Locke: The Little Consort / Fretwork

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In November 2022 Fretwork return for the second instalment of their cycle of works by Matthew Locke. Matthew Locke was born 400 years ago in 1622, and while he is often ranked as one of England’s finest composers, he is still unaccountably neglected: his music may not be as immediately appealing as his immediate successor, Henry Purcell, nor as wide-ranging as William Byrd, yet his forceful musical personality and luxuriant technique place him in the first echelon of English composers, with his works described by Richard Boothby of Fretwork as having a “quixotic, capricious restlessness that is constantly challenging the listener to follow his argument ... a thrilling musical ride”. Accompanying Fretwork on continuo for this recording are David Miller (archlute and theorbo) and Silas Wollston (harpsichord). The cover of the album bares an inscription in the walls by the choir stall of Exeter Cathedral, thought to have been carved by the composer during his time as a member of the choir there.


In most of the suites, Fretwork exploits the textural and percussive effects of the theorbo and harpsichord - both played with terrific flair - which articulate the all-pervasive dance rhythms. In the serene F major Suite No. 6, omitting the continuo highlights the sparse transparency of the three-part texture and Fretwork ‘play plain’ its interlaced melodies, weaving them into a sheer fabric of sound.

The players obviously relish these convivial musical conversations and the album makes for felicitous listening and, for the uninitiated, a perfect introduction to Locke’s viol consorts.

-- BBC Music Magazine

An intriguing recording: on first playing, I found this album difficult to get into, an experience. However, with repeated listenings it did it start to reveal its true – and beautiful – self. These ‘Pavans, Ayres, Corants and Sarabands’ by Matthew Locke are strange things indeed. It is the strangely shifting, uncanny edge to Locke’s music that is his trademark – and Fretwork here transform it into something beguiling.

Most intriguing are the fleeting moments when Fretwork do not sound like a viol consort. Locke’s designation of the book as ‘for viols or violins’ acknowledges that the viol was soon to be usurped by the violin; here, Fretwork embody this historical juncture through a flexibility and agility of stroke.

-- Gramophone

Product Description:

  • Release Date: November 11, 2022

  • Catalog Number: SIGCD728

  • UPC: 635212072820

  • Label: Signum Classics

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: Baroque

  • Composer: Matthew Locke

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Fretwork

  • Performer: Sergio Bucheli, Silas Wollston


  1. Suites (10)

    Composer: Matthew Locke

    Ensemble: Fretwork