Phantasm - Dowland: Lachrimae - Gramophone

How to describe Dowland's Lachrimae, or Seaven Teares? Seven pavans for five-part viol consort with lute, each a subtle transformation of the pavan known in its song version as ‘Flow my tears', would be a start, but hardly does justice to its patient flow of exquisitely drawn and closely summoned emotion. These are not ‘division' variations but a sequence of new pieces, each related to its companions by the falling motif that opens the song but also by numerous significant cross-references between them. In Laurence Dreyfus's words, they are ‘an extended process of reflection on a poeticmusical theme'.

Phantasm's performances are totally convincing and absorbing. Drawing richly on their depth, intensity and homogeneity of tone, their acuity to the music's everactive emotional flux leaves them unafraid to use forceful gestures of articulation and dynamics to make a point. This keen awareness of the music's power extends to their performances of the 14 other pieces Dowland included in his Lachrimae publication, most of which are arrangements of his own songs and dances. But while many are light-hearted, short and familiar, nothing is routine in Phantasm's hands. Semper Dowland semper Dolens (rather more in the mould of the seven pavans) ends in crushing silence, The King of Denmark's Galliard is proud of its manly power, while The Earl of Essex his Galliard or Mr George Whitehead his Alman really rock with what Dreyfus defines as rhythmic ‘jumps' and ‘landings'. Even the timings of the gaps between pieces are part of the act, carefully judged to create effective groupings and segues.

The CD is beautifully presented, with readable and insightful booklet articles by Dreyfus and Elizabeth Kenny. Dowland characterised his seven pavans as ‘passionate', and one can sense the true passion of Dreyfus and his performers in what has all the hallmarks of a classic recording.

01 August 2016