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William LAWES (1602-1645)
Complete Music for Solo Lyra Viol
Richard Boothby (lyra viol)
rec. 2015, Royal College of Music, London
HARMIONA MUNDI HMU907625 [59.37]

From Harmonia Mundi comes a superb disc of music for lyra viol performed by early-music expert and musician Richard Boothby. The lyra viol and its music are now rarities. Around the size of a small bass viol, it sometimes had a set of wire strings that ran under the bridge which would vibrate sympathetically when the gut strings were played; the booklet notes cite Shakespeare, in his Sonnet VIII, as one of many writers of the time who were fascinated by this phenomenon.

Most of the works featured here were composed in the early 1630s; all except for a Prelude and an Air are dances - Almains, Corantos or Sarabands – and all 35 extant pieces are short - none exceeds three minutes and most are around a minute and a half. Nevertheless, there is great variety in them, from melancholy, introspection and dark beauty to vivaciousness, energy and invigoration.

All are superbly played, as would be expected. Boothby has a lightness and delicacy of touch, and an appropriate economy which works extremely well in these works. His sympathy for this music is apparent and his joy in, and love of, the repertoire comes across clearly. He plays on a seventeenth-century lyra viol currently in the collection of the Royal College of Music where Boothby is Professor of Viola da Gamba and where this recording was made. The instrument was made by London-based viol-maker Richard Meares and boasts a page of the booklet notes all to itself, complete with a useful photograph.

The notes, written by Boothby himself, are in English, French and German, and slightly brief at four well-spaced pages but nevertheless very good. A picture of Lawes and a brief biography are included, along with a photograph of Boothby himself.

This disc can be highly recommended; it is quite intense and introspective to listen to all the way through (not as back-ground listening!), but very rewarding, especially given the excellent performances and the high standard of disc and booklet production from Harmonia Mundi.

Em Marshall-Luck

Previous reviews: Stephen Barber ~ Brian Wilson

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