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Briefly Noted: Nyman for Viols

available at Amazon
M. Nyman, No Time in Eternity (inter alia) / H. Purcell, Airs, I. Davies, Fretwork

(released on April 19, 2019)
Signum Classics SIGCD586 | 67'51"
One of the benefits of the historically informed performance movement has been the revival of instruments lost to history. Among these is the viol consort, made popular again by groups like Fretwork, founded in 1986. Their latest disc brings together recent music for viol consort by English minimalist composer Michael Nyman and a few airs by Henry Purcell, arranged for viol consort by Richard Boothby, co-founder of Fretwork, and Silas Wolston.

Among the newest pieces is Nyman's song cycle No Time in Eternity, set to texts by 17th-century poet Robert Herrick. Premiered by French countertenor Paulin Bündgen and Ensemble Celadon in 2016, it is in excellent hands here with the extraordinary Iestyn Davies. The British countertenor's renditions of the three Purcell airs are gorgeous, as to be expected. He is equally radiant in Nyman's remarkable Self-Laudatory Hymn of Inanna and her Omnipotence, set to a curious ancient song text to the Sumerian goddess.

The two songs from Nyman's score for the film The Diary of Anne Frank border on pop music, pretty but not profound, including "If," which gave its name to the disc. The Nyman pieces without Davies's voice are less successful, especially the somewhat monotonous Music for a While, entirely overshadowed by the Purcell song from which Nyman drew the harmonic progression. Of more interest is Balancing the Books, Boothby's arrangement of a wordless piece Nyman composed originally for the Swingle Singers.

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