Phantasm - Locke - Classics Today

Artistic Quality 9 / Sound Quality 9

Part of this disc’s title is “For Lovers of Consort Music”, which is taken from the composer Matthew Locke’s preface to a set of works for this very special and once-popular configuration of instruments. It’s a fitting title: truly lovers of viols and the music—primarily in the form of suites—written for groups of them—quartets, quintets, sextets—will be at home here, and will enjoy Locke’s masterful, sometimes quirky, sometimes humorous, always engaging excursions whose harmonic twists and rhythmic turns keep a listener both fascinated and fulfilled. Whether a movement is titled Courante, Sarabande, Ayre, or especially Fantazie, you can expect that the music will neither remain calm nor dance energetically for long; changes are frequent and often abrupt, and all the while in such a sonorous manner, enhanced by Locke’s particular attention to voicing that (as clearly explained in the notes) tends to favor more open rather than closer space between the instrumental lines.

The rich, reedy, resonant sound that only a consort of viols can make is highlighted in moments such as the opening Fantazie of the Suite No. 3 in F major (Consort of four parts) and in the short but sweet Canon ‘4 in 2’ on the hexachord. And for a delightfully wild ride through Locke’s “twists and turns” mentioned above, try the Fantazie of Suite No. 2 in D minor/D major. The Sarabande of the F major suite ends with daring abruptness; the Fantazie opening of Suite No. 1 in D minor uses its simple theme and taut harmonic writing to build to a dramatic minor-key intensity before resigning to a brisk fugue.

The excellent musicians of the viol consort Phantasm make all of this happen with extraordinary technical acuity and ensemble sensitivity. And in addition to the four—sometimes six—viol players, the ensemble benefits tremendously from Elizabeth Kenny’s theorbo, whose “fills” and both delicate and full-bodied, plucked-string presence gives the performances added color and depth. Highly recommended.

Classics Today
01 August 2019