by Rachel Beaumont

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Flow my tears: Dowland’s Lachrimae by Fretwork at Wigmore Hall

Fretwork and Elizabeth Kenny
Wigmore Hall
Balcony C18, £20
14 October 2020
Wigmore page

Dowland, The King of Denmark, his Galliard, The Right Honourable Robert, Earl of Essex, his Galliard, Sir John Langton his Pavan, Sir John Souch’s Galliard, Captain Piper his Galliard, Piper's Pavan, Mr Henry Noel his Galliard, Mr Giles Hoby his Galliard, Sir Henry Umpton's Funerall, Mrs Nichols Almand, Mr Nicholas Gryffith his Galliard, Fantasia in G for solo lute, Mr George Whitehead his Almand, Mr Bucton's Galliard, Semper Dowland semper dolens
Adrian Williams, Teares to Dreames
Dowland, Lachrimae

I think of myself as having had an early music phase but in more careful retrospection it might more accurately be described as a Dowland’s Lachrimae phase. As such it was sweet, sweet pleasure to indulge in Fretwork’s exquisite rendition, socially distanced to an invisible corner of the Wigmore’s balcony where I could sway, sigh and sob to my heart’s content.

Viols seem often to be regarded as the hair shirt of musical instruments but I don’t get it, at least not when played by Fretwork. There is an incredible length to the sound, a determined continuation that can nevertheless be gracefully shaped, that is not replicated by anything else. The viol choir of Fretwork is the perfect medium for the scrunchy ficta of Lachrimae enjoyed to maximum indulgence, the successive waves of tensions and releases mounting delicious intensity.

Those waves of Lachrimae, its meditative repetition and its length are part of its seduction, and the compendium works of the first half, though interesting and beautifully played, inevitably seem lesser. I enjoyed it as an assembled potpourri and certainly could not pull out one now for special praise – in fact, if anything the opposite, as in her solos guitarist Elizabeth Kenny did not quite seem in full command of all the notes. But then there are a lot of notes, and perhaps I forget how difficult the guitar is to play, lured by the clarion keening of the viols.

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