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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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A bouncy jocularity recalls the game of real tennis, where balls ricochet in a hypnotic display (0:38–0:58). The metaphor of life as a tennis game is found in a much anthologised poem by William Lathum (1634):
If in my weak conceit, (for selfe disport), The world I sample to a Tennis-court, Where fate and fortune daily meet to play, I doe conceive, I doe not much misse-way. All manner chance, are Rackets, wherewithall They bandie men like balls, from wall to wall: Some over Lyne, to honour and great place: Some Under Lyne, to infame and disgrace; Some with a cutting stroke, they numbly send Into the hazard placed at the end; Resembling well the rest which all they have, Whom death hath seiz’d, and placed in their grave.
Might this reflection on life’s hazards have inspired Lawes’s otherwise incongruous linking of bounciness and melancholy? The mixture shocks us with its lack of preparation (at 1:02) until an equally abrupt return to dreamy positivity (at 1:27). Another Lawes trademark is the interrupted cadence (1:50–1:53), where everyone but the bass drops out on the last note. This interruption ushers in a weirdly comforting apotheosis heard as if in a bizarre dialect, a kind of mangled ‘Amen’ (1:54–2:21).
Lawes heads for sunny, green pastures, though one can’t ignore a strong whiff of the sheep. The stillness of lone voices in a country landscape, the gentle rustling of leaves, the topoi of sleep, and the languorous duets of shepherd/lovers: these are the topics Lawes evokes via close fugeing on the same pitches, and a sense of calm engendered by the blissful key of C which the slow paven favours by its undulating walking steps. The movement of virtual dancers proceeds in both directions, but more forward than back. The C section confronts the pastoral trope with bold defiance and harmonic challenges but is happy to keep the peace in the end.
Lawes loves breaking the consort into combative pairs of viols (1:03–1:10). He is also infatuated with extended harmonic notes called pedal points. Note here the high, then low, pedal point as a place for joy to run riot (1:14–1:31). The exaggerated pleasure of five string players gesticulating wildly leads to broad smiles at the close.