John Jenkins Six-Part Consorts

0 of 5 stars

Six-Part Consorts

Phantasm [Laurence Dreyfus, Wendy Gillespie & Jonathan Manson (treble viols), Markku Luolajan-Mikkola (bass viol)] with Emilia Benjamin (tenor viol) & Mikko Perkola (bass viol)

Recorded 25-27 August 2005 in the Chapel of Merton College, Oxford, England

Reviewed by: William Yeoman

Reviewed: August 2006
Duration: 66 minutes

The fame of composer, lutenist and viola player John Jenkins (1592-1678) did, and still does, rest largely on the remarkable quality of his consort music, particularly his fantasias for viols in four, five or, as in the case of this present recording, six parts.

Staying true to the polyphonic school of Tallis and Byrd (whose viol music can be heard on Phantasm’s previous recording, “Four Temperaments”), Jenkins however places equal importance on harmony as an organisational principle – in this he is similar to J.S. Bach in reconciling the horizontal with the vertical, the old with the new. Jenkins’s feeling for rhythm and texture is also remarkable, and all of these elements can be heard to great effect in this latest recording by Phantasm.

The programme largely comprises fantasies together with a peppering of In nomines and Pavans. Some stay in a single mood while working out the implications of their subject fugally and tonally; others shift mood with the freedom of an Italianate toccata, though the modulations are always smooth – Jenkins is not one for violent shifts.

Phantasm, together with guest viol players Emilia Benjamin and Mikko Perkola, plays with customary clarity of line and alertness to every aspect of Jenkins’s writing; all finely recorded, too. As Laurence Dreyfus points out in his booklet note, this is democratic music, with every part equal. Each has moments in the sunshine. What comes through here is simply the delight in sharing through music – to quote Dreyfus, it’s as though “one can almost imagine Jenkins standing beside the consort, winking approval when a tricky passage falls into place, and offering sympathy to those who fall into traps laid to snare the unvigilant into a mistaken entrance.”

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