This is the third album recorded for ABC Classics by Melbourne-based early music ensemble Latitude 37. Julia Fredersdorff (baroque violin), Laura Vaughan (viola da gamba) and Donald Nicolson (harpsichord) are renowned exponents of historically-informed performance, and for this recording they train their collective expertise on a cross-section of music from 17th-century England that collapses “the artificial divides of art music and popular music.” The album takes its name from the Royal Consorts of William Lawes (1602-1645), a set of ten suites or ‘setts’ of dances; Sett No 2 is presented here along with works by William Byrd and Henry Purcell, including one of his spectacular Fantasias for Viols and a jaw-dropping Let Me Weep from The Fairy Queen, featuring young Sydney soprano Alexandra Oomens.
These sit beside works by less-famous composers including Davis Mell (1604-1662), William Corkine (1569-1645), and several anonymous works in arrangements. Of particular note is the world premiere recording of Fantasia-Suite No 2, an unpublished work for treble, bass viol and organ by Christopher Gibbons (1615-1676). It is an absolute delight to hear the chamber organ ‘breathing’ as this work begins, and as good a time as any to mention the sumptuous, spacious beauty that characterises the production values of this entire recording.
Latitude 37’s core membership is augmented by guests including recorder virtuoso Genevieve Lacey and comes with meticulously researched liner notes by historian Dr Dolly MacKinnon, in conjunction with the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions. Royal Consorts is glorious. There is no good reason not to have it on high rotation.