Charles Burney dismissed them as vile, but William Lawes’ Royal extravagances are most definitely viol.


William Lawes
The Royal Consorts
Linn CKD470 (2SACD)


William Lawes inhabited a medieval London that was about to be irreplaceably altered by the Great Fire of 1666. He found gainful employment as a composer at the court of King Charles I and as Parliament flexed its republican instincts, he felt moved to add the prefix ‘Royal’ to his Consort pieces. Much good it did him: Lawes was killed fighting for the Royalists during the Siege of Chester in 1645.

As with all kinds of genuinely great dance music, Lawes’ pieces are as much about the idea of movement as they are specific invitations to the dance floor. This is a composer who revels in lopsided groupings of bars, allowing his individual melodic phrasings to follow their natural incline rather than being merely shepherded behind bar lines like sheep – a lesson...

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