LAWES Complete Music for Solo Lyra Viol
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. Richard Boothby has been playing English consort music (some of it by Lawes) with Fretwork for over 30 years, so is as well placed as anyone today to interpret this body of solo music, most of it recorded here for the first time.
Samuel Pepys apparently played lyra viol music on whatever viol he had to hand, but in fact the lyra differs from the slightly larger bass viol in several respects: the strings are lighter and closer to the fingerboard, the bridge more rounded to accommodate the execution of chordal passages and, in addition, some instruments were strung below the fingerboard with sympathetic strings that could be plucked by the left hand. Unlike other viols – and members of the violin family – the lyra was variably tuned, and its music notated in tablature. Boothby plays on an exquisite lyra viol by Richard Meares from the Royal College of Music Collection.
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 35 pieces included here are mostly dances, none lasting longer than three minutes, characterised by syncopated rhythmic patterns, delicate implied harmony and chordal accompaniments, conversational textures (the Corantos in particular) and occasional hints of folksong. The delicacy with which Boothby phrases and ornaments the music is sublime. A great night in, then.