By Rosenna East, in The Herald
It’s not every day that you hear a concert as gorgeous as this one.
It’s not common for audiences to hear much viol playing, never mind six of the lovely, unusual instruments together, and with great musicality and skill into the bargain too. In the cathedral, Fretwork – two treble, two tenor and two bass viols – sounded as resonant as an organ, but with a pleasing percussiveness that comes from the friction of horsehair bow on gut strings.
A distinctive approach to programming becomes inevitable when you consider that viols fell out of use at the end of the 18th century, and have only recently made a comeback. You have to play either early or very modern music.
Fretwork have certainly made a virtue out of that necessity. Twelve varied items on the programme included Fantasies by the likes of Byrd & Purcell, curling in delicious polyphony around the audience like the delicate wooden scrolls of the viols. Gough’s enjoyable World Encompassed seemed to draw on the sound world of Piazzolla, while a new commission from John Maxwell Geddes moved from refreshing harp-like plucked sounds on through suggestions of refracted light through sharp glass, to end in a folk style reminiscent of Bartok’s string writing.