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Phantasm - William Lawes - Early Music Review


01 August 2012
Early Music Review
Brian Robbins

When Phantasm recorded the Lawes Consort Sets in 5 (1999) and 6 parts (2001) for Channel Classics, director Laurence Dreyfus was prepared to argue that the inclusion of the written out organ parts were ‘more a hindrance than a help in making chamber music'. Now, in an agreeable whimsical U-turn, Dreyfus is happy to revisit a group of the sets on a CD emblazoned with the title ‘Consorts to the Organ'. Anyway, I for one am delighted that he has had a change of heart, for he is one of William Lawes' greatest champions and his superlatively recorded Linn disc gives profound pleasure and satisfaction. Comparison with the earlier recordings reveals that Phantasm now take these pieces, almost without exception, more slowly and even more expressively than they did a decade or so ago. That won't please everyone, especially those who prefer Fretwork's ‘purer' and less excitable approach to this marvellous music. Personally, I'm happy and grateful to have both. Here I relish the striking range of effect Phantasm achieve, from the unruly boisterousness of such movements as the 5-part Fantazy in C, to the transcendental beauty of the 6-part Inominy in B flat, and the fathomless despair of the 5-part Pavan in C minor, Lawes' take on Downland's Lachrymae, where he seems to start in respectful awe of Dowland's piece, but by the end has irrevocably stamped his own personality on it. And my personal favourite in here, too, the Set in F, with its gloriously unforgettable evocation of sunrise in the first Fantazy. Characteristically, Dreyfus provides highly colourful and informative notes that shriek out his enthusiasm for the music. An absolute joy of a disc.


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