The World Encompassed

The World Encompassed
Orlando Gough, Fretwork, Simon Callow
Signum Classics SIGCD453. 2CDs 41’19+41’56

This recording is based on the fact that Sir Francis Drake is known to have taken four viol players with him on his 1577-80 circumnavigation of the world, using the musicians for prayers and entertainment on board, and for diplomatic uses with the people they met. He also had trumpeters and drummers, but they are excluded from this recording, which takes as its premise the sort of music that the musicians might have played to the people they met, and also to their friends on their return to England, using their memory of the native music that they heard during their travels. Alongside music of the period by the likes of Parsons, Taverner, White, and Picforth, the principal musical contribution comes from Orlando Gough (b 1953) who was commissioned by Fretwork to compose a sequence of 13 pieces for viol consort based on the local music that Drake and friends might have heard. 

The linking story, narrated by Simon Callow, is based on the book The World Encompassed written by Drake’s nephew, another Sir Francis Drake. Written after the event, it uses the diary of the ship’s resident clergyman, one Fletcher, his Christian conviction failing to prevent him coming up with what is described as “a minefield of lies, exaggerations, omissions and mistakes.”. Orlando Gough;s musical tour round the world includes half-remembered depictions of Patagonian folk music, Javanese Court music, and a Maian ritual from the volcanic island of Fogo (which nephew Drake claimed was 18 miles high). Stepping away from the travels, we also hear an In Nomine by Robert Parsons reflecting the description of an intimate dinner in Puerto San Julián between Drake and Thomas Doughty, who was just about to be beheaded as a mutineer, one of the more distasteful and legally questionable moments in Drake’s voyage.

Gough’s music is extraordinarily imaginative and evocative as he imagines the memories of local music from around the world. For those who regret the lack of trumpets, the recording finishes with Robert Parsons’ A song called trumpets. 


Extracts and a detailed description can be found here.

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