Last year, FRETWORK celebrated its 30th anniversary. In these last three decades, they have explored the core repertory of great English consort music, from Taverner to Purcell, and made classic recordings against which others are judged.
In addition to this, Fretwork have be- come known as pioneers of contemporary music for viols, having commissioned over 40 new works. The list of composers is like the roll 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, and Nico Muhly.
The group now frequently presents programs consisting entirely of contemporary music.
In 2008, they recorded two tracks on Ryuichi Sakamoto’s latest album Out of Noise. They now tour the United States most years, and made their Carnegie Hall debut in February of 2010.
In that year, they also curated a week- long concert series of performances at the dynamic new London concert hall, Kings Place. The culmination of this week was the world premiere of The World Encompassed by Orlando Gough, a 70-minute piece de- scribing in musical terms Drake’s circum- navigation of the globe in 1577-1580.
In 2011, The National Centre for Early Mu- sic, in collaboration with the BBC, hosted a competition for young composers to cre- ate a four-minute piece for Fretwork. They workshopped the shortlisted pieces at the NCEM in York in October, and then the win- ning entries were premiered in Kings Place in December 2011.
The following year, they premiered My Days for the Hilliard Ensemble and Fret- work by one of today’s most exciting young composers – Nico Muhly – in Wigmore Hall; 2013 was their busiest year for a decade: they played no fewer than ten concerts in London’s major chamber music halls: Wig- more Hall, Kings Place, Cadogan Hall, and the Royal College of Music.
In 2014 they continued to concentrate on the music of John Dowland with a major tour of the UK with one of today’s great- est tenors: Ian Bostridge. They also spent a week in the Britten Studio in Aldeburgh re-working Orlando Gough’s The World Encompassed, to incorporate a spoken nar- rative drawn from contemporary accounts.
Another new work by Nico Muhly was premiered in 2015 at Kings Place in London, and they collaborated with celebrated ac- tor Simon Callow in the revised version of The World Encompassed at the Dartington International Summer School.
They celebrated their 30th anniversary with a star-studded concert at Kings Place in June of 2016, and recorded four new al- bums, including The World Encompassed. They made their longest tour of America, taking in the USA, Canada, and Colombia. This year sees the release of three new al- bums and further concerts at Wigmore Hall.