William Byrd: O Magnum Mysterium

On Monday we listened to Italian baroque composer Arcangelo Corelli’s “Christmas Concerto,” a piece probably performed on Christmas Eve, 1690. Now, let’s go back even earlier to the English Renaissance music of William Byrd (1543-1623). Byrd’s motet O Magnum Mysterium, written in 1607, evokes the mystery and wonderment of the nativity story. It’s music which seems poised somewhere between terror and exultation. Listen to the way the voices imitate one another, gradually unfolding in soaring waves of sound.

A searing intensity characterizes this performance by conductor John Eliot Gardiner and the Monteverdi Choir. It comes from the 1998 album, Once As I Remembered. Listen to the powerful, almost lamenting quality of the rising and falling tenor line just before the final, serene resolution.

In 1563, William Byrd was appointed organist and master of the choristers at Lincoln Cathedral (pictured above) in England’s East Midlands. The Cathedral was constructed in phases, beginning in 1088.


About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

1 thought on “William Byrd: O Magnum Mysterium”

  1. Can anyone tell me who put the words together, to William Byrd’s O MAGNUM MYSTERIUM?

    I heard somewhere that it might be Tomas de Victoria. Can anyone substantiate?

    In anticipationChris Peel


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