Released on 29 April 2003
Excellent…The ever-dependable Fretwork prove once again that they have no peers in this repertoire. *****
Fretwork’s considerable experience in this kind of repertoire shows in these faultlessly assured performances. In the five- and six-part pieces they relish the music’s swelling sonorities, while in the three-part fantasies there is a beguiling sense of relaxed conversation; the canonic opening of Fantasia No. 14 has an almost jazzy nonchalance. The line-up of singers looks rather like an ad hoc version of Red Byrd, and they bring some of that group’s performance ethics with them, including an evident desire to escape the ‘traditional’ English early music vocal sound. Succulent ‘historical’ pronunciation is part of that, but it is refreshing, too, to hear familiar voices altering their sound for the cause. A clear and attractive recorded sound completes a most accomplished release.
Lindsay Kemp, Gramophone
Utterly captivating. A most rewarding disc.
BBC Music Magazine
Long recognized as the world’s premier viol consort, the British groups Fretwork reaffirms its status with this disc of works by Renaissance composer and organist Thomas Tomkins… The consort’s carefully crafted interpretations and flawless ensemble playing are both soothing and compelling.
Vocally, tenor Charles Daniels provides a tender counterpoint to the strings with his effortless reading of “Lord, Lett Me Knowe Myne End.” He is finely partnered by soprano Emma Kirkby in the title track, “Above the Starrs My Saviour Dwells.” Alto Catherine King’s voice melts at times into the timbre of the viols; her gentle sorrow in “Woe Is Me” is simply heartbreaking… first-rate album, appropriate for both the novice and the well-versed listener.
Ben Finane, Time Out New York
Superb performances by some of the outstanding singers of our time, the premier consort of viols, and Tomkins himself, provide over 70 minutes of marvellous music. The music requires this level of performer, but also this level of ensemble excellence – a rare combination, to be snapped up.
Robert Oliver, Early Music Review
Combine six of England’s finest early music singers, that country’s premiere viol consort, and the exquisite music of Thomas Tomkins and one has every reason to expect an extraordinary delight. This recording amply fulfills that expectation. **The playing of Fretworks is nothing short of a revelation. **There is nothing dry or academic here. The phrases spring to life like breathing organisms. Animation, serenity, introspection – all are in evidence as the music requires. Even genres like the In Nomine and the hexachord fantasia that were regarded as old-fashioned in Tomkins’s day emerge here with irresistible freshness. I suppose it is possible for lesser players to make this music sound boring, but here it is engaging and vital.
American Record Guide
Catalogue number: Harmonia Mundi USA HMU907320