Collection: A Gift of Nature

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Baltzar,Byrd,Farinel,Jenkins,Lawes,Matteis,Schop,Simpson
LABELS: Teldec Das Alte Werk
WORKS: English chamber music of the 17th century: Byrd, Jenkins, Lawes, Matteis, Baltzar, Schop, Farinel, Simpson,
PERFORMER: Trio Sonnerie, Stephen Stubbs (theorbo, Baroque guitar), Andrew Lawrence-King (harp, organ)
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-90841-2 DDD


This delightful collection of Baroque chamber music celebrates the variation-form known as ‘divisions’, which was very popular in 17th-century England. A largely improvisatory genre, divisions required the player to extemporise variations on a repeating ‘ground’ (usually a melody in the bass).

The leading exponent of the music was Christopher Simpson, author of the definitive The Division-Violist (published in 1659): the CD takes its title from his declaration that ‘invention is a gift of nature’. In the 1600s many well-known composers and instrumentalists were tempted to test their invention at divisions.

This recording includes pieces by, among others, William Byrd, William Lawes and Nicola Matteis, the latter’s brief suite here being full of the most charmingly extravagant, plangent music for violin. Since variety was of the essence in divisions, many of these works call for mercurial, even florid, virtuoso skills from the soloists. Others, such as Johann Schop’s Lachrimae or William Brade’s lovely Coral, touch, albeit fleetingly, on deeper feelings.


The Trio Sonnerie, abetted by Stephen Stubbs and Andrew Lawrence-King, give an excellent account of this repertoire. In particular, violinist Monica Huggett, who takes the lead on many tracks, plays with great zest and fluency. A thoroughly engaging release. Graham Lock