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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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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Early Music Review
'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.'
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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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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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Luton Today
'...well worth a few hours of anyone's time.'
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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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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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Spirited Magazine
'This splendid disc showcases the weird and wonderful viol sets of Consorts to the Organ by William Lawes...Very highly recommended.'
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Early Music America
'effortless yet engaged approach'
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Gramophone
'First-rate Linn Recording.'
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Musica Dei
'Their performances are technically brilliant and they play with much imagination and zest.'
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Klassik
5 Stars
'This recording is one of the absolute highlights of this year'
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Medieval Music & Arts Foundation
' the result is compelling, including passages as surprising as anything Lawes wrote'
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American Record Guide
'The performances here are excellent and the recorded sound rich and warm.'
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Listen
'This is a luxuriant discovery.'
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International Record Review
'the ideal ensemble for music so rich in dissonance, unwieldy counterpoint and innovative use of homophonic techniques.'
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Ensemble
'a treat'
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The Oxonian Review
'...one slips away into a phantasmal and lawless world'
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The Arts Desk
'... consistently astonishing'
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Musicweb International
'Marvels and masterpieces...'
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Baker and Taylor CD hotlist
'No early music collection should be without this recording'.
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cdhotlist.com
'The group that seems to be taking over as the world's preeminent viol consort.'
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BBC Music Magazine
5 Stars
Chamber Music Choice: 'The consort sound is luminescent...'
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Choir & Organ
5 Stars
'This is music that reveals more and more levels of sophisticated invention with repeated playing.'
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Pizzicato
4 Stars
'L'interprétation de Phantasm est très sensible et merveilleusement transparent au niveau de l'ensemble des violes.'
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Viola da Gamba Society of America
'a strong and fascinating approach'
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BBC Radio 3 'CD Review'
'Their playing is revelatory. The recording properly intimate, warm and truthful, and it’s from Linn Records.'
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Audio Video Club of Atlanta
'played to perfection'
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Buffalo News
4½ Stars
'Phantasm shine a light wonderfully on this under served talent.'
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The Telegraph
5 Stars
'Phantasm...reveal[s] the composer's sonorous magic.'
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Early Music Review
'Great music, stunningly played...'
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Klassiek
'Highly recommended for lovers of music for the viola da gamba!'
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Early Music Review
'An absolute joy of a disc.'
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Musical Toronto
5 Stars
'Even so, most of this music is gorgeous, clear in its emotional content, amply conveyed in the beauty that emanates from this lucky pairing of composer and interpreters.'
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Musicweb International
'If anything, the new Phantasm recording is even better than anything they have already done.'
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InfoDad.com
4 Stars
'The members and guests of the ensemble Phantasm take great delight in bringing this music back to life...'
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Words & Music
4 Stars
'Phantasm's disc is an excellent shot.'
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Audiophile Audition
4 Stars
'Beautifully done'
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The Observer
'This internationally acclaimed viol ensemble, with organist Daniel Hyde, bring all to shadowy life, the immediacy and intimacy captured expertly by the Linn engineers. Give this music your full attention - and be astonished.'
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AllMusic.com
4 Stars
'strongly recommended'
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The Sunday Times
'These two beautifully performed sets of fantasies...are full of suave angularities and delicious dissonances, captivating for liveliness and melancholy alike.'
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BBC Radio 3 'CD Review'
‘...William Lawes whose harmonic baring is beautifully laid bare in these bold and theatrical performances from Phantasm with the plaintively seductive sound of Laurence Dreyfus's treble viol on top of the texture; Daniel Hyde's chamber organ doubling and underpinning that strangely shifting sound world.'
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Irish Times
5 Stars
'Phantasm's sympathetic performances should win new friends for this sometimes almost bewildering music.'
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Phantasm - Lawes: The Royal Consort & Consorts to the Organ - Fanfare


01 November 2015
Fanfare
Barry Brenesal

Lawes's Royal Consort was highly regarded during the time of Charles I, as a mature example of its composer's compositional gifts and quixotic musical personality. Listeners familiar with his music will know what to expect. Those who aren't will discover in The Royal Consort a kind of early 17th century equivalent of Ravel's waltz works: part dance, part parody, after repeated hearing as witty as upon an initial, superficial acquaintance it is compulsively tuneful. Though it contains only dances and no fantasias, the spirit of the English fantasia informs every dance through its composer's whimsy, which sometimes appears as fewer or extra measures than expected to oddly trip up the meter, as sudden and wholly unanticipated modulations, off-kilter canonic entries, or the introduction of brief motifs that resemble barnyard sounds.

Lawes composed two versions of The Royal Consort. (The title doesn't indicate approval by the King, though Lawes was a favorite of his. Rather, it was added after the fact, when the English Civil War broke out, and everybody was taking sides.) One, for four viols and theorbo, is the version recorded here for the first time. The other, which has been assumed to follow it, has two violins, two bass viols, and two theorbos, with several musical additions: four fantasias to lead off the score, and four lighter dances. The liner notes argue persuasively that the viols-and-theorbo version is superior, a point I've noticed in concert performances, though lacking the obviously far greater familiarity Phantasm has with the works. Lawes in a word regularized his music in the violin version, removing some of its quirky humor and character, as well as thickening its textures in a way that harmed the clarity of its counterpoint.

The performances are exemplary. I've commented in past reviews of Phantasm about the broad-breathed span of their bowing and attention to rhythmic detail. Both are much in evidence here, as is their ability to keep each musical line distinct in both the richest chords and most complex imitative passages. They play with the kind of ensemble awareness that only comes with long practice and great familiarity, not merely with the music but with one another's music making. It is no exaggeration to say that as soon as this set finished, I set it to play again, and not just because of the music, either. To listen to Phantasm is to enjoy one of life's fine musical pleasures.

Mention must be made as well of the essay by Laurence Dreyfus, enclosed with the set. These are too accomplished to refer to as liner notes. Some musical analysis of favorites, discussions of each of the dance types, an examination of Lawes's musical style and the work's two versions, finely descriptive writing, historical details, Burney bashing: it's got it all.

Previously, Phantasm recorded the eloquent Consorts to the Organ-a work which apparently bypassed the radar of everyone here at Fanfare-on Linn CKD 399. That disc included as much as one CD could hold, with the rest, ten pieces in all, added to this 2-CD set. Phantasm has also chosen to include three dances that were rejected by Lawes for The Royal Consort, for elements that kept them below the extremely high standards he set himself for the work. The result are two very full discs that make extremely fine listening, and just secured itself a position in my current Want List. Well done.     
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Related Links

Elizabeth KennyElizabeth Kenny
PhantasmPhantasm
Lawes: Consorts to the OrganLawes: Consorts to the Organ
Lawes: The Royal ConsortLawes: The Royal Consort