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The programme notes by Laurence Dreyfus, leader of the ensemble, address two frequently asked questions: whether this music was written for amateurs or for professionals and whether it was written for the players or the listeners. On the first, he says that the continuous, intricate counterpoint is challenging even for professionals, which I know is true but is not quite an answer. On raising the second, he immediately sidles away from it ('the misplaced anxiety of the question pales before the sonorous beauty of Jenkins' inventive gifts'), never to return. But the question is valid, and holds the key to rewarding listening.

The fantasias were composed for one of the most sophisticated social music-making communities ever, and the music was a conversation between equals; others may have been lucky enough to listen but their interests were secondary to those of the players. It follows that to get the most out of the music the listener should be immersed in it, following every turn of the discussion as though participating in it.

Most of us can't participate, of course, and certainly not at the exalted level of Phantasm, but we need to pretend. The key is to listen for successive entries of a theme [eg listen -- track 13, 0:00-1:46] as it is introduced, taken up by each player in turn, explored, then dropped for another which is subjected to similar treatment. Good stereo definition makes this easier, so headphones might help listeners who are new to this kind of music.

Without such immersion, the music can seem pleasant but monotonous, a rippling flood of sound with little rhythmic impetus, dynamic range or tonal variety. I fear that will be all that many hearers perceive; if so they will, truthfully, be able to say that 'it all sounds the same'. It is a common complaint: all Vivaldi's violin concertos sound the same, too, and so do all Beethoven's piano sonatas, unless one listens with understanding. As with so many things in life, the more we put in, the more we get out. (Here endeth the sermon.)

Phantasm has been joined for this recording by Emilia Benjamin and Mikko Perkola. With or without their guests they are a wonderful group. Anyone who enjoys their music will also enjoy Fretwork who play similar repertoire with comparable skill and conviction.

Copyright © 30 August 2006 Malcolm Tattersall, Townsville, Australia


Jenkins: Six-Part Consorts - Phantasm

AV2099 DDD Stereo NEW RELEASE 66'07" 2006 Laurence Dreyfus

Phantasm - Laurence Dreyfus, treble viol and director; Wendy Gillespie, treble viol; Jonathan Manson, tenor viol; Markku Luolajan-Mikkola, bass viol; with Emilia Benjamin, tenor viol; Mikko Perkola, bass viol

John Jenkins (1592-1678): Fantasy 9 in D minor; In nomine 1 in G minor; Fantasy 2 in C minor; Pavan in F; Fantasy 8 in A minor; Fantasy 4 in D minor; Fantasy 11 in G minor; Fantasy 3 in C minor; Fantasy 1 in C minor; In nomine 2 in E minor; Fantasy 12 in A minor; Fantasy 5 in D minor; Fantasy 10 in E minor; Bell Pavan in A minor; Fantasy 6 in D minor; Fantasy 7 in A minor








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