William Lawes - The Royal Consort
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Cat No: CKD470
Number of Discs: 2
Release Date: 18th May 2015
ArtistsElizabeth Kenny (theorbo)
Emily Ashton (viol)
Daniel Hyde (organ)
Described as ‘one of the greatest collections of ensemble dance music ever composed’, Lawes’ Royal Consort is full of astounding moments of striking musical invention.
Guest musicians Elizabeth Kenny on theorbo, Emily Ashton on tenor viol and organist Daniel Hyde join Phantasm to honour the celebrated English Renaissance composer.
This sublime collection boasts a range and depth of expression, which excites both mind and body through Lawes’ startlingly individual pieces. This recording is the first complete recording of Lawes’ version of the Royal Consorts for four viols and theorbo.
Phantasm, under the direction of Laurence Dreyfus, presents a passionate and insightful look into this adventurous music. The result is a rich and warm recording of technical brilliance that takes the listener deep into the harmonically rich world of Lawes.
Phantasm’s previous recording of Lawes - Consorts to the Organ - was both a Gramophone Awards finalist and a BBC Music Magazine Award nominee in 2013.
Phantasm has been widely acclaimed for its previous recordings with Linn: its 2011 recording of William Byrd was named ‘Disc of the Month' by BBC Music and its 2009 Linn debut of music by John Ward was described as ‘stunning' by Gramophone. The award-winning ensemble has been applauded across the globe for its moving performances and is recognised as the most exciting viol consort active on the world scene today.
Phantasm’s international members (from Britain, Finland and the US) are based in Oxford, where they are Consort-in-Residence and regularly collaborate with Magdalen College Choir under its director, Daniel Hyde.
"There's something irresistible about Lawes' music." - BBC Music
"Their playing is revelatory. The recording properly intimate, warm and truthful." - BBC Radio 3 ‘CD Review’
"…full of suave angularities and delicious dissonances, captivating for liveliness and melancholy alike." - The Sunday Times
1Royal Consort Sett no.1 in D - I. Aire
2Royal Consort Sett no.1 in D - II. Alman
3Royal Consort Sett no.1 in D - III. Corant
4Royal Consort Sett no.1 in D - IV. Corant
5Royal Consort Sett no.1 in D - V. Saraband
6Royal Consort Sett no.8 in C - I. Aire
7Royal Consort Sett no.8 in C - II. Alman
8Royal Consort Sett no.8 in C - III. Corant
9Royal Consort Sett no.8 in C - IV. Corant
10Royal Consort Sett no.8 in C - V. Saraband
11Royal Consort Sett no.10 in B flat - I. Paven
12Royal Consort Sett no.10 in B flat - II. Alman
13Royal Consort Sett no.10 in B flat - III. Corant
14Royal Consort Sett no.10 in B flat - IV. Alman
15Royal Consort Sett no.10 in B flat - V. Corant
16Royal Consort Sett no.10 in B flat - VI. Saraband
17VII Sett in C 'to The Organ' - I. Fantazy
18VII Sett in C 'to The Organ' - II. Fantazy
19VII Sett in C 'to The Organ' - III. Aire
Charles I honoured William Lawes posthumously with the title 'Father of Musick', and in these spellbinding performances you can hear why. As Laurence Dreyfus, director of Phantasm, suggests in an unusually engaging and detailed booklet note, 'Lawes composes his parts as if the performing musicians are themselves dancing.' The quirks and eccentricities of the music, as well as its longer curves, are teased out in performances of such expertise and commitment that it's impossible not to be swept along by the players' enthusiasm.
Previous recordings of these works have favoured a quintet scoring with two violins at the top of the texture. This new disc from Linn is the first complete account in the alternative and arguably superior version for a quartet of viols plus theorbo continuo. Although we notionally lose one musical 'line', the increased textural homogeneity results in an aural opulence that is indeed fit for a king, enlivened by the strumming continuo.
The individual movements are wide-ranging and so varied that not once does the ear tire across the two full discs. The pavans reference the music of John Dowland, but as refracted through Lawes's own inimitable style, while the aires are delightfully quirky: the opening movement of Sett No.6 even includes imitations of barnyard noises. Two 'Morrisses' vividly summon up visions of the well-known English country dances (Setts 5 and 6), while the sarabands confound expectations as witty postscripts in brisk tempi. Occasionally, Lawes seems able to calm his natural exuberance, as in the Paven of Sett No.10.
With performances that are as lively as they are captivating, Phantasm are also able to include the three Consorts to the Organ that wouldn't squeeze onto an earlier Lawes disc (CKD399). Here the delights are more rarefied – as with the slowly blossoming harmonies of the first Fantazy in Set VII – but no less enjoyable or individual.
The Chapel of Magdalen College, Oxford, provides an ideal acoustic, furnishing the music with just the right degree of warmth and radiance, and the presentation is as sumptuous as the performances themselves. Steeped in a deep understanding of William Lawes's music, they are a treasure indeed.
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