Fretwork here unveils some obscure but engaging works from the golden age of English consort music by the little-known but accomplished composers Martin Peerson and John Milton, father of the celebrated poet. The programme combines scholarship, performance and recording technology to bring to light some two-dozen forgotten works, from dancing almaines to brooding intricate fantasias.
Fretwork responds with playing that ranges from buoyant and capricious to episodes of high seriousness. Throughout, we hear the flawless technique and luminous sound that have helped to establish Fretwork’s reputation as one of today’s leading viol consorts. The players record in a circle, recreating something of the original performing conditions in which the consort would have sat round a table. Centrally placed microphones capture the music’s glorious antiphonal effects.
Michael Chance makes a brief but moving appearance in Milton’s In Nomine, If that a sinner’s sighs, and Peerson’s few but quirky keyboard pieces are gracefully realised on the virginals by Sophie Yates. My one quibble is with the jarring change in recording perspective between keyboard and consort.
This was the last instrumental recording by the late Richard Campbell. As such, it’s an aptly eloquent tribute to one of Fretwork’s founder members.