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Music to Hear - Music for Lyra Viol from 1609 / Alfonso Ferrabosco

Music to Hear - Music for Lyra Viol from 1609 / Alfonso Ferrabosco

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Recorded during the 2020 lockdown, Richard Boothby explores the solo and duo Viol music of Alfonso Ferrabosco the younger. The lyra viol and its music is one of the last undiscovered gems of music, and Alfonso Ferrabosco is its greatest exponent. It is in the category of ‘hard to define, easy to recognise’: it is at once an instrument, a style of playing and a genre of instrumental music, and, while not exclusively English, by far the largest part of its repertory is from these isles. A composer favoured by Queen Elizabeth I and James I, Ferrabosco also wrote music for stage works by playwright Ben Jonson, some of which would by heard in performance at Shakespeare's Globe. Added to this he was a renowned player of the viol – a visiting court musician declaring that there was no player of ‘La lyre’ in Italy: “who was fit to be compared with the great ‘Farabosco d’Angleterre'."

Richard Boothby has been playing the viol ever since David Fallows handed him a tenor viol in 1977. After further study with Nikolaus Harnoncourt in Salzburg, he helped to found The Purcell Quartet in 1984 and Fretwork in 1985. He has endeavoured to enrich the viol-consort repertory with new music from today’s finest composers, from Elvis Costello to George Benjamin, from Alexander Goehr to Nico Muhly. With the Purcell Quartet, he recorded nearly 50 albums for Hyperion and Chandos; and with Fretwork over 40 albums for Virgin Classics, Harmonia Mundi USA and most recently, Signum Classics.


These are intimate performances of intimate music, yes; but the writing and the playing are such that chordal and contrapuntal textures, beefy bass lines and flute-like cantabiles just about do the job of an entire consort of viols.

-- BBC Music Magazine

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    • Number of Discs: 1
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    • Label: Signum Classics
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