Program: #18-14 Air Date: Mar 26, 2018
The prolific Phantasm Ensemble gives us anthems by Tomkins, consorts by John Jenkins, and a new recording of the complete consort music by Christopher Tye.
I. Christopher Tye: Complete Consort Music (Phantasm). Linn CD CKD 571.
The English composer is especially bold in his metrical and harmonic experiments embraced within his mystical but surprisingly approachable instrumental works.
There are pieces depicting the biblical Rachel weeping for her children, an In Nomine counted in lengths of five beats (unheard of before the nineteenth century) and obsessional works – such as Sit fast – which test the rhythmic skills of musicians with passages of dizzyingly modernist metrical complexity.
Phantasm take a radically different approach to previous recordings, delivering a performance that brings out the music’s ceaseless energy, rhythmic articulation, and provocative harmonies – in short, one that highlights Tye’s insights as music for today.
Phantasm performed works by Christopher Tye at Austria’s Trigonale Festival and London’s Wigmore Hall in September and October 2017 respectively.
From Gramophone: A contemporary of Tallis and Sheppard, Christopher Tye was a composer apart. His ear for harmony, his eye for a musical line, seem to have been guided by a different logic to those around him. There’s no doubting his architect’s instinct for musical form but his architecture is more Frank Gehry than Inigo Jones – wilful, playful, iconoclastic and often as baffling as it is beautiful. This collection of his complete consort music throws up surprise after surprise – a revelation of a recording that offers a startling perspective on a familiar musical landscape.
Phantasm’s craggy, deep-dug performances follow the composer’s instructive titles – ‘Hold fast’, ‘Follow me’, ‘Believe me’ – to the letter, gamely celebrating the oddities as well as the felicities of works whose fixation with 54 notes of plainchant by John Taverner (taken from the Benedictus of his Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas) has never fully been explained. Discovering the unexpected sensuality of the In nomine ‘Round’, the yelping, insistent plaints of the In nomine ‘Cry’ and the provocative dramatics of the In nomine ‘Re la re’, Phantasm are skilled musical tour guides to Tye’s challenging terrain.
In nomine a4
In nomine 'Trust'
Dum transisset Sabbatum I
In nomine 'Free from all'
In nomine 'Round'
In nomine 'Weep no more, Rachel'
In nomine 'Say so'
In nomine 'Follow me'
In nomine 'Cry'
In nomine 'Hold fast'
In nomine 'Seldom seen'
In nomine 'Re la re'
Dum transisset Sabbatum III
Sit fast (prima et secunda pars)
In nomine 'Surrexit non est hic'
In nomine 'Believe me'
In nomine 'Report'
In nomine a5
In nomine 'I come'
Dum transisset Sabbatum II
O lux beata Trinitas
In nomine 'My death bed'
In nomine 'Blameless'
In nomine 'Farewell my good one forever'
Dum transisset Sabbatum IV
Amavit eum Dominus
In nomine a6
II. Thomas Tomkins: Anthems & Canticles (Choir of Magdalen College, Oxford/Phantasm). Opus Arte CD OA CD9040 D.
Five anthems for choir and viols (as opposed to just an organ) are the showpieces here, and rightly so. Tomkins' use of the consort is more imaginative than just simply mimicking keyboard accompaniment.
Tomkins adds and subtracts instruments to subtly shade the ensemble sound as it sometimes supports and sometimes plays in opposition to the choir. Also included are various consort works, showing Tomkins' consummate skill at instrumental composition.
The Choir of Magdalen College sings in a straightforward fashion. The soloists have a rough quality to their delivery, which sounds completely authentic to me. Phantasm plays with precision and authority. Viols tend to have a wispy sound (compared to modern stringed instruments), but there's nothing anemic about Phantasm.
That solid instrumental work coupled with the not-quite-polished sound of the choir really brings these works to life. These gritty performances have a beauty all their own and that earthy beauty I found thoroughly appealing.
2. Sing unto God
3. A Fantasy (9 September 1646)
4. Thou art my king
5. Fantasia XIV
6. Above the stars
7. A substantial verse
8. Pavan VI
9. Magnificat (The Fifth Service)
11. Nunc dimittis (The Fifth Service)
13. Lord, let my know mine end
14. For Mr Archdeacon Thornburgh
15. Fantasia XVII
16. Pavan and Galliard XVIII
17. Rejoice, rejoice and sing
III. John Jenkins: Five-Part Consorts (Phantasm). Linn CD BKD 557.
Phantasm is firing on all cylinders for every note of the 20 works included and the recording is excellent, capturing all of the subtle intricacies produced by the five instruments; to cover Jenkins' fifth part, guest tenor violist Mikko Perkola is added to the mix. Phantasm achieves a full, rich texture and at times almost choral sense of fluidity; for example, check out the Pavan 3 in F that concludes the program. While the disc has a generally appealing sound and will provide great, relaxing background music for weary ears -- these pieces, after all, were written to entertain private citizens who enjoyed comfortable incomes -- repeated listening reveals the depth of complexity of Jenkins' textures and his probative and greatly variable approach to evoking certain emotional states as well. Phantasm's John Jenkins: Five-Part Consorts is not something that one will buy, play a couple of times, and then forget about forever; it is designed for the long haul, and chances are that listeners will still find revelatory details in it 30 years down the line. While not as urgently recommended to fanciers of English consort music as Phantasm's Four Temperaments would be, John Jenkins: Five-Part Consorts is a very, very strong entry -- if they continue in this historical direction, hopefully Phantasm will run into Matthew Locke.
Fantasy 7 in c
Fantasy 9 in c
Fantasy 17 in C
Pavan 2 in g
Fantasy 11 in c
Fantasy 6 in g
Fantasy 13 in d
Fantasy 15 in D
Fantasy 12 in d
Fantasy 16 in D
Fantasy 14 in d
Fantasy 3 in g
Fantasy 8 in c
Pavan 1 in G
Fantasy 5 in g
Fantasy 2 in g
Fantasy 4 in d
Fantasy 10 in c
Pavan 3 in F
Christopher Tye, Thomas Tomkins, John Jenkins
CD CKD 571, CD OA CD9040 D, CD BKD 557