Phantasm - Locke - All Music

4.5*

In England, music for viol consort spanned the Renaissance and Baroque periods, from a time before the Elizabethan composer John Dowland to the end of the 17th century, when the works of Henry Purcell were among the last written for it. In the middle of this period, Matthew Locke stood out as something of a maverick, composing suites of the usual order of fantasies, courantes, airs, and sarabands, yet injecting unpredictable expressive elements and innovations that flew in the face of convention. The peculiarities of Locke’s compositions are evident in this extremely lucid recording by the Anglo-American consort Phantasm, which has previously explored repertoire by William Lawes, William Byrd, Orlando Gibbons, John Jenkins, Christopher Tye, and Purcell, and plans an ongoing series of Locke’s works for Linn Records. This album offers eight suites and two canons, which establish a context in which Locke’s eccentricities may be undersood as a neverending quest for variety and originality, instead of a retracing of accepted patterns and forms. Phantasm—a group of viol players led by Laurence Dreyfus, and including Emilia Benjamin, Jonathan Manson, and Markku Luolajan-Mikkola—is joined by theorbist Elizabeth Kenny, who provides the continuo part, and guest viol players Emily Ashton and Jonathan Rees, so the music is realized to its fullest dimensions by this expanded ensemble. While some recordings of consort music are made in overly resonant spaces, the acoustics of Bosgrove Priory in Sussex are vibrant but not overpowering, and the details of Locke’s quirky music are crisply rendered, without the aural haze that attends other viol groups. 

19 November 2018