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If
Michael NYMAN (b.1944)
No Time in Eternity (2016) [10:53]
Balancing the Books, arr Richard Boothby [9:50]
The Diary of Anne Frank; If [3:32]: Why [4:20] arr. Richard Boothby
Music after a While [11:51]
The Self-Laudatory Hymn of Inanna and her Omnipotence [13:17]
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
Music for a While, Z 583 No. 2 Henry Purcell, arr. Richard Boothby [3:53]
Evening Hymn, Z 193, arr. Silas Wolston [4:52]
O Solitude, my Sweetest Choice, Z 406, arr. Richard Boothby [5:21]
Iestyn Davies (counter-tenor)
Fretwork
rec. 2018, St George’s Church, Cambridge
Texts included
SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD586 [67:51]

The conjunction of Nyman and Purcell is a natural one, given Nyman’s long-standing and striking realisations of Purcell’s music. The Purcell songs are heard in the viol consort settings of Fretwork’s Robert Boothby – Purcell himself, of course, never set songs for viol consort – and there is a sequence of Nyman pieces some of which are also arranged by the versatile Boothby. Three of the largest and most imposing Nyman pieces are, however, wholly original.
 
No Music in Eternity is a setting of poems by Robert Herrick, first heard in 2016. Herrick was a friend of the Lawes brothers, Henry and William, and his lines, which Boothby in his notes terms epigrammatic, clearly act as a direct spur to Nyman, who seemingly invites the counter-tenor stealthily to steal in to his setting – it was composed for the French counter-tenor Paulin Bündgen but is sung here by the exemplary Iestyn Davies. The purity and directness of the singing serves to heighten the plangency of the music and the use of the instruments – notably the consort postlude that ends the setting of Things Mortal Still Mutable – is both moving and musically satisfying. Balancing the Books, arranged by Boothby, was composed for The Swingle Singers and sets a wordless line in eight parts. Full of sudden changes of mood, metre, rhythm and texture there are some stunning sonorities generated along the way, not least an accordion-like back porch element that takes the music way out into the open. Predicated on the bass line of Music for a While, Nyman’s instrumental Music after a While – it does indeed follow the Purcell in the programme – was composed to a Fretwork commission, and flows elegantly with changes of mood to reflect the song. It was Silas Wolston who arranged Purcell’s Evening Hymn for viols. It’s played and sung with directness and unshowy clarity, though the Alleluias, pure as they are, lack the sexiness Michael Chance used to bring to this work.
 
Nyman is quoted, drolly relating the genesis of the splendidly titled The Self-Laudatory Hymn of Inanna and her Omnipotence. He found in the translation of the Sumerian text a perfect vehicle for James Bowman and for his own repetitive structure and the canny pacing of the 13-minute setting and its free-ranging and colouristic moments, allied naturally to its rhythmic driv,e makes it both distinctive and engaging. If, which is the title of the album and Why? are two parts from The Diary of Anne Frank, an animated film, with texts by Hachiro Konno and Roger Pulvers. Boothby arranged the original piano and strings accompaniment for viols and once again the results are refined and calming, lulling in a way of a beguiling pop song (If) and more ecclesiastical-Purcellian (Why?).
 
New meets old here and generates a flexible and portable body of music that one hopes will be taken up by other singers and consorts. Davies proves a tremendously pure and resilient vocalist, keenly sensitive to vocal inflection and Fretwork are masters of this music.
 
Jonathan Woolf
 



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