Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: ASV Gaudeamus
WORKS: Fantasias
PERFORMER: The English Fantasy
William Lawes (1602-45) cuts a romantic figure as a Cavalier composer who died young in the English Civil War, and much of his music has a brooding intensity, as though foreshadowing the end of an era. With their beautifully shaped readings, at once introspective and passionate, the Rose Consort captures this darker side of Lawes perhaps better than any other ensemble. By contrast, some of the – admittedly stylised – dance movements in the Royal Consorts could have a touch more spring in the step, although the concluding Morris positively takes to the air. This is a thoughtfully planned programme and, at budget price, it’s certainly one of the most appealing portraits of William Lawes available.


Lawes’s older contemporary Thomas Lupo (d1628) has been less well served by a rather unimaginatively planned programme from ASV – 23 short pieces, all for viol consort, played with barely a break between them will sate even the most ardent Lupo fans. The lack of variety is unfortunate, because the English Fantasy is a group that shows promise: its intonation may not always be secure, but it plays with youthful freshness and spontaneity.


The taste for viol consorts was revived at the Restoration, and the works of Matthew Locke (c1621-77) from this period have a greater vibrancy and optimism than those by Lawes. They are, though, just as idiosyncratic, with short, angular lines lurching into more lyrical moments. Fretwork plays throughout with exceptional poise and transparency of sound, but it also tosses off Locke’s dance music with irresistible verve. Kate Bolton