Lawes: Consort Music

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COMPOSERS: Lawes
LABELS: Metronome
WORKS: Consort Music
PERFORMER: Concordia
CATALOGUE NO: MET CD 1045
Even today, 400 years after his birth, the Cavalier composer William Lawes stands as a true original – his sound-world by turns radiant and desolate, his musical language full of contorted melodies, pungent chromaticisms and dark, brooding harmonies.

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Concordia’s playing is most effective in the ‘Setts’ – or suites – for viol consort, which they realise with understated drama and restrained intensity, fully in keeping with the spirit of the times. Their selection also includes the six extant movements Lawes wrote for three ‘lyra’ viols – strange, turbid pieces, their distinctive multiple stoppings creating a rather stilted sense of line in these performances. To help make up for the many lost ‘lyra’ viol works, Mark Levy has also transcribed several of Lawes’s ‘catches’, originally written for three male voices and intended for tavern singing. It’s an enterprising idea, and particularly successful in the earthy rendition of ‘The wise men were but seven’.

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Anyone looking for more extrovert panache in this music might enjoy the Lawes disc by the viol consort Phantasm (Channel). Concordia offers a more introspective – yet nonetheless sensitive – approach to this glorious and often disturbing music. Kate Bolton