In Nomine II
Works by J Baldwin, Bull, Gavin Bryars, Ferrabosco, Nico Muhly, R Parsons, Purcell, Tye and J Ward
Signum SIGCD 576 59:50 mins
Perhaps it goes with the territory – the grainy gravitas of the soundworld, the default conversational counterpoint – but the viol consort repertoire so often gives the impression of a venerable repository embodying the musical wisdom of the ages. And for Fretwork ‘the ages’ includes today as well as yesterday. Over three decades have elapsed since the consort made their disc debut with a collection of In Nomines, and only now do they belatedly release an intended sequel, leavening glorious seven-part specimens by Robert Parsons and Purcell (not to mention three more-modestly-scored exhibits by the inexhaustibly inventive Christopher Tye) with 20th- and 21st-century examples by Nico Muhly and Gavin Bryars – Muhly’s energised take on the genre seemingly out to hitch a ride with Steve Reich’s Different Trains. So suggests the frenzied agitation that subsequently seethes subterraneously when a surface calm threatens to prevail.
Fretwork takes everything in their expertly burnished stride. Muhly’s provocative vigour is answered by the soulful musings of the Bryars, and a consort respray of Bull’s keyboard In Nomine in 11/4 sounds decidedly at home – its clarity of part-writing arguably enhanced, its teasing time signature relished. The rhythmic cunning of Baldwin’s Proportions to the minim is similarly elucidated with exhilarating precision; and, above all, the expanded ensemble negotiates the sonorous seven-part delights of Parsons and Purcell with an expansively ear-filling plenitude. Ravishing, too, is the recording which draws the listener directly into the heart of the ever-confiding musical discourse. This is an utterly civilised and civilising release.