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William LAWES (1602-1645)
Knock’d on the head – Music for Viols

Consort Sett a6 in F major [11:09]
Lyra viol trio in D minor [09:55]
Hark jolly lads, Catch a3 [02:02]
Come my lads, Catch a3 [01:14]
Consort Sett a6 in G minor [13:13]
Whither go ye, Catch a3 [02:24]
The wise men were but seven, Catch a3 [01:24]
Lyra viol trio in D major [06:51]
Consort Sett a6 in B flat major [10:37]
Mark Levy (director, treble viol, lyra viol)
Veli-Markus Tapio, treble viol, lyra viol;
Joanna Levine, tenor viol, lyra viol;
Emilia Benjamin, tenor viol;
Reiko Ichise, bass viol;
Alison McGillivray, bass viol;
Gary Cooper, organ
Rec. 22-25 September 2001, Orford Church, Suffolk, England, DDD
METRONOME MET CD 1045 [59:02]
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Enterprising record label Metronome have released a recording of viol consort music from the pen of premier late-Renaissance English composer, William Lawes. The title of this release Knock’d on the head had been extracted from a passage of text written several decades after the trial and subsequent execution of Lawes’s patron, the music loving Charles I, by an amateur musician called Roger North.

With an aura of sanctity this is opulent and often beautiful music but despite the surface calm it comes from a troubled age in England where violence was commonplace. Born in 1602 Lawes was a cavalier who served as a musician to King Charles I. It is said that their relationship cut across the widest social barriers as they became friends. In 1645 during the Civil War, whilst serving his Sovereign with the Royalist army, Lawes was tragically killed at the siege of Chester.

Penetrating rather than forceful, the viol was an extremely popular instrument in England for several decades and Lawes had the talent to take viol music to new heights. Three of the Setts (or Suites) on this recording are written for six-part viol consort, two Setts for three-part lyra viol consort and four Catches (or Rounds) that Levy has transcribed for the same forces. Lawes has composed the Setts against an organ accompaniment and broke each Sett down into shorter sections named: Aire, Pavan, Fantazy etc.

Concordia founder Mark Levy holds the view that it was in his works for viol consort that Lawes, "composed his most complex and experimental, and yet more emotionally revealing music." There is no doubt how ground-breaking these compositions were in their day owing to their brooding intensity and the fluctuating textures and harmonies across each part. In the fantasy section of the Consort Sett a6, in G minor (point 01:44, track 11) Lawes demonstrates his use of advanced techniques with painful dissonance and unstable harmonies. We can hear how Lawes expertly contrasts music of a dance-like nature together with music of a more serious and meditative nature in the fantasy of the Consort Sett a6, in B flat minor (point 01:47, track 18). The Levy transcription of Whither go ye, Catch a3 (point 00:42, track 13) demonstrates how Lawes was able to compose melodies evocative of the folk music so typically sung in the early seventeenth century tavern.

Earlier this season I had the good fortune to attend an evening of Concordia’s playing and to witness first hand the talents and undoubted enthusiasm of this appealing and sweetly tuned viol consort. Their innate enthusiasm, virtuosity and unquestionable commitment for this late-renaissance English music is most apparent and as early music specialists Concordia use authentic instruments whenever possible or period copies. It is hard to fault the instrumentalists on this recording who play gloriously with expressive warmth and a most appealing resonant tone.

There is much to admire and enjoy in this Metronome release which is hard to resist. Recommended without hesitation.

Michael Cookson


see also review by Johan van Veen

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View track details:
Consort Sett a6 in F Major
Consort Sett a6 in F Major
Consort Sett a6 in F Major
Consort Sett a6 in F Major
Lyra viol trio in D Minor
Lyra viol trio in D Minor
Lyra viol trio in D Minor
CDTnº10 - W. LAWES
Consort Sett a6 in G Minor
CDTnº11 - W. LAWES
Consort Sett a6 in G Minor
CDTnº12 - W. LAWES
Consort Sett a6 in G Minor
CDTnº13 - W. LAWES
CDTnº14 - W. LAWES
CDTnº15 - W. LAWES
Lyra viol trio in D Major
CDTnº16 - W. LAWES
Lyra viol trio in D Major
CDTnº17 - W. LAWES
Lyra viol trio in D Major
CDTnº18 - W. LAWES
Consort Sett a6 in B flat Major
CDTnº19 - W. LAWES
Consort Sett a6 in B flat Major
CDTnº20 - W. LAWES
Consort Sett a6 in B flat Major

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