Fretwork / Simon Callow

Orlando Gough: The World Encompassed

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AllMusic Review by James Manheim

The World Encompassed has an ambitious concept: to represent Sir Francis Drake's circumnavigation of the globe between 1577 and 1580. Drake took along a viol consort of four men (one was known only as George, a Musician) for his crew's entertainment and spiritual needs, and accounts of the voyage state that they encountered the music of Africans, Native Americans, Javanese, and others during their travels. The program, devised by British composer Orlando Gough, consists of narration by Simon Callow plus three types of pieces. First there are the sacred and secular English 16th century works that the travelers would have known and that the consort would have performed for foreigners. Second is music that the foreigners themselves would have played in return. The annotations by Richard Boothby rightly stress how unthinkable such music must have sounded to Englanders whose musical horizons extended no farther back than a few decades and no farther out than Western Europe. The idea is not that the viol consort Fretwork attempts authentic performances of these non-Western traditions (which would have been impossible to establish at half a millennium's remove anyway), but that they imagine what the players would have done when, back in England, they attempted to reproduce what they had heard. The results here are very cleverly done; sample "Gamelan" for an idea. Finally, Gough contributes programmatic pieces for the consort that represent Drake's sea voyage itself: "Terra Incognita" is an example. These perhaps break the mood a bit; you can see why they were included, but the program might have done with fewer of them. Still, the whole thing is gorgeously recorded at the Britten Studio at Snape Maltings, and the album offers something of a British counterpart to Jordi Savall's grand historical projects.

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