music? In Latin? And a series of 13 CDs of it, all of music composed by William Byrd (1539/40-1623)?

For Carwood, who launched his Byrd project in 1997, it's a no-brainer. Byrd was the most important English composer of his age, a musical talent to rival Shakespeare in the literary realm.   Continued...