Byrd: Songs; Consorts

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Byrd
LABELS: Simax
WORKS: Songs; Consorts
PERFORMER: Geraldine McGreevy (soprano), Ian Partridge (tenor); Phantasm/Laurence Dreyfus
CATALOGUE NO: PSC 1191
Phantasm’s artistic policy to ‘dwell in the here and now’ rather than attempt to recreate the past has resulted in some of the most vital and unashamedly passionate viol-playing around today. Here, the four instruments are optimally balanced – conversing, articulating and breathing in quasi-vocal fashion. Intonation and ensemble are near impeccable; rhythms are keenly buoyant in the dance-inspired pieces, sinuous in the more reflective ones.

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The same policy has, presumably, led to their choice of two singers whose voices are a far cry from what has been decried as the ‘whitewashed’ early music sound. Ian Partridge will be well known to many readers – particularly as a Lieder and opera singer –and here he is in fine form, though the vocal timbre is a touch dry at times. Geraldine McGreevy is less well established, though her lustrous, bell-like voice and intelligent delivery are most appealing. Overall, though, I found a slight mismatch of styles between singers and consort: the voices lack the purity and candour of the instruments, and can dominate Byrd’s polyphony rather than form an integral part of the texture. And while the members of Phantasm certainly imbue their playing with Romantic spirit, they are nonetheless deeply grounded in period style. Kate Bolton