Related Reviews
Early Music America
'effortless yet engaged approach'
more >>
Gramophone
'First-rate Linn Recording.'
more >>
Klassik.com
4 Stars
'This recording is one of the absolute highlights of this year'
more >>
American Record Guide
'The performances here are excellent and the recorded sound rich and warm.'
more >>
Medieval Music & Arts Foundation
' the result is compelling, including passages as surprising as anything Lawes wrote'
more >>
Listen
'This is a luxuriant discovery.'
more >>
International Record Review
'the ideal ensemble for music so rich in dissonance, unwieldy counterpoint and innovative use of homophonic techniques.'
more >>
Ensemble
'a treat'
more >>
The Oxonian Review
'...one slips away into a phantasmal and lawless world'
more >>
The Arts Desk
'... consistently astonishing'
more >>
Musicweb International
'Marvels and masterpieces...'
more >>
Baker and Taylor CD hotlist
'No early music collection should be without this recording'.
more >>
cdhotlist.com
'The group that seems to be taking over as the world's preeminent viol consort.'
more >>
BBC Music Magazine
5 Stars
Chamber Music Choice: 'The consort sound is luminescent...'
more >>
Choir & Organ
5 Stars
'This is music that reveals more and more levels of sophisticated invention with repeated playing.'
more >>
Viola da Gamba Society of America
'a strong and fascinating approach'
more >>
Pizzicato
4 Stars
'L'interprétation de Phantasm est très sensible et merveilleusement transparent au niveau de l'ensemble des violes.'
more >>
BBC Radio 3 'CD Review'
'Their playing is revelatory. The recording properly intimate, warm and truthful, and it’s from Linn Records.'
more >>
Audio Video Club of Atlanta
'played to perfection'
more >>
Buffalo News
4½ Stars
'Phantasm shine a light wonderfully on this under served talent.'
more >>
The Telegraph
5 Stars
'Phantasm...reveal[s] the composer's sonorous magic.'
more >>
Early Music Review
'An absolute joy of a disc.'
more >>
Klassiek
'Highly recommended for lovers of music for the viola da gamba!'
more >>
Early Music Review
'Great music, stunningly played...'
more >>
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.'
more >>
Musicweb International
'If anything, the new Phantasm recording is even better than anything they have already done.'
more >>
InfoDad.com
4 Stars
'The members and guests of the ensemble Phantasm take great delight in bringing this music back to life...'
more >>
Words & Music
4 Stars
'Phantasm's disc is an excellent shot.'
more >>
Audiophile Audition
4 Stars
'Beautifully done'
more >>
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.'
more >>
AllMusic.com
4 Stars
'strongly recommended'
more >>
The Sunday Times
'These two beautifully performed sets of fantasies...are full of suave angularities and delicious dissonances, captivating for liveliness and melancholy alike.'
more >>
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.'
more >>
Irish Times
5 Stars
'Phantasm's sympathetic performances should win new friends for this sometimes almost bewildering music.'
more >>

Phantasm - Lawes: Consorts to the Organ - Musica Dei


23 January 2013
Musica Dei
Johan van Veen

It seems that Phantasm has a special liking for composers who are out of step with the conventions of their time. Their recordings also show that the musical landscape in England in the first half of the 17th century is more colourful than one may think. The two composers who are represented on the two discs to be reviewed here, hold some surprises for the unprepared listener. 

The least-known is John Ward. The year and place of his birth are not known for sure. It seems likely that he was born in Canterbury where he started his musical activities as a singer. He worked for most of his life as an attorney, and he never took an official post as a musician. This means that strictly speaking he was an amateur in his capacity as a composer. He wrote some liturgical music, but he has become best known for his madrigals and his consort music.

As Laurence Dreyfus explains in his liner-notes there is a clear connection between Ward's madrigals and some of his consort music. The Italian titles of four consort pieces bears witness to that. '[We] hear a host of Italian 'madrigalisms' transplanted into an instrumental idiom with such subtlety and elegance that one never misses the words (...)', according to Dreyfus. Chromaticism is one of the features of Ward's consort music. His harmonic language is rather adventurous anyway, and he also makes use of interrupted cadences. The consort music for five and six parts is recorded here complete, and this not only includes the Fantasias, but also three In Nomine settings, which root in the polyphonic tradition.

In comparison William Lawes is far better known. He was held in high esteem by King Charles I, and the close relationship between the composer and the King ultimately led to Lawes' early death. He was part of the entourage of the King at the Siege of Chester, and although he was not supposed to take part in military action he joined a sortie and died in the process. The connection to the King had also a strong influence on his music. He could experiment in his compositions because his music was performed in the Privy Apartments of the King. 'The prestigious nature of these private performances - along with the personal support of the king which Lawes enjoyed - freed the composer's musical imagination in ways far beyond the aesthetic confines of a country house, the Inns of Court or an Oxford College, where the values of musical peers would have been far more conventional, judgmental, even condemning', Laurence Dreyfus writes in the booklet.

Conventional Lawes' music is definitely not. Time and again one hears daring harmonies, often on the brink of the bizarre; Dreyfus sometimess calls his musical moves 'ugly'. Interestingly in his music we meet a feature which is also part of Ward's consort music: interrupted cadences. Gently forward-moving passages are few and far between. And if they appear they are mostly abruptly interrupted by some shocking dissonants or sudden modulations. There are other features which are noticeable, such as passages in which the organ suddenly takes a leading role, episodes with several viols moving in parallel, sometimes in the form of a fauxbourdon and frequent pedal tones. Laurence Dreyfus explains the course of Lawes' musical discourse in detail in the booklet. It is helpful in understanding what exactly he is doing in these consorts.

As these recordings show Phantasm is one of the most adventurous viol consorts around. Their performances are technically brilliant and they play with much imagination and zest. These interpretations are far away from the 'objective', rather analytical approach of older performances. This way the idiosyncracies of the music are fully revealed, and the individual character of each composer's oeuvre emphasized. These two discs definitely belong to the best in the discography of English consort music. If you like this kind of repertoire, don't miss them.
Bookmark and Share


Related Links

PhantasmPhantasm
William Lawes: Consorts to the OrganWilliam Lawes: Consorts to the Organ