Richard Campbell 1956 - 2011
Fretwork, viol consortRichard Campbell †, Asako Morikawa, Liam Byrne, Reiko Ichise, Richard Tunnicliffe, Richard Boothby
"Fretwork is the finest viol consort on the planet" - Stephen Petitt, The London Evening Standard
In 2006, Fretwork celebrated 20 years of performing music old and new, and look forward to a challenging and exciting future as the world’s leading consort of viols.
In these last two decades, they have explored their core repertory of great English consort music, from Taverner to Purcell, and made classic recordings against which others are judged. Their series of discs for Virgin Classics included CDs devoted to William Lawes, Henry Purcell, William Byrd, Matthew Locke, John Dowland and Orlando Gibbons; while their more recent work for Harmonia Mundi USA has produced two discs of J.S.Bach — Art of Fugue and Alio Modo — which have been exuberantly praised; and discs of the earliest instrumental music (Petrucci); Sir John Tavener’s The Hidden Face; Thomas Tomkins; Alexander Agricola & Fabrice Fitch; Ludwig Senfl with Charles Daniels and two collaborations with the choir of Magdalen College, Oxford. Their recording of concert songs by William Byrd with Emma Kirkby has received particular praise.
In addition to this, Fretwork have become known as pioneers of contemporary music for viols, having commissioned over 30 new works. The list of composers is like the role 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.
The group now frequently presents programmes consisting entirely of contemporary music, though most audiences find that the creative tension of juxtaposing old and new leads to a thrilling experience.
Another major area of interest is J. S. Bach. Initially, they performed and recorded ‘The Art of Fugue’ to rapturous notices; and more recently they have arranged many of his keyboard works, including ‘The Well Tempered Clavier’ and the ‘Clavierübung’, recently released on the HMU label under the title ‘Alio Modo’.
In 2001 they created something entirely new in the consort repertory: with the aid of the Contemporary Music Network they constructed a performance involving two dancers, choreographer Ian Spink, lighting, Michael Chance and music by Gibbons, Dun, Gough, Nyman, Woolrich and Keeling. This extraordinary event was toured around the cathedrals of Britain to great wonderment and applause.
2007 saw them visiting Russia (twice), Spain, France & Ireland, with visits to the Edinburgh International Festival, the Lufthansa, Spitalfields, and Aldeburgh Festivals. They also took part in a Festival of Evensong at five Cambridge Colleges — King’s, Trinity, St. John’s, Gonville & Caius and Sidney Sussex — as part of a residency at Sidney Sussex College, which included teaching and recording a CD of Tomkins. Another recording, of Gibbons, Tomkins and Weelkes with King’s College Choir, directed by Stephen Cleobury, has recently appeared on EMI.
They now tour the United States every year, and have won particular praise there for their programme of Jewish music for viols — ‘Birds on Fire’. In January 2009 they visited California & Texas with Clare Wilkinson, celebrating the 350th anniversary of Purcell’s birth.
Their recording of ‘Birds on Fire’ was Editor’s Choice in Gramophone Magazine and Julie-Anne Sadie commented: 'This is demanding, wonderfully offbeat music inspired by Ashkenazi Klezmer (more cabaret than camera), which Fretwork brings off with a panache that astonishes and delights.'
In 2010, they curated a week-long concert series of concerts at the dynamic new London concert hall, Kings Place. The culmination of this week, which saw performances with Emma Kirkby, Michael Chance & Clare Wilkinson, was the world premier of Fretwork’s latest commission: ‘The World Encompassed’ by Orlando Gough, a 70-minute piece describing in musical terms Drake’s circumnavigation of the globe in 1577-80. Drake took four viol players with him on his epic journey, and Gough’s piece incorporates original 16th century music into the fabric of this new work. They took this new work with them on a ten-concert tour of North America in November of 2010.
In February 2011, BBC Radio 3’s ‘Early Music Show’ devoted a whole weekend to Fretwork, interviewing founder-member Richard Boothby, playing several tracks from their many recordings; and then broadcasting a performance of The World Encompassed recorded at the York Early Music Festival, together with an interview of the composer Orlando Gough.
Also in 2011, The National Centre for Early Music, in collaboration with the BBC, is hosting a competition for young composers to compose a four-minute piece for Fretwork. They will workshop the shortlisted pieces at the NCEM in York in October, and then premier the winning entry in Kings Place in December.
The future sees many innovative projects: a recording of The Goldberg Variations, a series of concerts at London’s Wigmore Hall, tours of Australia, New Zealand & Japan and many commissions of new music from today’s leading composers.
Fretwork's own website is to be found at www.fretwork.co.uk
Press reviews"The most exciting things often happen when contrasts come together, and together something new is allowed to spring up. A historical, gut-strung viol consort, and new music wouldn’t, on first sight, seem to have anything to do with each other. That this unusual combination produces as well a fascinating result was to be experienced in the Rolf-Liebermann-Studio.
"In a co-production, the NDR series “The Old Work” and “the new work” presented the British ensemble Fretwork and the mezzosoprano Clare Wilkinson, that in a wonderful way built bridges - and in that way encompassed a wide stylistic variety. This stretched from Purcell’s barock, thickly spun viol fantasies, to contemporary works expressly written for the six Fretwork strings and their fragile, shimmering nasel sound. Not only Barry Guy’s magic sound piece “Buzz”, the angular grooved “Birds on Fire” by Orlando Gough, but also the accessible (Pop-)Ballade by Michael Nyman.
"Clare Wilkinson supplely accommodated her porcellan-coloured, balmy voice with a chamber musical imitation of the viols, and changed between vibrato-less purity and sensuous blossoming. One of those rare evenings after which one is filled with happiness and somehow a spiritual purity hangs in the air."
Hamburger Abendblatt December 2009
"From the first long-held chord of the six viol players at the start of William Lawes's Consort Sett in F major, I was transported. Tears coursed embarrassingly down my cheeks, and my face screwed up with the unspeakable pain of such intense pleasure." Canon Jonathan Boardman - The Church Times
"No group play the viol repertoire with more flair and feeling than Fretwork, and this rounded recording catches them on top form." Geoff Brown - The Times June 27th 2009
"Fretwork's playing is all one could wish for" Classic FM Magazine - Editor's Choice. July 2009
"Brilliant" Michael Church - The Independent 22nd September 2008
"Fretwork is the finest viol consort on the planet" Stephen Petit - The London Evening Standard
"This is demanding, wonderfully offbeat music inspired by Ashkenazi Klezmer (more cabaret than camera), which Fretwork brings off with a panache that astonishes and delights." Julie-Anne Sadie - The Gramophone Magazine September 2008
"Even more bewitchingly remote in sound was the concert given by that wonderful viol consort Fretwork, playing late 15th-century music by Alexander Agricola."
Ivan Hewitt - The Daily Telegraph 19.09.06
"Fretwork are without doubt one of the most expressive and ambitious of this country's viol consorts." Anna Picard - The Independent
"...I love this group; I love their timbre, I love the way the individual styles of the viol players tussle against and inform each other, I love the tension of their approach and the sound they create". Anna Picard: The Independent on Sunday - London
"Fifteen years on, Fretwork remain the world's leading viol consort, and if this disc for new label Harmonia Mundi is anything to go by, we're in for many years of electrifying playing. Outstanding." Andrew Clarke, The Independent, 12 January 2002
"One came to appreciate every minutely observed rise and fall of tension, every detail of immaculately groomed phrasing, as this first-rate ensemble demonstrated its art in Purcell Fantasias and In Nomines and four Lawes Consort Setts, ending with the wonderful one for six viols in C minor . . . and it was the majestic cumulative layering of polyphonic lines in the final work that offered Lawes and Fretwork at their most masterly. It is hard to imagine consort playing of greater refinement or subtlety than this."
The Times - London
"The subtle nuances of sonority so ably demonstrated by Fretwork in the rest of their programme were put to good use by Nyman in a work abundantly fertile in invention and varied in expressive range. . . There were minimalist pre-echoes in at least two of the viol consort pieces, by Picforth and Robert Parsons, in which wave after wave of sound rippled out from a sequentially motivated central source, an effect exquisitely realised by Fretwork." The Times - London
"A fascinating, beautifully played programme . . . Fretwork addressed all this music with an easy-going virtuosity. In variation sets, the principal lines moved smoothly and easily from one instrument to the next, and in chordal music, the players produced a well-tuned, fully balanced sound with a delightfully tangy character."
The New York Times
"A number of composers have been inspired by the revival of early music, among them George Benjamin, whose interest was aroused by the viol consort Fretwork. And no wonder, for their playing is a revelation . . . Using modern techniques of pizzicato, harmonics and vibrato, Benjamin creates an alluring sound world in a work that is as taut in structure and richly fantastic in invention as the Elizabethan consort pieces."
The Independent - London