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Welcome to Hyperion Records, an independent British classical label devoted to presenting high-quality recordings of music of all styles and from all periods from the twelfth century to the twenty-first.
Hyperion offers both CDs, and downloads in a number of formats. The site is also available in several languages.
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By far the craggiest opening in the collection, the first theme struggles against Fate. The equally jagged second point over a pedal tone (0:52) is devastating in the rawness of its barren harmonies. A heraldic fanfare (1:17) arrives incongruously and dissolves into playful gestures in the major (1:35). They are interrupted by a bizarre revisiting of an old English faburden made to act like a rude taunt (1:40–1:50), and the passage culminates in an ill-mannered cadence (1:50). A move to the major (2:14) sweetens the atmosphere and lovely cascades of falling thirds (in coupled tenths) promise the purest bliss (2:19–2:36), but hopes are dashed in a cruel turn to darkness over a disturbing pedal with the intervals expanding to foul diminished fourths (2:47), an obsessional cry for help. The last three notes (3:01–3:08) are surely an audible signature ‘at the bottom of the page’ enunciating ‘Wílliám Láwes’. (Like ‘Rach-ma-ni-noff’?)
Beginning with a ‘courtesy’ in which dancers bow low before their patrons, this aire evokes Spain in its flamboyance, pride and imperiousness. The low Cs of the bass viol are prominent in pronouncing dark judgments to which this music bears witness. Obsessional counterpoint in the B section signals an infernal upheaval rather than the compliant gestures of courtly dance.
This is Lawes’s masterpiece, a take on Dowland’s Lachrymae recast in an expansive and expressive Baroque mould. There are three repeated strains in a pavan – for convenience, A, B, and C – and each sheds tears with a distinctive, ineffable sadness. Like many great composers, Lawes makes even the major mode sound melancholy (1:22–1:38). In the B section the implied crescendo from the static tranquillity of E flat major to G major is extraordinary, and the murky mixed mode of falling and rising thirds a marvel of harmonic writing and novel textures (2:33–2:54). In the C section, Lawes sounds his trademark of three unisons (4:16), except they now spark a glorious set of close imitations over a pedal (4:26–4:40) before a plunge into the darkest void. While reinventing the rules of counterpoint, Lawes permits himself an unprecedented baring of the soul.
Some tunefulness here amidst a mannish bucking of the tide, but also a valiant coarseness in the repeated notes (0:09–0:13). If Lawes intended some humour in the taunting call and responses in the B section (0:45–0:47), he should have thought twice about his menacing bass line descent (0:48–0:52).