In 1588 the English not only routed the Spanish Armada, but William Byrd published the first of three collections designed primarily for domestic music making, Psalmes, Sonets & Songs of Sadnes and Pietie . While Byrd’s landmark contribution to Tudor sacred music is well known, this complete recording of Psalmes, Sonets & Songs allows us to gain a fuller understanding of his secular vocal music, particularly his madrigalian style. 

WIlliam Byrd

David Skinner has skilfully arranged the contents into two programs: a selection of psalms, followed by sonnets and pastorals, then songs of sadness and piety, ending with a funeral song for Sir Philip Sidney. Respecting both performance practice and the listener’s need for variety, some items are sung a cappella by Alamire, some are treated as solo songs accompanied by viol consort Fretwork, and a few are performed by Fretwork alone.

Alamire bring a rich, full sound to their offerings. Although the music is predominantly homophonic, its gently rippling rhythmic and polyphonic undercurrents are engagingly brought to...