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Phantasm - Ward: Fantasies & Verse Anthems - Gramophone

01 December 2014
David Fallows

John Ward has had an odd career on record. He was just another name (mostly forgotten unless you were a viol player) until the Consort of Musicke madrigal group stunned the world in their recorded debut with two-record set of his complete printed madrigals in 1981 (L'Oiseau-Lyre, 9/81). Later they did another with some of his manuscript pieces. But it was not until five years ago that Phantasm recorded his entire known output for six and five viols (11/09) - yet again a reminder that this was a composer with less range than some of his contemporaries but astonishing depths.

Here Phantasm present the six ‘Oxford' fantasies for four viols - perhaps implying their view that the remainder (all in a single late manuscript) are not by the same composer. And they join forces with the Magdalen choir to give us more or less his whole surviving verse anthems, including a couple of pieces that required an element of reconstruction (nicely done by Ian Payne) and seem to be still unpublished.

Phantasm play with their customary verve, just occasionally preferring energy to rhythmic steadiness but never losing the shape of the relatively short fantasias. For the verse anthems, Daniel Hyde opts for a slightly steadier approach, not always keeping the energy alive for these much larger and more ambitious pieces but always allowing the music to breathe and show its details. The current Magdalen choir has a range of marvellous voices used for the solos, with particularly admirable diction, especially from the trebles.

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