Lawes: Viol Consort Sets

William Lawes: For ye Violls
Consort Setts for 5 & 6 viols and organ
Virgin 91187
Virgin Veritas 59021


    Consort Sett a 6 (F major)
  1. Fantazy
  2. Aire
  3. Fantazy
  4. Aire

  5. Divisions for two bass viols & organ (G minor)
  6. Paven
  7. Aire
  8. Aire

  9. Consort Sett a 5 (C minor)
  10. Fantazy
  11. Aire
  12. Paven
  13. Aire

  14. Consort Sett a 5 (F major)
  15. Fantazy
  16. Paven
  17. Aire

  18. Airs for three lyra viols
  19. Fantasie (VdGS 573)
  20. Humour (VdGS 578)

  21. Consort Sett a 6 (C minor)
  22. Fantazia
  23. Fantazia
  24. Inominy
  25. Aire

Reissued in Virgin Veritas Edition 562001

Performers: Wendy Gillespie, Richard Campbell, Julia Hodgson, Susanna Pell, William Hunt, Richard Boothby, Paul Nicholson (organ)

Playing time: 70'

Recording date: February 1990

William Lawes (1602-1645) was one of the most creative and sophisticated composers of consort music. An analogy has been made between him and Beethoven, for the unprecedented innovative elements he brought to the instrumental styles of the time. This includes jarring angular themes, and bold harmonic schemes carried off with ease. Lawes' genius had the potential for initiating a classical instrumental tradition before its time, but this was not to come to fruition due to the onset of the English Civil War and the resulting brevity of his life. Lawes is a composer who could easily appeal to a much wider audience than is currently aware of his music.

Lawes was a student of Coprario, and adopts his ideas on scoring and use of the suite. However, this influence quickly ends as Lawes' creativity takes over. The Consort Setts on the current recording provide a thorough survey of the form & ideas he uses in this genre, and represent his most serious compositional style. In these suites, he not only uses new ideas on the arrangement of movements, but incorporates older themes and forms (Lachrimae, track #10; In Nomine, track #19) into this context. These are some of the most interesting & comprehensive instrumental works of the era.

Lawes also wrote dozens of divisions (variations) and lyra consorts of smaller scope, but of equal facility.

The next release from Fretwork, including some songs:

Lawes: Concord is conquer'd
Consort Setts for 5 & 6 viols / Songs / Pieces for lyra viol
Fretwork / Catherine Bott / Paul Nicholson
Virgin Veritas 45147

Other major viol consort recordings:

Lawes: Consorts to the organ
Linn Records 399
Lawes: Consort sets in 5 & 6 parts
Hespèrion XXI - Jordi Savall
Alia Vox 9823 (2 CDs)
Lawes: Knock'd on the Head
Concordia - Mark Levy
Metronome 1045
Lawes: Consort Music for Viols, Lutes and Theorbos
Royal Consorts / Duets for Lute / Divisions on a Pavan
Rose Consort of Viols
Naxos 8.550601

A recording concentrating on a particular sub-repertory:

Lawes: Suites pour une et trois lyra-violes
Dunford / Abramowicz / Moquet
Adès 206502

And a recording devoted entirely to songs:

William Lawes: In Loving Memory
Psalms, Songs and Elegies
Consort of Musicke - Anthony Rooley
Musica Oscura 70972

Finally, a viol recording devoted to Lawes' contemporary Christopher Simpson (c.1605-1669), focusing on the division genre:

Simpson: The 4 Seasons
Les Voix Humaines
Atma 22182

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Todd M. McComb