It's strange that the summits of English viol music should come right at the very start, with Christopher Tye, and right at the very end, with Henry Purcell. I would not be surprised to learn that the latter took the former as his main inspiration and model.
Two things are gobsmacking in Tye's music: freedom, and variety. His contrapuntal imagination, and his sense of how to vary textures is really impressive. God alone knows who Tye took as his models - I bet there was an impressive lost unwritten tradition of quasi-improvised viol playing in Britain.
Maybe the strangest thing about this music is that it's so emotionally enigmatic - are we faced with deep deep sadness, or deep deep joy? I cannot say. If I had not read Wittgenstein I would say that it expresses things that words can not.
There are only two substantial recordings of Tye - Savall and Spirit of Gambo. Both are impressive. Savall is lyrical and rapt, as you would expect. But he's not very colourful. SoG is brighter, more "awake", more articulated, and each viol seems to have a more distinct personality. I have a strong preference for Gambo, but as with all these things you have to suck it and see.