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Founded in 2014, ORA has taken as the starting point for its first album the glorious perfection of William Byrd’s polyphony, sung here with equal perfection. Alongside this are reflections on Byrd’s Mass for Five Voices by five commissioned composers. Roxanna Panufnik adds chromatic touches to her setting of the Kyrie and an extra bass line gives extra harmonic depth. Francis Pott’s very original setting of Laudate Dominum, dedicated to the late David Trendell, has an impressive expression of complexity and joy, and gives what he calls ‘a nod towards the Gloria of the Mass’. Alexander L’Estrange’s Show me, Deare Christ, inspired by what the Credo might have meant to Byrd at this precarious time in history, includes texts by Byrd’s contemporaries and John Donne’s Holy Sonnet XVIII. This is the longest reflection, parts of which have sublime beauty, though I find some of the harmonic progressions a little jarring in this context. Moving away from the text of the Mass, Owain Park has set Kathleen Raine’s The World, which corresponds with his idea of Byrd’s Sanctus. Using lines from the original music against a harmonic background, it is atmospheric and sensitively written. Charlotte Bray’s reflection on the tranquillity of the Agnus Dei is constructed on tone clusters and influenced by Byrd’s use of voices. In addition to the Mass reflections, Roderick Williams responded to Byrd’s Ave verum corpus, incorporating his favourite moments from the piece, using transcendent harmony to comple- ment the entries of the solo voices. This CD is superb and together with these exemplary performances should receive many accolades. I look forward to the next instalment of this 21st-century renaissance.

SHIRLEY RATCLIFFE Read the full review on Agora Classica

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