Reviews

IN THE COMPANY OF WILLIAM BYRD (2013)

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"The Byrd Ensemble displays the sterling qualities found in their previous CD - beautiful blending, excellent intonation, soaring lines, ringing chords - and if they keep up at this level (and why not?), Seattle will be drawing singers just to work with them. This CD is a must for lovers of choral song. I can only hope that we may expect such a gift every year." 

 

Moore, Tom. “Recording Reviews.” Early Music America July 2013.

O SPLENDOR GLORIAE (2012)

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"...distinctive style, vital and expressive, well shaped and communicating directly with the listener."

 

"...sound is refreshing, with none of the mannerisms of English cathedral and collegiate choirs. It's been in my bedside player for weeks, and it speaks so much more powerfully than most recordings of the repetoire. highly recommended." 

 

Bartlett, Clifford. "O splendor gloriae: sacred music of Tudor England." Early Music Review April 2013.

OUR LADY: MUSIC FROM THE PETERHOUSE PARTBOOKS (2011)

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“…these four tracks are all immensely impressive,”



Bartlett, Clifford. “Our Lady: Music from the Peterhouse Partbooks The Byrd Ensemble, Markdavin Obenza.” Early Music Review December 2011.



“This choir of 11 young singers under the artistic direction of Markdavin Obenza makes a splendid impression here. The sound is rich, full-voiced, and perfectly blended, the sopranos soaring, the lines beautifully sustained, the vowels ringing, and the musica ficta perfectly in tune—in other words, this is a choir at the level of the very best English choirs. (International concert management, take note!) They are making a major contribution to this repertoire, and I can only hope that the practicalities of music-making in the U.S.A. will not prevent them from continuing this work over the long term. To my knowledge, two of the four works included here are previously unrecorded (the lovely Magnificat, which opens the disc, and the Salve Regina), but even if there were no premieres, this collection would be fundamental to any lover of this repertoire. The engineering is first-rate, and the design of the informative booklet attractive."



Moore, Tom. “Recording Reviews.” Early Music America February 2012.



"...myriad contrasts of vocal colour and harmonic language to grasp the ear. As sung by the Byrd musicians, every expressive subtlety is placed in luminous and urgent context."

"Like the Tallis, the pieces by his colleagues require utmost precision of pitch, seamless unfolding of lines and clarity of texture for the music to work its wonders. The dozen or so members of the Byrd Ensemble, including artistic director Markdavin Obenza, are more than equal to the task. The sopranos are especially pure and radiant, and inner voices emerge or blend with magisterial refinement."

"Given the beauty of what the Byrd conveys through microphones, the ensemble must sound almost unworldly when performing in an ecclesiastical acoustic."



Rosenberg, Donald. "Our Lady." Gramophone August 2012. 



"Obenza's most significant accomplishment is creating what he calls a "unified" rather than a "blended" choral sound with only two voices per part - not an easy task, yet one the Byrd Ensemble manages to achieve to splendid affect."

 

​"The sopranos are crystal-clear, soaring to their highest notes with effortless grace yet never overbalancing the other sections, while the altos produce a focused brightness that can sometimes border on the reedy without crossing the line. The tenors' sound is warm and lovely..."​

 

"From beginning to end, the ensemble's commendable intonation highlights the Tudor composers' deft control of harmonic tension as well as their penchant for harmonic cross-relations. All the singers approach the music with a gutsy intensity that is often sorely lacking in small choirs from both sides of the Atlantic, especially when approaching this repertoire."​

 

Lebedinsky, Henry. "Our Lady: Music from the Peterhouse Partbooks." Fanfare September/October 2012.

ARVO PÄRT (2013)

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"..., this recording creates the illusion of hearing the music for the first time.  The small size and the clear, fresh voices of the Byrd Ensemble, an American group with a strong background in Renaissance music, mean that the dissonanaces and their consequent resolutions in the Seven Magnificat Antiphons and the Magnificat in particular are brought into focus in a truly remarkable way." 

 

"The precision of the performances, and the great attention paid to the enunciation of the texts, does not mean that they are cold or uninvolving, however: there is also a sense of space, of unhurriedness, that lets the music breathe.

 

"The Berlin Mass also receives a wonderfully crystalline performance, with organ registrations very sensitively chosen by Sheila Bristow, but for me it is the Magnificatand the Antiphons that show best the Byrd Ensemble’s ability to enter into the spirit of this music, simultaneously ‘stripped’ and loaded with meaning. Highly recommended."

 

Moody, Ivan. “Reviews.” Gramophone Magazine May 2014.

​PETER HALLOCK: DRAW ON SWEET NIGHT (2013)

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"Sensational (and difficult) brass and percussion playing can be heard right away on this disc. The choir sings magnificently in tune with a stunning accuracy of intent. I felt drawn into this music immediately. The disc starts with six large pieces (most of them just over eight minutes in length) and then includes seven psalm settings that Hallock composed for the Compline Choir (not the same as found in the Ionian Psalter). I love what Obenza is doing with this group. Recorded, appropriately enough, in St. Mark’s Cathedral, the disc is truly thrilling." 

 

Dimmock, Jonathan. “Recording Reviews.” The Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians. Vol. 23 No.1  January 2014.