Collection: Sit Fast

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bainbridge,Beamish,Ferrabosco,Guy,Isaac,Ruders,Sculthorpe,Tan Dun,Tye
LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: Works by Guy, Isaac, Ruders, Tan Dun, Tye, Bainbridge, Beamish, Ferrabosco, Sculthorpe,
PERFORMER: Michael Chance (countertenor), Paul Agnew (tenor); Fretwork
CATALOGUE NO: VC 5 45217 2

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If you thought the viol consort was shut firmly in the museum of early music, think again. This quirky and intriguing CD contains viol music by eight contemporary composers, interleaved with early music. It sounds like a recipe for a ragbag, but as you listen all kinds of fascinating interconnections reveal themselves. The most obvious one is, of course, the courtly, grave, varnished sound of the viols. Barry Guy is the only composer who fights against it, with dubious results. All the others let themselves be seduced by it, adding only a harmonic here, a discreet tremolando there (apart from three pieces which include a vocal part).

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The typical textures of viol music – the sustained vocal lines, the buzzing dissonances, the skittish dance rhythms – have also left their imprint on the new pieces. For example, those wonderful syncopations in Christopher Tye’s Sit Fast are not far from the intricate rhythms of Poul Ruders’s Second Set of Changes. Presiding over this game of musical echoes is the ghost of Henry Purcell. The new pieces were all written to mark his tercentenary, and Purcell’s own viol music is often cunningly interwoven into the new pieces. The result is like a meal of hors d’oeuvres – rich, highly flavoured, but best not consumed in one sitting. Ivan Hewett