Phantasm with Elizabeth Kenny in Misteria Pascalia Festival

Holy Saturday’s earlier concert took place in the most unusual venue of a chapel deep under the ground, in the Wieliczka Salt Mines, just a few miles southeast of Kraków. It's not for the claustrophobic; audience members are packed like sardines into a lift, which takes only 30 at a time, and are plunged into an eerie, dark, underground world.The chapel is certainly a striking place. Walls of charcoal grey, almost black salt have stunningly intricate biblical scenes carved into them, and the alcove is illuminated by a series of elaborate chandeliers. The subterranean chamber has a strange feel to it, but there’s no denying it makes for a wonderful acoustic. 

The British but now Berlin-based viol consort Phantasm, joined by lutenist Elizabeth Kenny (pictured above), gave a stirring performance of Dowland’s Lachrimae, with every note at once clear and crisp yet beautifully rounded. The constant temperature of the chapel is said to be of particular benefit to period instruments, since it won’t alter the pitch, although quite some time was still spent tuning between numbers. An over-cautious approach to the intonation maybe, but certainly one which paid off as the tuning was impeccably tight throughout. Kenny is a joy both to listen to and to watch. Her intricate ornamentation is as natural as it is detailed, and her leadership of the viols beautifully sensitive to the music. The lush dissonances teased out during the pavans were deliciously wistful and the rhythmic interplay displayed in the dance movements gave an infectious, impish quality with a real swing.

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Jonathan Walterspiel