Phantasm - Lawes: The Royal Consort - AllMusic
Some might think of William Lawes as the Carlo Gesualdo of the early English Baroque: his music was experimental, brilliant, and emotionally rather claustrophobic. He wrote songs and sacred choral music, but his most famous pieces are the viol consort "setts" (suites) heard here (there are also a few shorter setts with organ). This group collectively is called the Royal Consort; Phantasm is the ensemble led byLaurence Dreyfus, who also wrote the extensive booklet notes. Lawes is often described as an acquired taste, and some might choose this reading from among the several available on the basis of this essay alone: Dreyfus puts across the dense, allusive quality of the music and gets people listening for the small, often abrupt details that are the key to it all. (Dreyfus notes that Charles Burney, condemning Lawes in the late 18th century, called his music awkward, but that this was in fact a perceptive remark that gets at what Lawes is like.) 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; listen to it in a dark room with all the shades pulled down.