Listening Log – Composing Music

William Byrd

Gramophone Recording of the Month for November 2022

I am only in receipt of a print subscription of Gramophone so cannot link any of my references properly. I have used the magazine article as my reference and it is the copyright of Martin Cullingford. He notes that 2023 is the 400th anniversary of the death of Byrd. This year may possibly mark an increase in the issuing of recordings of his work. His tenure at Lincoln Cathedral is commemorated by a blue plaque. I have not visited Lincoln in a long time as family there have sadly passed away but it is a place dear to my heart as I spent many summers here as a small child, being the birthplace of my beloved grandmother. Friends have visited Lincoln in recent weeks as I write this and they took photos of the things relating to Byrd, which they shared on Facebook. There is a symposium in 2023 which will be about Byrd but sadly I cannot make this otherwise I would love to take part.

This beautiful music will not be to everyone’s liking. I like it though. Putting it in the context of when it was composed it is amazing what Byrd has achieved just using voices, the voice is an instrument but I believe Byrd really puts the voice to its upmost test run these pieces. I can almost picture the cathedrals and churches of the day being acoustically perfect for this type of choral music. Vast spaces and voices being uplifted and resonating through the vast space. This particular album has made me shudder to think that I have walked in the very place that some of these works were initially sung over 400 years ago.


I have chosen to listen to this recording as I read an interesting interview with the conductor in Gramophone and his passion for music stands out and also his description of working with the Basque National Orchestra and their interpretations of Ravel intrigued me.

For anyone who only knows that one famous Ravel piece “Bolero” which Torville and Dean used in 1984 for their gold medal winning performance in the Winter Olympics, then I must direct you to this recording. I am not at all familiar with Ravel in this much depth but I loved this CD. Dramatic and so passionate. From reading the piece in Gramophone Ravel was proud of his Basque heritage and it does seem fitting that this Orchestra should be playing his music with so much feeling. I preferred Valses nobles et sentimentalises out of the whole recording but I did enjoy the other pieces and when listening to the Mother Goose ballet, it really did feel like a beautiful ballet and I think I would get more out of the music if I saw the ballet with this score. I hope that makes some sense.

Benjamin Britten

I was interested in listening to this after I had read the article in Gramophone November 2022. Very interesting article about how the piece was commissioned for the consecration of Coventry Cathedral in 1962. The discussion of it and what it represents was certainly worth reading about. However I absolutely hated it. Yes I just could not get to grips with it. I know it is about war and even after reading about it I was not expecting any kind of cheer in it but really this just hurt my ears. A masterpiece for some, but I am afraid not for me.

Cesar Franck

Franck was on the cover of Gramophone for December 2022 and I enjoyed reading the piece about him as he was not someone I knew anything about, I didn’t even know his name. This was one of the recommended recordings as it includes his only symphony. The piece is very detailed in its examination of the man and his music. Reading it was very interesting indeed.

I really enjoyed his music from this recording and I particularly enjoyed the Symphony and Psyche but not so much Les Djinns, overall I do like Franck as a composer.