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Phantasm - Locke - American Record Guide

We can’t help looking back at the Baroque through the distorted lens of JS Bach, Handel, and Vivaldi — each an exception to the era in various ways. Devoid of drama or overt virtuosity, Matthew Locke’s music was much more typical, even prototypical. This album is called For Lovers of Consort Music, and it serves as a fair reminder that this is music to please and comfort without drawing undue attention to itself.

Now based in Berlin, the ensemble Phantasm makes a specialty of consort music, having recorded albums devoted to Byrd, Lawes, Tye, Dowland, and a disc of Purcell’s fantasies for viol. These four artists have a warm, full sound, and the engineering is excellent.

Locke’s first seven suites are here, plus the Canon ‘4 on 2’ on a Plain Song and the Canon ‘4 on 2’ on a Hexachord. If I said they differed greatly from each other, I would not be telling the truth. As with tafelmusik, it hardly matters where one piece ends and the next begins. Even the major key pieces have an elegiac, minor-key wistfulness to them, without ever crossing the line into expressing actual sadness or anything that isn’t genteel. Still, this isn't a complaint. To have 73 minutes of exquisite music is an abundance. If you want maximum variety, there are plenty of ill-conceived anthologies jammed with three-minute selections by Pachelbel, Liszt, and Gershwin.

The cover depicts two views of a primitive sculpture, a minimalist figure lost in thought; like many of the best primitive sculptures, it is from the 20th Century. It is an inspired choice, both distinct from most covers for this sort of music and somehow expressive of the contents. The liner notes include a thorough overview of the music and individual biographies of the musicians, printed on better than usual quality paper. 

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American Record Guide
10 January 2020