William Lawes: Notes and Commentary

William Lawes was an English composer and musician. He was apprenticed to the composer John Coprario, which brought him into contact with Charles, Prince of Wales, at an early age. Both William and his elder brother Henry received court appointments after Charles succeeded to the British throne as Charles I. William was appointed “musician in ordinary for lutes and voices” in 1635 but had been writing music for the court prior to this.

Lawes spent all his adult life in Charles’s employ. He composed secular music and songs for court masques, as well as sacred anthems and motets for Charles’s private worship. He is most remembered today for his sublime viol consort suites for between three and six players and his lyra viol music. His use of counterpoint and fugue and his tendency to juxtapose bizarre, spine-tingling themes next to pastoral ones in these works made them disfavoured in the centuries after his death; they have only become widely available in recent years. He lived from April 1602 to September 24, 1645, “casually shot” during the rout of the Royalists at Rowton Heath, near Chester.”—Excerpted from Wikipedia

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