Distinctive character, repertoire given well-rounded exposure

Marian Poole
Marian Poole
The programme notes promised a performance of the pearls of the polyphony and wondrous sounds from the Phantasm consort, writes Marian Poole.

The large audience was not disappointed. The viol sound is certainly different from the 18th  and 19th century stringed instruments perfected in such a way that they could reliably stay in tune. The viol sound is subdued, almost nasal.

However Phantasm did give its distinctive character and the range of its repertoire a well-rounded exposure.

The  works by the 16th-century Elizabethan composers selected by the consort, William Byrd, Elway Bevin and Thomas Tomkins, are remarkable for the similarities in their style and perhaps highly indicative of their patron’s tastes. However, their interwoven melodies give a foretaste of the indulgences which Bach would bring to counterpoint.

Jacobean works by 17th-century composers Orlando Gibbons and Richard Mico portray a more whimsical temperament. Matthew Locke’s Fantazie-Courante-Ayre-Sarabande and Sett No 6 were both charmingly affective.

Henry Purcell’s late 17th century Four Fantasias are enlivened by some pretty interesting modulations and playing, which becomes comparatively vigorous.

However, it is Mozart’s 18th-century arrangements of Bach’s fugues for the collection of Well-Tempered Clavier II k 405 which show the consort at its best. The well-chosen selection Fuga 2 in E Flat, Fuga 3 in E major and Fuga 5 in D major explore each instrument’s strengths and its ability to dominate the ensemble. The delight in J. S. Bach’s Contrapunctus 1, 2, 11 and 9 from The Art of Fugue comes from an intellectual exercise in following a theme through ever-thickening layers of complication. The encore, a Scarlatti sonata, shows the greater power of melodic line intricately pursued for beauty’s sake and became the evening’s highlight.


Phantasm viol consort

Glenroy Auditorium Sunday, May 6

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