This new release from the Fieri Consort and the Chelys Consort of Viols is a perfect demonstration of clever programming. Rather than simply playing Michael East’s set of eight viol fantasias as is (which would have been perfectly fine, if conventional), they take a much more interesting route by alternating between East’s viol fantasias, each named in Latin, and his music for vocal ensemble, sung by the Fieri Consort.

Michael East

Here, they add a further twist by taking note of East’s suggestion that this is music that is “apt for viols and voyces” and read that description not as an either/or, but as a combination. So, as the vocal works develop, the viol consort slowly enters. It’s a neat addition that means that the already stunning harmonies of the Fieri Consort are given further coloration by the dark rasp of the Chelys Consort, and that the pieces are always developing fresh sounds.

The disc closes with a new commission by the British composer Jill Jarman. The brief was apparently that her piece should summarise East’s pieces on the disc and was inspired by several lines of a poem by Sir Henry Wotton. The textures here are particularly fascinating, at times drawing on familiar Renaissance motifs, and at times transforming into sounds that are far more strange, but very beautiful and distinct. The disc closes with the text “now have I done” in ethereal but peaceful harmonies.

A fabulous, inventive disc, with singing and playing of the highest quality throughout. Definitely recommended.

Listen on Apple Music

Composer: Michael East
Works: Consort Music
Performers: Fieri Consort, Chelys Consort of Viols
Label: BIS BIS2503

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