One might doubt, upon first hearing the name Fretwork, that the group in question is a serious-minded viol sextet specializing in pre-Classical music from their native Britain; Fretwork might, after all, sound more like the name of a 1980s Euro-rock band. But it is precisely that unpretentious design, that appeal to the not-esoterically-minded masses of listeners who easily tire of textbook approaches to early music performance, that has enabled the men and women of Fretwork to lift themselves into the top rank of the world's performing ensembles -- no small feat for a viol consort.
Fretwork was founded in Britain in 1985 and made its debut at Wigmore Hall the following year. It maintains, as mentioned, a reputation as exponents first and foremost of English music (William Byrd, Thomas Tallis, Henry Purcell, William Lawes, et al); but it has also been the catalyst for the composition of several new pieces of music (Tan Dun and George Benjamin being key among the composers represented in this category), thus allowing audiences to hear a kind of hybrid music-making -- old meets new in the most obvious of ways -- that has not very often been tried. The group also edits and publishes music under the label Fretwork Editions.