Session Report: A royal consort

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Richard Boothby of Fretwork speaks to Robin Stowell about the ensemble’s recording of fantasias for viol consort by Thomas Lupo, the Italian who made a name for himself at Queen Elizabeth I’s court

Although not a household name, Thomas Lupo (bap.1571–d.1627) is familiar to most viol players and his compositions are especially admired by the members of Fretwork. ‘Having previously recorded examples of Lupo’s work, notably for our 2008 disc Birds on Fire,’ says Fretwork’s figurehead and founder member Richard Boothby, ‘we decided to explore and lay down some of the best of the rest of his oeuvre. We aimed to present the diversity of Lupo’s invention in his fantasias for a variety of ensembles, to showcase works that represent the quintessence of the English viol consort repertoire.’

Thomas was the most significant member of the Lupo family of Jewish musicians who served consistently at the English court from their arrival from Italy in 1540 until the outbreak of the English Civil War (1642). His father and two of his uncles had migrated from Italy at a time when Henry VIII was encouraging foreign instrumentalists, especially Italians, to settle in England and assist in improving the quality of the music making at his court. The Italian style of dance and contrapuntal music thus provided the foundations from which English viol consort music blossomed into the 17th century.


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