William LAWES (1602-1645)
Complete Music for Solo Lyra Viol
Details after review
Richard Boothby (viola da gamba)
rec. Royal College of Music, London, 12 and 19 January, 5 March, 22 May, 24 June and 25 September 2015. DDD
HARMONIA MUNDI HMU907625 [59:17]

Reviewed as 24/96 download from eclassical.com (available in mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless with pdf booklet and from dealers on CD).

First let me correct a typo: in an earlier review, of film music by Korngold, I gave HMU907625 as the catalogue number of a recording of the ‘Robin Hood’ ballads.  The correct number for that is HMU907265.

William Lawes, court composer to Charles I who died defending the cause of his royal master in the English Civil War, is best known for his consort music, a very fine recording of which is available from Phantasm directed by Laurence Dreyfus on Linn CKD399: Recording of the Month – review.  I very much enjoyed that album – Download Roundup July 2012/2 – and its successor, The Royal Consort (CKD470 – review).  Though I also enjoyed the new solo viol recording, it’s with one of these Linn recordings that I recommend beginning a quest for Lawes’ music.

After the Prelude all the works are based on various dance forms current in the early 17th Century.  I’m sure that they all sounded very different to the ears of Lawes’ contemporaries but, apart from the obvious contrast between the livelier dances such as the Jig and the stately Sarabande, they do all tend to sound rather samey to the modern ear.

I thought at first it might be just me failing to respond, especially in the light of a very positive review and Editor’s Choice in one publication.  Perhaps I just wasn’t in the right mood every time I listened.  I’m not alone, however, in my slightly muted response to some undeniably assured and thoughtful playing: I see that another reviewer feels that Boothby gives us gentle and thoughtful accounts, more like meditations than music for dancing. 

Perhaps I was expecting something more like Jordi Savall’s very lively recording of Celtic dance music on the lyra viol and treble viol (AVSA9878).  Perhaps, too, you need to be attuned to the genre: I see that Kirk McElhearn had a similar problem with Susanne Heinrich’s performance of Tobias Hume’s near-contemporary music on the solo viola da gamba (Hyperion CDA67811 – review); he too seems to have had Savall’s manner with the music of this period imprinted in his mind.  Boothby’s own recordings as a founder member of Fretwork, listed in the booklet – some of them now download only – are also more appealing.

Despite the quality of the playing, notes and recording, then, it’s to the two Linn recordings that I shall be turning in future.  Subscribers to Naxos Music Library, Classicsonline.com and Qobuz should try streaming the new recording to see if they like it.

Three forthcoming reissues of recent Linn recordings, all made by Phantasm, caught my eye as likely to be of interest to readers of this review: John Jenkins’ Five-part Consorts (BKD557) and Six-part Consorts (BKD556) and John Ward’s music for five and six viols (BKD339).  All remain at full price, so I’m not sure of the reason for the reissues except to spoil the covers with thick black borders – a variant on the ‘black spot’ which blotted the cover of their reissue of Phantasm’s music of Orlando Gibbons (BKD486) but didn’t spoil the quality of the music and performances.  We don’t seem to have reviewed any of these on first release: I hope to remedy that, perhaps in a group review or in considering yet another Phantasm recording from Linn which has just appeared, of Dowland’s Lachrymę and other music (CKD527, with Elizabeth Kenny).  First listening suggests a more enthusiastic response, though competition is fiercer than for Lawes.

Brian Wilson

Prelude, VdGS 435,
Country Coll, VdGS 421,
A Jigge, VdGS 422,
Almain, VdGS 491,
Coranto, VdGS 512,
Almain, VdGS 461,
Coranto, VdGS 423,
Air, VdGS 596,
Almain, VdGS 462,
Coranto, VdGS 424,
Almaine, VdGS 511,
Coranto, VdGS 513,
Saraband, VdGS 514,
Almain, VdGS 463,
Coranto, VdGS 465,
Saraband, VdGS 467,
Almain, VdGS 543,
Coranto, VdGS 541,
Almaine, VdGS 464,
Corrant, VdGS 425,
Saraband, VdGS 434,
Almain (Pavan), VdGS 542,
Coranto, VdGS 544,
Almain, VdGS 430,
Corant, VdGS 426,
Saraband, VdGS 433,
Corant, VdGS 427,
Saraband, VdGS 591,
Corant, VdGS 428,
Saraband, VdGS 466,
Coranto, VdGS 545,
Coranto, VdGS 546,
Corant, VdGS 429,
Corant, VdGS 431,
Saraband, VdGS 432

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