Related Reviews
Toccata
,,Diese Sammlung ist faszinierend und unterscheidet sich von den meisten Werken für ein Gambenconsort. Phantasm legt hier eine brillante Interpretation vor, die extravertierter ist als was man vielleicht erwartet. Es ist einfach unmöglich, sich hier zu langeweilen.''
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Iowa Public Radio
2015 Classical Mega-Meta-List: 'It can be counted on for warm, realistic, glowing sound and superb documentation, and delivers all of that handsomely.'
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The Herald Scotland
Top 20 Classical Recordings 2016: 'Weird phrase lengths, irreverent accents, rogue harmonies…The viol writing of William Lawes is like nothing else, and Phantasm goes at it with a proper swing in its step. Sometimes the music repeats a snatch of melody just because it’s too good not to, which must have caused havoc for anyone trying to actually dance to these tunes.'
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Iowa Public Radio
Flavorful Picks from 2015: 'This new release reveals their vibrant individuality and dancing energy with gloriously characterful playing, captured in exceptionally rich recorded sound.'
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BBC Radio 3 ‘CD Review’
‘Critics’ Choice’ from Hannah French
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Limelight Magazine
Chamber Music Recording of the Year 2015: 'The rhythmic vivacity and pungent push-pull swing of their playing rocks, while their ear for authentic period non-tempered tunings is exquisite.'
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Fanfare
2015 Want List: 'Phantasm in turn delivers a reading of William Lawes's The Royal Consort that brings out all the work's elegant quirkiness and robust humor. The viol consort's new album is up to the same standard of their previous ones, and that's saying quite a lot.'
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Fanfare
'The performances are exemplary...To listen to Phantasm is to enjoy one of life's fine musical pleasures.'
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ORF Austria
CD of the Day: 'Magnificent! ... Fantastic music performed by Phantasm.'
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WQXR New York
New and Noteworthy: 'This set explores the unique creative output of English Renaissance composer William Lawes.'
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Limelight Magazine
5 Stars
Recording of the Month: 'The emotional reach of the music is rich and constantly surprising.'
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CD Hot List
'There's genius too, as always, in the playing of the remarkable Phantasm ensemble...this two-disc set is particularly noteworthy for its sound quality. Highly recommended, especially to early music collections.'
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The Viol
'...exhilarating playing of Lawes's dances...Phantasm's recording has all the blood and guts you might want.'
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BR Klassik Radio
,,Die Musiker von Phantasm bringen beides beglückend zusammen, spielen mit minutiöser Darstellung der abenteuerlichen polyphonen Linien dieser Musik die intellektuelle Karte genau so lustvoll aus, wie sie sich klangvoll-fein in ihre reiche Emotionalität versenken...meisterhaft gespielt.''
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BBC Music Magazine
5 Stars
'The musicians respond to Lawes's complex and variegated emotions with playing by turns buoyant and vigorous, graceful and serene. They delight, too, in his quirky wit.'
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The Arts Desk
'A magnificent collection; well documented, stunningly played and beautifully recorded.'
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Pizzicato
5 Stars
,, ‘Phantasm' mit viel Eleganz und Wärme und gibt mit eben so viel gestalterischer Fantasie einen guten Einblick in den frühbarocken Reichtum von Lawes' Musik, deren Chromatik bei ‘Phantasm' bestens aufgehoben ist.''
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AllMusic
4½ Stars
'Dreyfus catches the music's experimental, almost revolutionary quality, and the rather gloomy sound of Oxford's Magdalen College Chapel fits the music beautifully. Highly recommended.'
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Nottingham Post
'Well worth a few hours of anyone's time.'
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The Arts Desk
4 Stars
'The addition of Elizabeth Kenny's theorbo was also a welcome one, softening the sonic edges ever so slightly and filling out the texture with elegant embellishment.'
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MusicWeb International
'This is very enjoyable and varied music. The ensemble brings out the sheer delight of the various movements...'
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MDR Figaro
,,Vorbildliches Zusammenspiel, sichere Intonation, grandiose Technik und nicht zuletzt die forcierte, swingende Gangart machen die Aufnahme zu einem der Höhepunkte im Alte-Musik-Segement.''
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Luton Today
'...well worth a few hours of anyone's time.'
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Gramophone
Choice: 'Gramophone Award-winners, category finalists on many other occasions, Phantasm continue to excel. This Royal Consort, the first complete performance of the original versions, confirms that status.'
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Danish Radio
Album of the Week: 'The music winds through a wealth of expression, and the clashes between the solemn, the jovial sensuality and speculation are fierce.'
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BBC Radio 3 ‘CD Review’
CD of the Week: 'What a treat that was - played with such clarity and soulful understanding by viol consort Phantasm.'
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BBC Radio 3 ‘CD Review’
'The sheer beauty and harmonic sophistication of numbers like the one we just heard shows Phantasm at its finest...beautifully recorded.'
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The Guardian
5 Stars
'The ensemble sound is luxuriantly rich, powered by Elizabeth Kenny's feisty theorbo strumming.'
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WGBH
CD of the Week
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Classical Music
5 Stars
'Vivid, arresting and harmonically bold, Lawes' seemingly endless invention is matched by playing here of startling concentration and energy.'
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Phantasm - Lawes: The Royal Consort - Early Music Review


01 August 2015
Early Music Review
Robert Oliver

This is a complete recording of the Royal Consort in what some regard as its earlier version, for four viols and continuo: two trebles, a tenor and a bass. In his extended essay in the booklet, Laurence Dreyfus argues persuasively that this version is, in fact, superior to the ‘later' version (for two trebles, two division basses and two theorbos), and is, in his words "one of the greatest collections of ensemble dance music ever composed."

Them's fightin' words, leading one to expect an exceptional performance, and, my goodness, this is what we get. The first Sett in d is quite brief, no one movement is as long as two minutes. They play it as a continuous movement, each section running smoothly into the next, with a developing vigour which is intoxicating, the theorbo strumming like a guitar in the final Saraband. Then follows the Sett in D, and its beautiful, statuesque Paven, nearly six minutes long. Its unexpected harmonies and poignant melodies are very moving; what a contrast to the playful interchanges of the Aire which succeeds it. 

It is tempting to describe each movement of each Sett, such is the variety of invention. It is marvellous listening, because of this, and because of the superb playing. They respond to the quicksilver changes of mood between movements, within movements and even within phrases. The trebles, never shrill, pay particular attention to balance, so that with the fullness in the sound, the tenor's contribution always present, despite the oft-quoted remark of Edward Lowe that Lawes' revision was because the tenor could not be heard in performance. Dreyfus considers him quite wrong in this, as the violins in the ‘revised' version would be far more dominant. Taking him up on this, I listened again to my 20-year-old recording of the ‘Royall Consort' by the Purcell Consort, playing baroque violins (what would it be like with the lighter-strung earlier model?). They too were very careful to balance with the division viols, and the texture remained satisfyingly open and clear.

But comparisons aside, this performance is outstanding. The playing is so expressive, wonderfully lyrical in the Pavens and Ayres, boisterous in the Sarabands. They use vibrato judiciously, the texture never clouded. The tone is always crystal bright, the articulation beautifully controlled, ranging from boisterously detached to sinuous legato, the theorbo (Elizabeth Kenny) matching their every move.

All who write about these pieces agree that they were written to be listened to, and surely never as background music - they command your attention. Dreyfus points out that, while they couldn't be danced to unless perhaps to specific choreographies, the spirit of the dance is always present in the music, and in the playing. And, as one would expect, this is delivered with virtuosic control and vigour imparting an infectious joie de vivre.

It is generous as well, with the addition of three sets, one à5 and two à6, to the organ (Daniel Hyde), thereby offering another and important perspective on Lawes' musical personality.

The case is unusually attractive, featuring Sir Anthony van Dyck's extraordinary and revealing portrait of Charles I in three positions. It opens out to three segments to accommodate the two discs and the booklet. Each segment has an enlargement of one of the three aspects of his head and shoulders - very compelling visually. The booklet notes are full, in English only. I would hope that the essay is available in other languages, as everyone should hear this - an outstanding recording of outstanding music, fully living up to the expectations engendered by the notes.


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