John Jenkins: Six-Part Consorts

Nominated for Gramophone Award in Early Music (June 2006)


Recording Date: 25–27 August 2005
Recording Location: Chapel of Merton College, Oxford
Recording Producer: Jonathan Freeman-Attwood
Recording Engineer: Simon Fox-Gál
Post-Production: Jonathan Freeman-Attwood and Laurence Dreyfus
Executive Producer for Avie:
Simon Foster


Cast aside any prejudices you might have about 'early music' and try these amazing viol pieces by John Jenkins (1592-1678). Born in Maidstone, he was mainly active in East Anglia, and one can imagine that he was a welcome guest in the great houses where a 'chest of viols' was part of the furniture. These works in six astonishingly equal parts were written for amateurs but respond well to the highly professional musicians of Phantasm, led by the American Laurence Dreyfus. This is the kind of playing that banishes any thought of dry and dusty antiquarian professors. The four members of Phantasm and their guests hold the interest with lively interchanges.
You have the feeling that you are eavesdropping on six friends who are indulging in viol consorts for their own enjoyment. The recordings are splendidly alive, too.

Tully Potter, Dec 2006 - published in Daily Mail

In the first of three discs devoted to the 17th-century English composer John Jenkins, Phantasm explores his six-part consorts – ‘sublime discourses’, as they were fittingly described by Jenkins’s contemporary Thomas Mace.
These works really stretch the art of consort playing to its limits, demanding at once technical bravura and an expressive palette that ranges from sombre intensity to radiant joie-de-vivre. Phantasm deserves full marks for these laudable interpretations: indeed, so harmonious is their mutual musical vision that it is hard to believe there are really six individual players at work here. Their ‘discourse’ is lucid and animated, characterised by eloquent articulation, a luminous sound and finely judged internal balance. The all-pervasive dance rhythms are brought out with a supple lightness of touch while moments of melancholy and reflection are given due weight. Jenkins couldn’t resist introducing a dash of fashionable Italianate flamboyance into these works, and treble, tenor and even bass viol constantly vie for virtuosic supremacy. Nothing daunted, these adroit players negotiate Jenkins’s detailed counterpoint with fleet-fingered dexterity, and ever more intricate elaborations are cast around with brazen panache. The results are a delicious mix of Italianate sprezzatura and English restraint.

Kate Bolton, Jun 2006 - published in BBC Music Magazine

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