Byrd Song

Byrd Song.jpg

Ian Partridge, tenor
Geraldine McGreevy, soprano

Recording Date: August 1998
Recording Location: St Bartholomew's Church, Orford (Suffolk)
Producer: Jonathan Freeman-Attwood
Balance Engineer: Arne Akselberg
Post-Production: Jonathan Freeman-Attwood and Laurence Dreyfus
Editing: Eric Amundsen and Arne Akselberg


Vivid performances from players and singers committed to projecting both text and music with character and imagination.
The latest release from the award-winning viol consort Phantasm sees them turning to the consort song repertory for the first time, with singular results. Geraldine McGreevy is a different type of singer from those normally heard in early music these days, her firm clarity and fast vibrato sounding rather more like the kind of voice one used to hear in the 1970s. Ian Partridge, of course was one of those voices (though not of that particular sort) and it is interesting to hear him again now, his easy tones sounding as instantly recognisable as they ever did. This suggestion of a throwback is not intended as a criticism, however; rather it is a recognition of the individuality that Phantasm bring to their music-making. Just as no other viol consort offers such a rich and vibrant instrumental sound, so there can be a tendency among many performers of consort songs to make the voice imitate the viol, recessing it in the texture and suppressing some of its natural expressiveness. Here the opposite approach holds sway: Phantasm, one feels, are really 'playing the words'. and with good reason. McGreevy, for one, is not going to pretend that she is anything other than a fine young singer with something to say of her own. She allows herself a little portamento from time to time, uses voice colour to good effect (for instance in contrasting 'Peace and quietness' and 'Terrors great' in Rejoice unto the Lord) and shows herself equally adept in lively rhythmic numbers such as Though Amaryllis dance in green and more elegiac songs such as Fair Britain Isle or the near-epic Lullaby my sweet little baby. Partridge has fewer songs to sing than McGreevy, but then he has the plum in Ye Sacred Muses, Byrd's great lament on the death of his teacher Tallis, which he delivers with simple feeling, yet adding one telling and memorable detail: a tiny extra note in the third-last phrase, the musical equivalent, it seems to me, of an emotional crack in the voice.

Lindsay Kemp, Oct 2000- published in Gramophone

Phantasm's artistic policy to 'dwell in the here and now' rather than to recreate the past has resulted in some of the most vital and unashamedly passionate viol-playing around today. Here, the four instruments are optimally balanced - conversing, articulating and breathing in quasi-vocal fashion. Intonation and ensemble are near impeccable; rhythms are keenly buoyant in the dance-inspired pieces, sinuous in the more reflective ones. The same policy has presumably led to their choice of two singers whose voices are a far cry from what has been decried as the 'whitewashed' early music sound. Ian Partridge will be known to many readers - particularly as a Lieder and opera singer - and here he is in fine form. Geraldine McGreevy's lustrous, bell-like voice and intelligent delivery are most appealing. And while the members of Phantasm certainly imbue their playing with Romantic spirit, they are nonetheless deeply grounded in period style.

Kate Bolton, Aug 2000 - published in BBC Music Magazine

David Skudlik