Confounding the doom-mongers who have long predicted the demise of recorded classical music, 2015 has been an exceptionally fine one, not least from the smaller, independent labels who so often succeed in coupling exciting musicians with ideally suited and often imaginative repertoire.
2015 has been an excellent year for lovers of early music, and the disc of viol music by William Lawes from Phantasm (on the Linn label) has become a particular favourite with our regular reviewer. The majority of this two-disc set is devoted to Lawes's Royall Consort, a collection of ten suites (or 'Setts') written for the court of Charles I. They exist in versions for both viols and violins; Phantasm opt persuasively for the former, and they get right inside the richly-textured music. This is dance music with a difference, Lawes constantly flouting expectations with unexpected harmonies and phrase rhythms, a right royal treat from start to finish.