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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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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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.'
more >>

Phantasm - Lawes: The Royal Consort - The Arts Desk


10 June 2015
The Arts Desk
Alexandra Coghlan
4 Stars

There's an intimacy, an interiority, to music for viol consort that even the string quartet can't match. The physical placement of the three members of Phantasm who opened this concert of music by Gibbons, Purcell, Locke and Lawes was telling. Occupying three sides of a square, facing one another directly, theirs was a private musical conversation the audience was permitted to overhear. Fortunately it was one full of eccentric, charming episodes, as well as some moments of glorious darkness.

This was the first of two concerts built around Purcell's viol consorts - anachronistic works that had little place in the musical landscape of 1680, but whose harmonic language is bolder and more elegantly anarchic than anything before it (Gesualdo's madrigals, perhaps, excepted). Setting their extremities into relief was sunnier, more lyrical consort music by Gibbons and Lawes, as well as the more angular, exploratory works of Matthew Locke, precursor to Purcell's own style.

It's hard to construct a full-length concert out of miniatures. Barely any of these works, even the more extended suites by any other name, are longer than ten minutes, and with the inevitable tuning and re-tuning demanded by temperamental gut strings under concert-hall lights, dramatic tension is all but impossible to maintain. Quietly and undemonstratively going about their business however, Phantasm guided us through this stop-start programme, plunging mid-stream into these emotive miniatures and communicating with the unworked directness that sets viols apart - and, arguably ahead - of their contemporary instrumental descendants. These are instruments that show their working, whether that's in the rasping start to a note or the sudden end-stop of its close, with little of a modern violin or cello masking resonance.

The result is a textural transparency and clarity that allows the ear to penetrate right through even five-part textures, bringing out the contrapuntal detail of fancies by John Ward and Matthew Locke's consorts in all their angular unlikeliness. Where Phantasm came into its own, however, was in Purcell's extraordinary music, taking his rhetorical gestures and amplifying them in delicate rhythmic and harmonic interplay. The chromatic colouring that peppers the fantasias can too easily leap out of the texture, distracting the ear from the unfolding emotional and melodic flow of the music, but here each unexpected colour was integrated into the whole.

Phantasm's latest disc is of music by William Lawes, represented here by his immensely attractive Royal Consort No. 5 in D with its seven dance-based movements. After the quick-fire thematic bait and switch of Purcell, Lawes' more leisurely way with his melodies was a relief, a chance to settle into the music that little else in this demanding programme allowed. 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.

Phantasm are not the most physically demonstrative of groups, but in a small venue like the Wigmore it's an understatement that carries and makes sense of music that needs little by way of performative PR. In a city like London that's all about the hard sell, it's a welcome contrast.


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