In 2016, 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 become known as pioneers of contemporary music for viols, having commissioned over 40 new works. The list of composers is like the role 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 & Nico Muhly.
The group now frequently presents programmes consisting entirely of contemporary music.
They made their Carnegie Hall debut in February of 2010, and now tour the United States most years.
In that year, they also curated a week-long concert series of concerts at Kings Place. The culmination of this week was the world premier of ‘The World Encompassed’ by Orlando Gough, a 70-minute piece describing in musical terms Drake’s circumnavigation of the globe in 1577-80.
In 2011, The National Centre for Early Music, in collaboration with the BBC, hosted a competition for young composers to create a four-minute piece for Fretwork. They workshopped the shortlisted pieces at the NCEM in York in October, and then the winning entries were premiered in Kings Place in December 2011.
The following year, they premiered ‘My Days’ for The Hilliard Ensemble & Fretwork by one of today’s most exciting young composers – Nico Muhly – in Wigmore Hall; while 2013 was their busiest year for a decade: they played no fewer than ten concerts in London’s major chamber music halls: Wigmore Hall, Kings Place, Cadogan Hall & the Royal College of Music.
In 2014 they concentrated on the music of John Dowland with a major tour of the UK with one of todays greatest 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 narrative drawn from contemporary accounts.
‘Slow: an In Nomine” by Nico Muhly was premiered in 2015 at Kings Place in London, and they collaborated with celebrated actor Simon Callow in the revised version of The World Encompassed and recorded it for Signum Classics.
They celebrated their 30th anniversary with a star-studded concert at Kings Place in June of 2016; and recorded four new albums, including The World Encompassed, and later that year they made their longest tour of America, taking in the USA, Canada & Colombia.
In 2018 they performed and recorded a programme celebrating the music of Michael Nyman – who was 75 in 2019 – with the exceptional counter-tenor, Iestyn Davies; and in 2019 they tour North America with this programme.
Also in 2019, they begin a series of concerts at Wigmore Hall presenting the greatest English consort music from the Golden Age – six concerts ranging from Cornyshe to Purcell.
Their recordings with Signum Classics has resulted in several notable releases: The World Encompassed, John Jenkins Four Part Fantasies, If (with Iestyn Davies) & In Chains of Gold: Orlando Gibbons’ consort anthems. In 2019 a further two discs will be released: The Silken Tent, with Clare Wilkinson, including the music of Debussy, Grieg, Byrd, Purcell, Nyman, Goehr, Wolf, Britten, Shostakovich and Stephen Wilkinson; and then In Nomine II, concluding a survey of English In Nomines started with their first released disc in 1987, including Nico Muhly’s ‘Slow’ and music by Ferrabosco, Bull, Tye, Baldwin, Parsons and Purcell.
2020 will see further releases on Signum, Schütz’s Auferstehungshistoria with Charles Daniels at Wigmore Hall, two further visits to Wigmore Hall in its ‘Musick’s Recreation’ series, an extended European tour, Dartington International Summer School again, and the world premier of a new work written for them by John Paul Jones, bassist/keyboardist with Led Zeppelin.