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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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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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 - Gramophone


01 June 2015
Gramophone
David Vickers

William Lawes's 10 Royal Consort sets (or suites) were probably composed for the Caroline court during the 1630s. Unswerving royalist loyalty cost him his life at the Siege of Chester in 1645, but not before he had made six-part rearrangements for two violins, bass viols and theorbos. This later version has an eminent discography but Phantasm instead present the first complete recording of the original pieces for four-part viol consort and theorbo. Performer-scholar Laurence Dreyfus begins his 14-page booklet essay in bold fashion: ‘One mustn't mince words. To put it frankly, this is one of the greatest collections of ensemble dance music ever composed.' He argues that Lawes's sets are on a par with Bach's Orchestral Suites and Rameau's ballet music but criticises that the later expanded versions ‘offer a clear case of how artists can spoil their work by an excess of fussing'.

Phantasm's playing brims with imaginative fantasy and dance-like momentum, although from time to time Lawes's unpredictable liberties with irregular phrase lengths would not have suited actual dancers (eg an Aire and Corant at the core of Set No 7). Every shift in imitative contrapuntal detail, rhythmical emphasis and melodic direction serves a conversational discourse between the pair of treble viols (Dreyfus and Emilia Benjamin) and the tenor and bass viols (Jonathan Manson, Mikko Perkola and Markku Luolajan-Mikkola); Elizabeth Kenny's theorbo continuo realisations are a model of tasteful clarity. Concise individual pieces often display rare sophistication, such as the seemingly floating Paven that begins No 9 and a song-like Galliard in No 2. A vividly accentuated ‘Morriss' folk dance follows hot on the heels of an elegant Corant (No 6) without any hint of formulaic articulation. Strong doses of Jacobean melancholy are abundant in a few longer pieces such as the Paven in D minor that starts No 2; this is one of several pavans that quotes from Dowland's Lacrimae but the inclusion of an extra short set for four-part viols dating from earlier in Lawes's career suggests that Dowland's influence cast a subtler shadow later on. A pleasing broadening of textures is injected into this beguiling survey by the additional tenor violist Emily Ashton and organist Daniel Hyde in some denser six-part sets that could not be squeezed on to Phantasm's 2012 recording of Lawes's Consorts to the Organ (2/13).


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