Album: Gallicantus, The Word Unspoken (Signum Classics)

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The Independent Culture

As a specialist early-music consort, Gallicantus are perfectly placed here to compare the works of William Byrd and Philippe de Monte – the one a Catholic recusant fortunate in the favour of Elizabeth I for his simpler Protestant pieces, the other a Flemish sympathiser and correspondent.

Gallicantus render exquisitely the ornate verses of Byrd's Cantiones Sacrae, their interwoven timbres cascading in noble equilibrium; but the most direct comparison is between de Monte's "Super flumina Babylonis" and Byrd's "Quomodo cantabimus", both derived from Psalm 136, which subsequently gave the world Boney M's deathless "Rivers of Babylon". In this case at least, music is the winner, whichever one prefers.

Download: Tristitia et anxietas; Super flumina Babylonis; Quomodo cantabimus