Lawes: Consort Sets in Five and Six Parts

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LABELS: Alia Vox
WORKS: Consort Sets in Five and Six Parts
PERFORMER: Hespèrion XXI/Jordi Savall (viola da gamba)
William Lawes’s pieces for viol consort in four, five and six parts probably date from the 1620s. This new recording, on two discs, of the five- and six-part consort sets, or suites, sympathetically discloses their richly rewarding expressive range. Lawes was as often as not highly original in his ideas and this is especially apparent in the five-part sets which are in turn bold, warmly passionate, introspective and extravagant. All the music here is rich in contrast, and this seems especially true of the fantasias, one of which is included in each suite. But above all, it is the poetry and expressive fervour which strike my ears as among their most alluring features.


Jordi Savall and his ensemble Hespèrion XXI respond to Lawes’s magic with accomplished artistry and unanimity of purpose. These are more red-blooded performances than some rival versions, less concerned with refinement or restraint, but demonstrating a greater spontaneity and exuberance. They are qualities which suit the innovative and experimental character of the music. The charm of Lawes’s melodies, however fleeting they be, is irresistible, and the frequent element of playful surprise, as you will quickly recognise in the canonic Pavan of the Fifth Set in five parts, hardly less so. Nicholas Anderson