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Motet Notes

William Byrd: "Surge, Illuminare"


Probably the most intellectual and varied of all of the British Renaissance composers, Byrd wrote not only Latin but also English language religious works as well as madrigals and a significant amount of great keyboard music.

Surge, Illuminare is typical of the densely written, detailed counterpoint of the great Renaissance composer's Latin motets. The opening figure for “Surge” spins rhythmically forward followed by middle phrases, built out of more neutral material. However, Byrd maintains a driving quality that peaks in the swinging motive for the last phrase “super te orta est.” The fastest rhythms are saved for the highly imitative “alleluia.”

© Ryan Turner