Lupo: Fantasia / Fretwork

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Winner of a Gold award from Diapason Magazine!Fretwork explores the somewhat overlooked English musical dynasty. The grandson of an Italian immigrant family brought to England under...

Winner of a Gold award from Diapason Magazine!

Fretwork explores the somewhat overlooked English musical dynasty. The grandson of an Italian immigrant family brought to England under Henry VIII's reign, Thomas Lupo (1571-1627) was a talented composer, viol player and violinist who served in the Royal Court from the age of 16 until his death. His consort music for viols demonstrates a variety of moods and musical devices, with a clear parallel in places to some of the three-part music by his friend and colleague Orlando Gibbons.

In 2021, Fretwork celebrated its 35th anniversary. In the past three and a half decades they have explored the core repertory of great English consort music, from Taverner to Purcell, and made classic recordings against which others are judged. In addition to this, Fretwork have become known as pioneers of contemporary music for viols, having commissioned over 40 new works. The list of composers is like the roll call of the most prominent writers of our time: George Benjamin, Michael Nyman, Sir John Tavener, Gavin Bryars, Elvis Costello, Alexander Goehr, John Woolrich, Orlando Gough, Fabrice Fitch, Peter Sculthorpe, Sally Beamish, Tan Dun, Barry Guy, Andrew Keeling, Thea Musgrave, Simon Bainbridge, Poul Ruders, John Joubert, Duncan Druce and Nico Muhly. The group now frequently presents programmed consisting entirely of contemporary music.


Thomas Lupo was one of the earlier exponents of the viol consort as well as being a violinist. He came from a musical family which was first brought to England by Henry VIII to enhance his court music. The Lupo family, like others which came over at this time were Sephardic Jews, probably from Portugal.

This is a delightful collection of pieces. They are very varied in their moods. Some are playful and fast moving, such as 2, 8, 10 and 14. Some are slow and melancholy, such as 5, 13 and 15, and some show sudden changes in mood such as 13 and 17. The scoring also varies, from three to six instruments, and even when Lupo scores for only thee instruments, they can be any combination of treble, tenor and bass. He can rejoice in a rich texture with only three instruments, as in 5, or be lighthearted with five or six instruments, as in 8, 14 and 18. Curiously, the richest sound he likes comes from five rather than six instruments, so that 3, for example, sounds positively Brahmsian.

Fretwork, who play here, are one of the two leading viol consorts of our times, the other being Phantasm. I tend to find Fretwork rather plainer in their music-making, and possibly closer to how these pieces would have been played at the time. Phantasm tend to be more nuanced, even perfumed, and closer to the style of more recent chamber music. Both are valid. Fretwork here play with evident enjoyment and the recording is good.

Although Lupo turns up fairly frequently on mixed programmes, this is only the second disc dedicated to him that I am aware of. The other is a 1996 disc by The English Fantasy on ASV Gaudeamus. That offers a rather similar programme but it has been long deleted so Fretwork currently have the field to themselves. Fans of viol consorts need no encouragement; others would find this a good place to start.

--MusicWeb International (Stephen Barber)

Product Description:

  • Release Date: May 13, 2022

  • UPC: 635212071625

  • Catalog Number: SIGCD716

  • Label: Signum Classics

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: Baroque

  • Composer: Thomas Lupo

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Fretwork

  • Performer: Fretwork