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Masterpieces by TALLIS and its contemporaries

Thomas TALLIS : Suscipe quaeso, Audivi vocem, Dum transisset …
William BYRD : Laudibus in sanctis, Infelix ego, Tristitia et anxietas
John TAVERNER : Mater Christi
10 singers and direction

“The Cries of London”

de GIBBONS, WEELKES, DERING et William COBBOLD for voices and viols
5 singers, 5 viols, lute, direction (CD available)

English Tudor music for the Christmas season 

John TAVERNER : Missa Mater Christi a 5
William BYRD : Propers for Advent : Rorate coeli desuper, Tollite portas, Ave Maria, Ecce virgo concipiet.
Appropriate ‘Sarum’ plainchant
Richard PYGOTT : Quid petis, O fili ;
Martin PEERSON : Upon my lap my sovereign sits
5 singers, orgue/direction

English Tudor music for the Christmas season with viols

Thomas TALLIS : Missa Puer natus est nobis a 7
John Bull : Consort anthem - Almighty God, which by the leading of a star
Orlando GIBBONS : Consort anthem – See, see, the word is incarnate
John AMNER :  Consort anthem – O ye little flock
William BYRD: anthems et motets
7 singers, 5 viols, direction

Matthew LOCKE et Henry PURCELL: the Master and the Apprentics

Henry Purcell’s mastery of setting the English language was heavily influenced by the music of his teacher, colleague and friend Matthew Locke. The ode that Purcell composed at Locke’s death is a moving testament of his esteem.
LOCKE: Motets – Super Flumina Babylonis, Audi clamantes, Ad te levavi oculos, Anthem – Lord, let me know mine end.
PURCELL: Ode on the death of Matthew Locke, What hope for us remains now he is gone?
Anthems – Rejoice in the Lord alway (“The Bell Anthem”), Blessed are they that fear the Lord, Let mine eyes run down with tears
7 singers, 6 instruments, direction (CD available)

Music for the Chapel Royal

Before his “Restoration” in 1660, King Charles II spent several years in France at the court of Louis XIV. There he acquired a taste for the “24 violons du roi” and on his return to London created a string band for the Chapel Royal, with an instruction to compose music to which he could “keep the time”. Purcell knew better than anyone how to combine melody with grace and vivacity.
Henry PURCELL: Anthems – My beloved spake, Rejoice in the Lord alway (“The Bell Anthem”), Praise the Lord O my soul, Blessed is he that feareth the Lord, Blow up the trumpet in Sion …
10 singers, 5 strings, 3 continuo, direction 

A recreation of the Coronation of King James II in 1685

Henry PURCELL: I was glad, My Heart is inditing
John BLOW: Let Thy Hand be strengthened, God spake sometime in visions, Behold O God our defender
Anthems by William TURNER, Henry LAWES and William CHILD
10 singers, 10 strings, 3 continuo, direction

Music for Saint Cecilia in London

The most famous St Cecilia Ode of the Restoration – that of Henry Purcell (1694) – is placed in the context of the Ode which inspired it, composed by Giovanni Battista Draghi in 1687 on a text by the poet laureate John Dryden. This work, which made a great impression at its performance in London, is rarely given, especially in Europe.
12 singers (including 6 soloists), 15 instruments (trumpets, wind, strings and continuo) direction

Henry PURCELL : Odes

Programme 1
Birthday Songs for Queen Mary: Now doth the glorious day appear, Love’s Goddess sure
Ode for Mr Maidwell’s School: Celestial music did the gods inspire
8 singers, 10 instruments (strings, flutes, continuo), direction

Programme 2
Birthday Songs for Queen Mary: Come ye sons of Art away, Welcome glorious morn 
The Yorkshire Feast Song: Of old when heroes thought it base
8 singers, 17 instruments (strings, flutes/oboes, trumpets, continuo), direction

John BLOW (1649-1708), composer for Chapel Royal in England

John Blow, contemporary, teacher, colleague and friend of Purcell, composed 28 anthems with instruments for the Chapel Royal in the Restoration period, more than anyone else (Purcell composed 25). Blow style was very particular, impregnated with the English love of  “false relations”, the angular melody beloved by his predecessor Matthew Locke, and a marked dramatic sense. It shows also a very developed sense of form and balance, giving some of his works an almost “symphonic” feel.

Programme 1
Vocal chamber music, both sacred and secular. Certain pieces would be heard for the first time in France.
Ode: Awake my lyre ; Ode on the death of Henry Purcell; Ode sur la mort de la Reine Mary: No Lesbia, no! Motets: Salvator mundi – Gloria patri qui creavit nos; As on Euphrates’ shady banks; A wingèd harbinger from bright heaven came. Extracts from Amphion Anglicus
5 singers, 6 instruments (violins, flutes, 2/3 continuo), direction

Programme 2
Some of the best works for voices, strings and continuo created for the Chapel Royal de Charles II. Our performance takes into account recent research concerning both the forces used, and their disposition in the particular architectural space of the Chapel in Whitehall Palace.
O give thanks unto the Lord, I said in the cutting off of my days, Cry aloud and spare not, I beheld and lo! a great multitude, Arise, O Lord, into Thy resting place
Anthems for double choir: O Lord God of my salvation, God is our hope and strength
12 singers, 7 instruments, direction

HÄNDEL : Music for the Duke of Chandos

Among Handel’s earliest experiences setting English sacred texts – which would bear fruit in his Oratorios – are the eleven “Anthems” composed during the years 1717 to 1719 for the Duke of Chandos at his sumptuous stately home, Cannons, near Edgware.
We have chosen three of the best: Let God arise, My song shall be alway, and The Lord is my light.
8 singers, 10 instruments (oboe, strings, 3 continuo) direction

HÄNDEL : Music for the King

Anthems for the Chapel Royal: O Sing unto the Lord; As pants the hart
Chandos anthem: The Lord is my light
5 solo singers, 10 ‘ripieno’ singers, 13 instruments (flute, oboe, trumpets, strings and continuo), direction

HÄNDEL and BONONCINI: Music for English State Funerals

Giovanni BONONCINI (1670-1747) – Anthem for the Funeral of the very Noble and Victorious Duke of Marlborough (1722): When Saul was King over us
G F HANDEL: “The Anthem which was Perform’d in Westminster Abby at the Funeral of Queen Caroline” (1737): The ways of Zion do mourn
4 solo singers, 8 ‘ripieno’ singers, 15 instruments (10 strings, 2 oboes, 3 continuo), direction 





MONTEVERDI : The tears of lost love

Music of lamentation and loss: Lamento d’Arianna, Pianto della Madonna, Lamento della Ninfa, Lagrime d’amante al sepolcro dell’amata, Vattene pur crudel
With two exceptional madrigals by Giaches WERT: Dolci spoglie, Giunto alla tomba
5 singers, 3 continuo

Sacred music by Claudio MONTEVERDI

Psalms and motets for San Marco, Venice:
µSalve Regina, Confitebor alla francese, Nisi Dominus, O bone Jesu, Litaniae
6 singers, 2/3 continuo

Festive music for San Marco in Venise

For the celebrations of the “Serenissima Repubblica”, motets and psalms by GABRIELI, CAVALLI, MONTEVERDI and CROCE
9 singers, 13 instruments, direction (CD available)

Vanity, vanity, all is vanity ! 

Under the influence of the Jesuits and the Oratorio of S Filippo Neri, the “moral oratorio” flourished in Rome during the first decades of the 17th century. Our programme includes examples by the acknowledged master of the genre, Giacomo Carissimi (including his masterpiece, the History of Jephte and the sacrifice of his daughter) as well as works by his contemporaries Rossi and Marazzoli.
Giacomo CARISSIMI: Historia Jephte, Vanitas vanitatum; Luigi ROSSI, Marco MARRAZOLI
6 singers, 2 continuo, direction (CD available)

Giovanni LEGRENZI : Musique for Compline at San Marco 

Psalms, antiphons and motets by one of the most important successors to Monteverdi.
5 singers, 2 continuo, direction


Music for the Carmelite Vespers, 16th of July, 1707.
Georg Freidrich HÄNDEL: Dixit Dominus, Nisi Dominus, Laudate pueri, Salve Regina, Saeviat tellus etc.
14 singers (including 2 soloists), 18 instruments, direction (CD available)

HÄNDEL “La Resurrezione”

A masterpiece of Handel’s youth in Rome, 1707.
5 solo singers, 22 instruments, direction 




Motets for double choir by the BACH family

It was Johann Sebastian who was largely responsible for the preservation of works by his family, prompted by their value as models as well as by family pride. He was particularly impressed by those of his uncle Johann Christoph, which he described as “expressive and profound”. As we listen to the extraordinary motet Merk auf mein Herz, a kind of fantasia with seven variations on the well-known chorale Vom Himmel hoch, we understand perfectly his admiration.
Johann Sebastian BACH – Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied; Fürchte dich nicht;  Komm Jesu, Komm; Ich lasse dich nicht
Johann Christoph BACH – Merk auf, mein Herz; Unsers Herzens Freude hat ein Ende
Johann Ludwig BACH – Ich will auf den Herren schauen; Uns ist ein Kind geboren
8 singers, violoncello, organ,  direction

Johann Ludwig BACH

A cousin of Johann Sebastian, who appreciated his music enough to copy it and perform it in Leipzig.

Programme 1
Chamber cantates (Mache dich auf werde Licht. Ja du hast mir Arbeit gemacht. Er machet uns lebendig. Die mit Tränen säen)
4 chanteurs, 9 instruments, direction

Programme 2
Cantates for larger forces, including Denn du wirst meine Seele, formerly attributed to Johann Sebastian (as BWV 15), who performed it in Leipzig.
4 singers, 13 instruments, direction 

Programme 3
Trauermusik (1724) – his masterpiece
8 singers, 20 instruments, direction 

« LOBET DEM HERREN » : 17th century German masterpieces

From the generation before Bach, exceptional and passionate works by BUXTEHUDE, SCHÜTZ, TUNDER et WECKMANN, for small and large formations.
5 to 6 voices, 3 to 8 instruments

Christian GEIST (v.1640- 1711)

“Written in a delicate style, with a clear Italian influence”
Christian GEIST spent most of his life in the Hanseatic world of Scandinavia and North Germany. We propose two programmes of his vocal music, each put in the context of the music of his great contemporaries Diderik Buxtehude and Nicolaus Bruhns.

Programme 1 for a small group – Scandinavian baroque music
Conceived for an intimate space, this programme consists of “vocal chamber music” by Geist and his contemporaries, full of expression and emotion, most of which is found in the famous “Düben” collection in Uppsala.
Christian GEIST: Domine, ne secundum peccatum nostram; Altitudo quid hic jaces; Dixit Dominus; Laudet Deum mea gloria; Jesu delitium vultis  etc.
Diderik BUXTEHUDE: In dulci jubilo; Nichts soll und Scheiden
Nicolaus BRUHNS: Ich liege und schlafe
Andreas DÜBEN: Miserere mei Deus; Christian RITTER: Miserere Christi mei
Johan Valentin MEDER: Ach Herr, strafe mich; Wie murren den die leut. Quid est hoc quod sentio
5 singers, 4 strings, 3 continuo, direction

Programme 2 for a large group – Music for the Swedish Court  
Festal music for grand events at the Court – the coronation of Charles XI, celebrations for New Year …
Christian GEIST: Domine qui das salutem regibus; Exaudi Deus orationem meam; Quis hostis in cœlis; Zitto hoggi Fattere; Io musae, nove Sol rutilat   etc.
Diderik BUXTEHUDE: Man singet mit Freuden;  Accedite gentes
Nicolaus BRUHNS: O weiter, heiliger Geist
26 : 5 solo singers, 5 ‘ripieno’ singers, 15 instruments ( trumpets, strings, continuo) direction.




“For the love of God and the Virgin”
music for french convents in the 17th century 

Motets, Litanies, Magnificats and Dialogues by Marc-Antoine CHARPENTIER, Henry DUMONT, Jean-Baptiste LULLY and Sébastien de BROSSARD
3/4 chanteuses, bass viol, positive organ/direction

Marc-Antoine CHARPENTIER : Motets and “Histoires sacrées”

Le Reniement de St Pierre, Transfige dulcissime Jesu, Méditations sur le Carême for men’s voices, etc.
6 singers, organ, theorbo, bass viol (CD available)

Marc-Antoine CHARPENTIER for “La Grande Mademoiselle”

Intimate sacred music by the greatest French baroque composer, written for the Paris “hôtel” of the Duchess of Guise, his protector and patron.
Miserere [des Jésuites], first version H.193
Annuntiate superi (pro omnibus festis BVM) H.333
Litanies de la Vierge for 6 voices et 2 “dessus de violon” H.83
O filii et filiae (“joyous song for Eastertide”) H.339
Cecilia Virgo et Martyr for 6 voices et 2 “dessus de violon” H.415
6 chanteurs, 5 instruments, direction

French music “At the Cour and in the Town”

“Grands motets” by Henry DU MONT (Magnificat, Exultet animus) and the “histoire sacrée” Extremum Dei judicium by CHARPENTIER.
9 singers, 6 instruments, direction (CD available)

French sacred music for the Season of Christmas

Marc-Antoine CHARPENTIER (v.1640-1704) : Messe de Minuit H.9
In nativitatem Domini canticum  H.416 (“Usquequo avertis faciem tuam Domini”)
In nativitatem Domini nostri Jesu Christi canticum  H.414 (“Frigidae noctis umbra”)
In nativitatem Domini canticum  H.316  (“Quem vidistis pastores”)
Noëls pour les instruments H.531 et 534

8 singers, 8 instruments (strings, flutes, continuo), direction

Sébastien de BROSSARD: “Prologue sur la Prise de Mons” ou Les Géants Foudroyés

This celebratory “Grand Motet” was written in 1691 to mark the (very temporary!) defeat of the League of Augsburg before the town of Mons by an army commanded by King Louis XIV in person. As befits a royal triumph, the programme is completed by the famous Te Deum by Marc-Antoine CHARPENTIER
13 singers, 18 instruments, direction 



musique en pays de l'est

Polish Baroque Music 

Masterpieces from the Polish school of Baroque composers, formed by Italian masters in the early 17th century.
Bartolomiej PEKIEL – Missa ‘La Lombardesca’ for double choir, Oratorio Audite mortales Motets by Mikolaj ZIELENSKI, Marcin MIELCZEWSKI and Stanislaw SZARZYNSKI for 2 and 3 choirs
9 singers, 8 to 12 instruments (strings, brass and continuo), direction (CD available)     

Adam Vaclav MICHNA Z OTRADOVIC, the unknown Czech master 

Missa Sancti Wenceslai and Litanies with pieces de Vaclav JACOB et Pavel Josef VEJVANOVSKY
12 singers, 12 instruments (strings, brass and continuo), direction

BIBER : The Glory of Salzbourg 

For the Prince-Archbishop, two extraordinary masses:
-          Missa Bruxellensis for 16 singers and 18 instruments;
-          Missa Salisburgensis for 32 singers and 43 instruments.




João RODRIGUES ESTEVES : Music from 18th century Portugal

Unknown masterpieces by King João V’s favourite composer, sent to train in Rome, but whose music retains its striking Iberian harmonic colouring.
Misereres for 8 and/or 12 voices, Stabat Mater, Lamentations a 8, Messe a 8
8 or 12 chanteurs, 3 to 7 continuo, direction (CD’s available)

Sacred music from the New World 

This programme presents music sung in the cathedrals of Mexico in the 17th century, composed under the influence of Spanish composers and musicians. It is centred around the Missa Ego flos campi for double choir by Padilla, and surrounded by energetic villançicos, inspired by popular music.
Juan Gutierrez de PADILLA : Missa Ego Flos Campi a 8, motets;
Antonio RODRIGUEZ de MATA : Lamentations ;
8 singers and 5 instruments, direction


programmes mixtes

The wide repertoire embraced by the Ensemble William Byrd allows it to specialise in mixed programmes: Charpentier and Dumont with Purcell and Blow, Tallis and Byrd with Lassus and Brumel, Gabrieli with Hassler and Schütz, sacred and profane music, 16th century music with 20th century music (Tallis and Josquin with Howells and Gorecki).

From Italy to Poland

Programme 1 : The birth of Oratorio
The centre of this programme is the first Polish oratorio, Audite mortales de Bartolomiej Pekiel, written for the Jesuits on the subject of the Last Judgement. It is here placed alongside one of the most famous oratorios by Carissimi, his Historia Jephte. The programme is completed by motets by Gorczycki, Rosický, Szarzyński et Luigi Rossi.
6 singers, 3 strings, 2 continuo

Programme 2: The Golden Age of “cori spezzati”
The lasting fame of Giovanni Gabrieli in music history comes not only from his music, but also from the respect in which he was held by his many pupils. Through them, the style of “cori spezzati” was propagated throughout Europe. This programme of voices and brass for double and triple choirs sets some of his best known works beside those of two of his students: Hans Leo Hassler and Mikolaj Zielenski, the latter known as “the best Venetian in Poland.”
GABRIELI : O Jesu mi dulcissime, Maria Virgo, Nunc Dimittis, Plaudite jubilate Deo.
HASSLER : Miserere mei Deus, Omnes gentes, Dominus Deus noster.
ZIELENSKI : Spiritus sancti gratia,, Igneum Ignati jubar, Afferentur regi, Magnificat a tre cori
9 singers, 5 brass (cornetti and sackbuts), 4 continuo, direction

Music for the New Jerusalem 

The very Catholic King of Portugal, João V, his coffers overflowing with gold from Brazil, dreamed of creating a “New Temple of Celestial Jerusalem” – a kind of paradise on earth – by building a new Palace-Monastery at Mafra. To furnish it with music which could rival that of the Vatican, he hired in 1719 Domenico Scarlatti, maestro di cappella of the choir of St Peter’s in Rome, to direct his Chapel Royal.
In this programme we give Scarlatti’s masterpiece, the famous Stabat mater a dieci voci, with a typically Iberian continuo, including harp and theorbo. To that we add music by Portuguese composers of the period, who must have worked with Scarlatti at the Chapel Royal, and who were involved in the grand celebrations which marked the inauguration of Mafra in 1740.
Francisco Antonio DE ALMEIDA (c.1702-c.1755) : In dedicatione templi
João RODRIGUES ESTEVES (c.1700-after 1751) : Miserere a tre cori
Domenico SCARLATTI(1685-1756) : Stabat mater a 10 voix
12 singers, 4 continuo, direction


Masterpieces by these two illustrious contemporaries.
CHARPENTIER: Transfige dulcissime Jesu, Le Reniement de St Pierre, Litanies
PURCELL: Saul and the witch of Endor, Let mine eyes run down with tears, Lord, I can suffer…
5 singers, 2/3 continuo (CD’s available)

Sacred and profane in the music of the 17th century 

MONTEVERDI was the first Italian master of the 17th century, and the force of expression his music transmits is so marked that it could work with both sacred and secular texts. A particular example is the Lamento d’Arianna, which lost nothing by being transformed into the Lamento della Madonna, and other examples are found in his madrigals, which were later adapted to sacred texts.
Towards the end of the same century, in another country with its own particular musical culture, another genius, Henry Purcell, was similarly unconstrained by the provenance of the text – what mattered to him was to transmit the emotion.
From Italy:
PALESTRINA: motets from Canticum Canticorum (1584);
MONTEVERDI: Lamento d’Arianna in versions for solo and for 5 voices; Pianto della Madonna; Madrigals adapted to sacred texts by Coppini
From England:
LOCKE: Music for Psyche (1675);
PURCELL: Music for Circe (1692), anthems
5 singers, 3 instruments

A European Christmas – joyous music for the Festive Season from throughout Europe

Italy: Giovanni LEGRENZI and Giovanni Antonio RIGATTI
France: Marc-Antoine CHARPENTIER
England: Henry PURCELL
Hungary: Pal ESTERHAZY
Holland: Servaes de KONINCK
Germany: Johann Hermann SCHEIN, Heinrich SCHÜTZ and Diderik BUXTEHUDE
4 singers, 4 instruments

The 40-part motets

Two famous – almost “mythical” – masterpieces of the Renaissance:
Thomas TALLIS: Spem in alium nunqual habui and Alessandro STRIGGIO: Ecce beatam lucem. The programme also includes OCKEGHEM’s Deo gracias a 36 and JOSQUIN’s Qui habitat a 24.
40 singers, 6 instruments, direction




Music in the Sistine Chapel in the 19th century 

A recreation of the Offices of Holy Week, following the accounts of Felix Mendelssohn and other witnesses from around the world. The piece they all came to hear was the famous Miserere by Allegri, described by Mendelssohn as follows:
The best voices are reserved for the Miserere, which is sung with the greatest variety of effect, the voices swelling and dying away and rising again from the softest piano to the full strength of the choir.  No wonder that it excites deep emotion in every listener.

The Ensemble William Byrd proposes an interpretation of this programme in the style of the period – that is, of the 19th century – as distinct from that of the baroque period, or that of today. This interpretation has been restored from witness accounts, manuscript sources and singing methods of the period, as well as recordings made at the end of the 19th century. The concert is proposed with lighting effects, including candles and the use of a Candelabrum Tenebræ.

Gregorio ALLEGRI / Tommaso BAI – Miserere (based on a Vatican manuscript dated 1892)
Giovanni Pierluigi da PALESTRINA –  Lamentations, Stabat Mater, Improperia
9/10 solo singers, option of 6 “grégoriens”, direction (CD available) 

Music for large spaces : unaccompanied choral works from the 16th and the 20th centuries 

Masterworks from the Renaissance for cathedrals and other large spaces, together with modern pieces composed in the same spirit. Beside works by Josquin, Clemens non Papa and Tallis, the first half features the amazing Media vita by the English composer John Sheppard.
The second half opens with Samuel Barber’s classic Agnus Dei, followed by Gorecki’s Totus tuus, and works by WH Harris, Paul Mealor and Herbert Howells; by the latter, Take him earth for cherishing, a memorial for President Kennedy, is one of the peaks of 20th century choral music.
16 singers, direction

Cristal voices: Renaissance music for today 

The Ensemble William Byrd takes a new look at renaissance polyphony, through the prism of improvisation by two virtuosi and an altogether exceptional instrument
The basis of our explorations are motets by the 17th century Portuguese composer Diogo Dias Melgas, who spent all his working life at the Cathedral of Evora, near Lisbon. Simple but elegant, sober but moving, learnèd but not without fantasy, they are ideal as bases for improvisation by two exceptional musicians : Yannick Varlet, who has accompanied our musical adventures for the last 15 years, who will play the both the outside and the inside of a piano, as well as an Italian 17th spinetta,  and Michel Deneuve, the first virtuoso of the Cristal Baschet, an invention of the Baschet brothers growing out of their work in public aural sculpture, modern in its conception but with truly timeless sounds.
Each concert is a unique event, with the placement of the artists and the lighting determined by the acoustic, atmosphere and possibilities of the performing space.
4 singers, 2 instrumentalists, direction.

Percy Grainger (1882-1961) – originality at any price

Born in Australia, Grainger was a virtuoso pianist, a collector and arranger of folksongs, and a composer both of grandiose works and what he called titbits and of experimental avant-garde works. A dreamer but also a pragmatist, he was touched by genius in more than one field. He was also an original in the best sense, who was willing to question everything – absolutely everything – every day, in life as well as in music. One might call him a man born out of his time, if only one could identify a time that may have suited him more.
In his compositions, he looked for heightened expression through complex harmonic means. Despite the evident joie de vivre of much of his music, it was suffering and pain which mattered more. “The worth of my music will never be guessed until the approach of my music is consciously undertaken as a pilgrimage of sorrow … the object of my music is not to entertain but to agonise”. Of his harmonic procedures, he wrote, “it is the contrast between the sweet and the hard which is heart-rending”. It is not for nothing that as an arranger of folksong he was estimated by Benjamin Britten as “the master of us all”.

Choral works:
The Three Ravens, O Mistress Mine, My Love’s in Germanie, I’m Seventeen come Sunday, Mo Nighean Dubh, Lord Maxwell’s Goodnight, Brigg Fair, Australian Up-Country Song, The Lost Lady Found, Shallow Brown

Vocal solos with piano:
Early One morning, Willow willow, The Love Song of Har Dyal

Works for one and/or two pianos:
Country Gardens,  Molly on the Shore, Walking Tune, One more day, my John, Blithe bells (après JS Bach), Let’s dance gay in Green Meadow

Variable number of artists: 8 / 16 singers, 2 pianos, electronic organ or harmonium

NB : This programme is also available accompanied by wind-band or small orchestra.
An “Edwardien” ambience is effective: club chairs, old settees, low lights, etc

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