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Simpson is known mostly to viol players for his tutor The Division Viol, and to theorists for his Compendium of Practical Music, so it’s exciting to see his consort music taking centre stage for this debut recording from Chelys. The pieces in question are ‘Ayres’ for two trebles and two basses, an interesting polarisation of the traditional consort texture also explored by Jenkins and Lawes.

Although not grouped into ‘setts’ in their manuscript source, Chelys have chosen to present them as such, noting that there are musical links between pieces in the same key, and, taking inspiration from two unfigured continuo parts in the source, have added James Akers (on theorbo and baroque guitar) and Dan Tidhar (organ and harpsichord) to the consort.

The ensemble playing is beautiful – precise and delicate, with discreet use of ornaments from Simpson’s Division Viol. In the pavins, particularly those of the B flat and C major groups, the players achieve a radiant, glowing sound; the fast movements are sprightly, especially when supported by the guitar, but feel a little on the safe side – here, and in the four sets of divisions, it would be nice if a few more risks were taken. The note is excellent, and it is refreshing to read such a good explanation of the performance practice decisions made here.

Caroline Ritchie Read the full review on Agora Classica


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