Magnum Mysterium, Vol. 1 dips into the golden age of polyphony. This is when Renaissance composers put together intricate layers of complementing melodies, sometimes based on mystic numerology. With a single exception, English ensemble artists perform all the Catholic and Protestant pieces here. Magnum Mysterium, Vol. 1 covers the origins of the polyphonic tradition in the 15th-17th Centuries. The music here, of Giovanni Palestrina and others, still resonates with a compelling beauty through the centuries. Along with other English-speaking acknowledged masters, such as Thomas Tallis and William Byrd, this compendium includes seldom-heard religious composers from the Iberian peninsula, Manuel Cardoso and Duarte Lobo. When lulled into peaceful reverie by the sublime sounds of William Byrd, it is hard to understand how the works of these known Catholics were not suppressed by the violently Protestant court of Elizabeth I for their beauty alone.
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