Fretwork

An Elizabethan Christmas

Price: € 19.95
Format: CD
Label: Signum Classics
UPC: 0635212068021
Catnr: SIGCD 680
Release date: 22 October 2021
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Label
Signum Classics
UPC
0635212068021
Catalogue number
SIGCD 680
Release date
22 October 2021
Album
Artist(s)
Composer(s)
EN

About the album

Viol consort Fretwork and mezzo soprano Helen Charlston explore the more reflective and sombre Christmas celebrations of Elizabethan England, in a collection of works by William Byrd, Anthony Holborne, Orlando Gibbons and Martin Peerson.

With celebrations confined strictly to the 12 days from Christmas Eve to Epiphany, the preceding Advent was regarded as a time of religious introspection, with music composed to mark both fasting and feasting. Byrd’s consort songs for voice and 5 viols encompass this range, from the joyous Out of the Orient Crystal Skies – ending with an exuberant ‘Falantidingdido’, a word whose meaning is lost to history – to his Lullaby, a ‘song of sadnes and pietie’ that became one of Byrd’s most enduringly famous songs

In 2021, Fretwork celebrates its 35th anniversary. In the past three and a half decades they have explored the core repertory of great English consort music, from Taverner to Purcell, and made classic recordings against which others are judged. In addition to this, Fretwork have become known as pioneers of contemporary music for viols, having commissioned over 40 new works.

Acclaimed for her musical interpretation, presence and “warmly distinctive tone” (The Telegraph), Helen Charlston is quickly cementing herself as a key performer in the next generation of British singers. Helen won first prize in the 2018 Handel Singing Competition and was a finalist in the Hurn Court Opera Competition, and the Grange Festival International Singing Competition.

Artist(s)

In 2021, Fretwork celebrates its 35th anniversary. In the past three and a half decades they have explored the core repertory of great English consort music, from Taverner to Purcell, and made classic recordings against which others are judged.

In addition to this, Fretwork have become known as pioneers of contemporary music for viols, having commissioned over 40 new works. The list of composers is like the role call of the most prominent writers of our time: George Benjamin, Michael Nyman, Sir John Tavener, Gavin Bryars, Elvis Costello, Alexander Goehr, John Woolrich, Orlando Gough, Fabrice Fitch, Peter Sculthorpe, Sally Beamish, Tan Dun, Barry Guy, Andrew Keeling, Thea Musgrave, Simon Bainbridge, Poul Ruders, John Joubert, Duncan Druce and Nico Muhly. The group now frequently presents programmes consisting entirely of contemporary music.

They made their Carnegie Hall debut in February of 2010, and now tour the United States most years. In that year, they also curated a week-long concert series of concerts at Kings Place. The culmination of this week was the world premier of The World Encompassed by Orlando Gough, a 70-minute piece describing in musical terms Drake’s circumnavigation of the globe in 1577-80.

In 2011, The National Centre for Early Music, in collaboration with the BBC, hosted a competition for young composers to create a four-minute piece for Fretwork. They workshopped the shortlisted pieces at the NCEM in York in October, and then the winning entries were premiered in Kings Place in December 2011.

The following year, they premiered Nico Muhly’s My Days for The Hilliard Ensemble and Fretwork in Wigmore Hall; while 2013 was their busiest year for a decade: they played no fewer than ten concerts in London’s major chamber music halls: Wigmore Hall, Kings Place, Cadogan Hall and the Royal College of Music.

They celebrated their 30th anniversary with a star-studded concert at Kings Place in June of 2016; and recorded four new albums, including The World Encompassed, and later that year they made their longest tour of America, taking in the USA, Canada & Colombia.

In 2018 they performed and recorded a programme celebrating the music of Michael Nyman – who was 75 in 2019 – with the exceptional counter-tenor, Iestyn Davies; and in 2019 they toured North America with this programme. That year they also began a series of concerts at Wigmore Hall, called ‘Musick’s Monument’, presenting the greatest English consort music from the Golden Age – six concerts ranging from Cornyshe to Purcell.

Their recordings with Signum Classics have resulted in several notable releases: The World Encompassed, John Jenkins Four Part Fantasies, If (with Iestyn Davies), In Chains of Gold: Orlando Gibbons’ consort anthems, & The Silken Tent, with Clare Wilkinson, including the music of Debussy, Grieg, Byrd, Purcell, Nyman, Goehr, Wolf, Britten, Shostakovich and Stephen Wilkinson; and then In Nomine II, concluding a survey of English In Nomines started with their debut album in 1987, including Nico Muhly’s Slow and music by Ferrabosco, Bull, Tye, Baldwin, Parsons and Purcell.

The 2020 pandemic curtailed most groups plans and activities, and Fretwork saw its fair share of cancellations; but it was fortunate to receive £30,000 from Arts Council England’s Emergency fund, and then to be able to present a live-streamed concert with Iestyn Davies from the National Centre for Early Music in York, a programme of Dowland’s Lachrimae from Wigmore Hall and premier a new work by Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones in the Early Music Festival in Blackheath. They also pressed ahead with more recording, once lockdown restrictions were eased.

In 2021, they have been at Wigmore Hall twice, including a performance on Good Friday, the first from Wigmore for many decades, of Johann Sebastiani’s St Matthew Passion. They have also been awarded a substantial grant from Arts Council England to continue and maintain the continuity of their work.

In 2022 they will be celebrating the 400th anniversary of the birth of one of England’s greatest composers for viols, Matthew Locke; and plans visits to Germany, Spain and France. There will also be a collaboration with The Kings Singers and new works from Sir James MacMillan and Roderick Williams.

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