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Tom + Will

The King’s Singers; Fretwork (Signum Classics)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Tom + Will – Weelkes & Byrd: 400 Years
Works by Byrd, Weelkes, James MacMillan and Roderick Williams
The King’s Singers; Fretwork
Signum Classics SIGCD731   70:55 mins


The title Tom and Will refers to two of our greatest Renaissance composers, Thomas Weelkes and William Byrd. Fortuitously they both managed to die in 1623 thus facilitating this fascinating comparison of their styles in this anniversary year, especially as performed here by the extremely accomplished musicians of The King’s Singers and Fretwork.

From Weelkes we have the immensely subtle Hark all ye lovely saints, set to springy, vertiginous changes of metre beautifully negotiated by the singers, and his In nomine a 4, performed in a delightfully skittish manner by Fretwork. The same alluring intricacy is served up in Byrd’s If women could be fair, but some of these pieces defy any obvious ‘expressive’ approach. After all, who knows what Thule, the period of cosmography is really about, and what is to be done with Byrd’s lament on the death of Tallis (Ye sacred muses) set mostly in the major key – except sing it nicely?

This last is a companion to Weelkes’s touching lament on the death of Thomas Morley (Death hath deprived me) and both are paralleled by two impressive elegies by James MacMillan and Roderick Williams. The kaleidoscopic textures of MacMillan’s piece are beautifully haunting and unsettling. Both are premiere recordings, and – according to the booklet – so too is Weelkes’s Say dear, though in fact this was recorded some years ago by the Deller Consort (on Harmonia Mundi France) and The Purcell Consort of Voices (Turnabout). That said, this new release is one of the finest recordings of this repertoire and can be warmly recommended.


Anthony Pryer