The Cardinall's Musick
• Founded 1989
The Cardinall's Musick is one of England's highly acclaimed early music choral ensembles. It specializes in pre-Reformation English vocal and choral music, though it has sung repertoire as recent as the Gloria of 20th century French composer Francis Poulenc.
The Cardinall's Musick was founded in 1989 by Andrew Carwood and David Skinner. Carwood, a Cambridge graduate and professional solo and consort singer, and Skinner, an American musicologist from California who moved to the United Kingdom in 1987, were then both lay clerks at Christ Church, Oxford. They continue to direct the ensemble, with Carwood predominantly tending to the musical performances and Skinner doing more of the research and editing that produces the fresh, accurate editions of the music that are Cardinall's Musick's trademark. Skinner invariably goes back to the original manuscript sources of the music or to music printed during the composer's lifetime.
The ensemble was originally an all-male group. When the British record company ASV asked Cardinall's Musick to record music of Nicholas Ludford in 1991, Carwood and Skinner added higher voices to the group. From the beginning, Carwood's approach was to produce a rich and vibrant sound that is far removed from the dry results too often produced by some historically-based singing groups. He encourages the singers to sing out like soloists within the consort, and to express the meaning of the texts, which are usually Catholic. The Daily Telegraph newspaper even went so far as to describe their sound as "erotic," presumably meaning to bestow praise.
The Cardinall's Musick quickly gained fame among British Renaissance music groups, and appeared at the major festivals (Spitalfields, Aldeburgh, the BBC Proms, and the South Bank, to name a few) and major concert stages of the country. It has also given concerts in France, and makes frequent appearances on BBC's Radio 3.
It recorded primarily on the ASV label and then on Hyperion, but also on Gaudeamus and Meridian, producing recordings of the complete known music of Robert Fayrfax, the festal Masses and Antiphons of Nicholas Ludford, Cornysh's Magnificat and Salve Regina, Merbecke's Missa per arme iustitie, and, reflecting a decision to broaden its musical base, a highly acclaimed recording of the Missa Gaudeamus by the great Spanish composer Tomás Luis de Victoria.
Its major recording project was an ambitious traversal of the complete works of William Byrd, the prolific and great English Catholic composer who left a vast body of works. This project would become the first integral recording of the works of any of the major Renaissance composers. They are recorded in the resplendent acoustics of the Fitzalan Chapel of Arundel Castle, one of the major locations of continued Catholic worship during the Tudor repression of that faith and site of one of Elizabethan England's greatest music libraries. The series was completed on Hyperion in 2010 with the album Infelix Ego, which was only the second early music disc ever to be named Gramophone Recording of the Year.
Cardinall's Musick also sings a selection of 20th century music, including Palm-Sunday, a work it commissioned from Michael Finnissy. Its recordings have won the Gramophone Award for Early Music, the French Diapason d'Or, the German Schallplattenkritik Preis, and the Schallplatten Echo Award.