Lawes: Fantasia-suites for two violins

Lawes: Fantasia-suites for two violins, bass viol & organ
London Baroque
Harmonia Mundi 901423

This music has been a favorite in the past, particularly as compared to Lawes' other violin music, although I've been interested in the earlier forms more of late. There is a dynamism here which I enjoy, without the strangeness that sometimes inhabits his viol consorts.

Lawes' violin sets include some fine music, and there is always an air of freshness about the style. These pieces with two violins work out rather more compellingly than the simpler dance suites or the similar set of pieces for one violin. The latter generally have more involved top lines as compensation for the simpler counterpoint, but the increased virtuosity is better met in Italians like Marini. These two-violin sets are more distinctly English, somewhat comparable to those of Purcell, although more exciting in their freshness and convincing in their solidity.

This performance is a good one, making the most of the repertory. The sonority & intonation are excellent, and the phrasing & pacing are nearly ideal. If it is to be improved, it won't be by much... perhaps more emotional variety, but the general languid quality seems apt.

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Todd M. McComb