Ēriks Ešenvalds' Infelix ego was commissioned by ORA and Suzi Digby to reflect on William Byrd's famous setting of Girolamo Savonarola's writing based on Psalm 50. The Dominican friar and reformer from Florence wrote his meditation on the Miserere mei shortly before being executed, following his campaign in the 1490s against corruption in the church, social immorality and secular influences. Infelix ego was premiered at ORA's launch concert in the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula at the Tower of London in February 2016. Its premiere recording was released on ORA’s second album Refuge from the Flames, which is dedicated to Savonarola's legacy and features Ešenvalds’ setting alongside Byrd's 16th-century masterpiece at the centre of the programme.
Going back to Savonarola, undoubtedly the greatest setting of his words by an Englishman is to be found in William Byrd's version of Infelix ego. We have previously devoted a recording exclusively to sacred music by Byrd with a selection of British composers commissioned to reflect upon these works, but I felt that this emotional tour de force from Cantiones sacrae 1591 deserved to stand alone in Byrd's output, and it was from this that the genesis of this particular recording began. To reflect on this extraordinary piece I knew I needed a composer with an equally strong individual compositional voice. My search took me to the Latvian Ēriks Ešenvalds, who has produced what I consider a new masterpiece, and something which I hope will endure in the same way as the setting of the great master Byrd.
— from notes by Suzi Digby © 2016
Photo: ORA’s debut concert in the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula at the Tower of London in February 2016, which featured the premiere of Infelix ego (© Nick Rutter).