William Lawes - Complete Music for Solo Lyra Viol | Harmonia Mundi HMU907625

William Lawes - Complete Music for Solo Lyra Viol


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Label: Harmonia Mundi

Cat No: HMU907625

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 1

Genre: Instrumental

Release Date: 10th June 2016



Some of the most famous English composers of the 17th century wrote pieces for the lyra viol, or even entire anthologies. These composers include John Cooper, John Jenkins, Christopher Simpson, Charles Coleman, and William
. Due to the number of strings and their rather flat layout, the lyra viol can approximate polyphonic textures, and because of its small size and large range, it is more suited to intricate and quick melodic lines than the larger types of bass viol.

Employed as “musician in ordinary for lutes and voices” at the court of Charles I, English composer Lawes (1602-1645) is most admired today for his sublime suites for viol consort. His less familiar solo repertoire for lyra-viol is performed here by Richard Boothby, a founder member of Fretwork, on the best preserved instrument of the period (Richard Meares, c.1647-1725) which is now part of the Kessler Collection in the museum of the Royal College of Music, London.


Of all the early instruments to have gone extinct – or at least fallen out of everyday use – we should mourn in particular the decline of the lyra viol. Imagine an instrument chunkier than a modern viola (they varied in size), held upright like a little cello, with a voice that is noble, fragile, melancholy and sweet. The lyra fell out of fashion in the mid 1600s, but fortunately we still have a small but gorgeous body of solo works including these pieces by William Lawes, court musician to Charles I and composer of some of the most inventive, playful and striking music of the early 17th century. Richard Boothby’s handling of them on bass viol is supple and genial if a little careful and reverent: all except one of the 34 pieces on the disc are dances, but he makes them sound more like gentle meditations. It is a sumptuous album – but don’t be fooled by the dancing shoes on the cover.  Kate Molleson
The Guardian 17 June 2016
Lock the doors, close the curtains and turn the lights down before putting this disc on. Here is music for an intimate space: solo music for solitary souls. This is a rare opportunity to hear solo lyra viol music from the early 1630s played on a beautiful period instrument by one of today’s foremost exponents of the Jacobean repertoire. ... Lawes’s music is in general jolly and introspective by turns. Boothby plays in a charmingly gentle, often elegant yet spare way that suggests he is enjoying a private pleasure which we are nonetheless invited to savour. ... The delicacy with which Boothby phrases and ornaments the music is sublime. A great night in, then.  Julie Anne Sadie
Gramophone July 2016
Gramophone Editor's Choice

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