Featured Album April 2023: The King's Singers & Fretwork "Tom & Will"
The Early Music Shop are delighted to be starting a new monthly ‘featured album’ blog where we showcase one CD from our catalogue per month. It might be a new release we’d like to highlight, or an older release which our staff have been enjoying – but we hope the features will help you to discover some great new (old) music!
We’re kicking off with a new release by two stalwarts of the scene, celebrating the music of two stalwart English composers of the Renaissance era.
Tom & Will
Weelkes & Byrd: 400 Years
Fretwork & The King’s Singers
OUR FEATURED ALBUM FOR APRIL 2023
From the artists' press release…
400 years ago, in 1623, England lost two of its greatest composers: William Byrd and Thomas Weelkes. In a pro- gramme marking this double anniversary, The King’s Singers and Fretwork turn their focus to the bold personalities of these two men, Will and Tom. Featuring well-known gems by the two composers, alongside works which had never been recorded before and which are rarely heard live, Tom and Will unlocks some of the humanity behind these two giants of Elizabethan music. Presented in The King’s Singers’ unique style, this programme is filled with beauty, drama and storytelling.As part of this project, The King’s Singers and Fretwork have commissioned two new works for their joint forces, by two of Britain’s great living composers: Sir James MacMillan and Roderick Williams. These works only feature in the version performed by The King’s Singers and Fretwork, but represent a commitment to keeping the spirit of Byrd and Weelkes alive in today’s musical landscape.
Why The Early Music Shop loves "Tom & Will":
Released in January 2023, we are delighted to be featuring the brand-new collaboration between two highly respected consorts: the renowned voices of The King’s Singers, and viol pioneers Fretwork. The album was recorded in the beautiful acoustics of Orford Church, just a few miles from our showroom at Snape Maltings.
The album contains a healthy balance of songs by the two featured composers, along with selected instrumental pieces performed by Fretwork which focus primarily on Weelkes’ Pavans and In Nomines. Of particular note are two new compositions which have been commissioned especially for the project: James MacMillan contributes Ye Sacred Muse, based on the same text set by Byrd, while Roderick Williams builds on Weelkes’ Death Have Deprived Me with his composition, Death, Be Not Proud. The contemporary nature of these two pieces contrasts greatly with the rest of the material, yet the works do not feel out of place; the compositional style and interpretational approach are highly compatible.
Meanwhile, the disc’s main attraction is of course the Byrd and Weelkes recordings. From the exclamatory opening, launching straight into Byrd’s Praise Our Lord, All Ye Gentiles, the tone is set for a wide-ranging and enjoyable jaunt through the two composers’ repertoire. The voices are stylish and expressive with the signature King’s Singers sound shining through; the viols are poised and exquisitely phrased, demonstrating exactly why Fretwork are leaders in their field. The complexity of the polyphony in pieces such as Browning / The Leaves Be Green complements the beautiful prayers of album closer O Lord Make Thy Servant Elizabeth, featuring just The King's Singers, where the voices act tightly as one instrument, yet each individual singer feels present and important.
Engaging from beginning to end, Tom & Will presents a well-structured and brightly captured programme, showcasing a wide range of characters and textures across 70 minutes of music. Throughout, the two ensembles demonstrate an impressive shared approach. Packaged in an attractively modern-looking case with excellent sleeve notes and song texts, this is a fitting way to launch our new monthly featured album campaign.
Tom & Will is in stock at The Early Music Shop now - order online or buy from our Snape Maltings showroom!