MacCunn: Land of the Mountain and the Flood; The Ship o' the Fiend; The Dowie Dens o' Yarrow; Jeanie Deans - excerpts; The Lay of the Last Minstrel BBC Scottish SO / Martyn Brabbins (Hyperion CDA 66815); William Lawes: Consort Setts for 5 & 6 viols; Songs etc Catherine Bott, Paul Nicholson, Fretwork (Virgin Veritas VC 5 45147 2)
Received opinion is that when it came to word-setting, William Lawes was not the equal of his brother Henry. This time received opinion may be right: the four Robert Herrick settings recorded here are charming, and charmingly sung, but they don't add much to Herrick's dulcet love songs. But the bulk of this disc is taken up by Lawes's viol works, and here we enter another world - music of astonishing intensity and audacity. Forget the "important precursor of Purcell" label and just appreciate the Consort Setts as the powerfully original things they are.
Fretwork are something special too - far removed from the worthy, academically scrupulous but deadly dull viol recitals of the past. The smallness of the sound (even in these intimate recordings) may initially jar ears brought up on modern string ensembles - but only for a moment, surely. The musicianship, vitality and penetrating expression are quickly evident. The neglect of Lawes in his own country is inexcusable; this disc will tell you why. SJ
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