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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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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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 - Limelight Magazine


10 September 2015
Limelight Magazine
Philip Clark
5 Stars

I can, it's true, find a jazz analogy in most things, and this two-CD set of dance music from the 1630s proves to be no exception. Listening to William Lawes' The Royal Consort, I'm reminded of why hipsters digging Miles Davis and John Coltrane too often find the early 1920s recordings of King Oliver and Louis Armstrong a problem. The sheer ancientism of the music apparently operates under completely different rules and feels so utterly alien to the modern world that its archaism flips over into something entirely new: an avant-garde relic that has to be grappled with.

William Lawes inhabited a medieval London that was about to be irreplaceably altered by the Great Pire of 1666. He found gainful employment as a composer at the court of King Charles I and as Parliament flexed its republican instincts, he felt moved to add the prefix 'Royal' to his Consort pieces. The much good it did him though: Lawes was killed fighting for the Royalists during the Siege of Chester in 1645.

As with all genuinely great dance music - from Rameau right up to Cage - Lawes' pieces are as much about the idea of movement as they are specific invitations to the dance floor. This is a composer who revels in lopsided groupings of bars, allowing his melodic phrasings to follow their natural incline rather than being shepherded behind bar lines like sheep – a lesson in how symmetry can be overrated.

More usually recorded in the composer's own revised remake version for a larger ensemble, Oxford-based Phantasm opt to perform Lawes' original version for four viols and the lower pitched lute-like theorbo (and Organist Daniel Hyde makes a cameo appearance with some Lawes sets to the organ which, for reasons of space, could not be included on Linn's dedicated disc). The rhythmic vivacity and pungent push-pull swing of their playing rocks, while their ear for authentic period non-tempered tunings is exquisite.

This music could easily be misrepresented by an overly stolid touch or academic approach, but Lawes' contrapuntal layers become more than fluctuating details of texture: each part proudly shouts its independence while knitting into the whole.

Elizabeth Kenny's harmonically alive theorbo continue glues these rhythmic strata together, the upper parts chattering relentlessly. The emotional reach of the music - the ebullient splash of Sarabands counterpointing against moments of Dowland-like melancholia – is rich and constantly surprising, and Lawes' rhythmic and metric sleights-of-hand will indeed appeal to those who admire similar qualities in early Satchmo. Phantasm – another Hot Five.


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