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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.
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Lawes visits the countryside with an evocation of dance tunes and country fiddles, but there are too many people playing the song at the wrong time: musicians behaving badly. The second strain sings a snippet of a traditional English tune – later named by Cecil Sharpe as the ‘Country Garden’ (1:07–1:09) – but the melody moves onto a sour note and dissolves mischievously into the Lawesian trope of the embarrassing omitted pitch (1:10–1:12). Fanfares and their echoes mix strangely into the boisterous country scene (1:23–1:28), but all’s well that ends well.
Another of Lawes’s greatest works, this fantasy is the most compelling simulacrum of rise and fall in the entire repertory. Amid a stillness devoid of a clear subject –borrowing liberally from Orlando Gibbons’s Fantasy No. 2 a6 (MB 32) – Lawes depicts an awakening of the world out of the building blocks of harmony (0:00–1:15). Never content with just the three triadic scale steps (1, 3, and 5), he treats the added sixth note of the scale (as in 0:17–0:20) as a consonance, which lends an odd incongruity but also a mystery to the harmony. As the bass viols have tuned their bottom string down to low C, this allows for deeper sonorities than usual (0:24 and 0:49–0:55). With a quickened diminution of the pulse, the music has fully ‘woken up’ with its tugging ‘bindings’ (or suspensions) (1:15–1:30) leading to a heartrending cadential figure (1:32–1:42). The tuneful gait of a country gentleman appears (1:42–2:12), recalling the previous Aire, but this sign of conventional activity dissolves (at 2:41) into watery scalar descents in waves of patterned quavers in marked contrast to the ascending figures of the opening. A striking motivic point on three downward pitches heard in contrasting pairs (at 3:25–3:37), finally in ominous faburden, tells a riddle which requires resolution. The resolution is the extraordinary final section which inverts the opening trope of rising chords and, in Lawes’s most touching creation, gently falling and overlapping triadic figures beckon the world back to a restful slumber (3:47 to 4:32).
An undistinguished, even banal, opening point in major tries on its variant minor clothing (0:34–0:40). Still, there is a warmth and humour once one accepts Lawes’s weird combination of voices. After the organ accompanies the two undistinguished basses (1:35–1:42), Lawes introduces a frenetic set of materials: a syncopated figure with mad string crossing alongside an ugly countersubject in crotchets. The activity heats up as if heading for oblivion. The competition among the six viols feels pointless until Lawes abruptly calls a halt to the chaos and administers a fatal harmonic shock (at 2:34) which writhes with pain. In the most dissonant music he ever wrote, mixing modes promiscuously (2:33–2:54), Lawes signs his name to another vintage close (2:56–3:03).