LABELS: Virgin Veritas
WORKS: The Mirrour and Wonder of His Age
PERFORMER: Fretwork, Paul Nicholson (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: VC 5 45230 2
John Jenkins’s long career spanned the reign of Charles I, the Commonwealth and the Restoration, during which time he produced hundreds of pieces for viol consort, and a smattering of vocal works to boot. His viol music shows him above all to be a fine lyricist and miniaturist, if never quite matching the originality and tonal audacity of his friend William Lawes. This collection includes a cross-section of the genres he used: fantasies, In nomines, pavans, pieces for the chordally played ‘lyra’ viol and suites. Stylistically, the suites are the most individual – particularly a C major work for two trebles, bass and organ which looks forward to the trio sonata in its more transparent texture, and in virtuoso writing which taxes even Fretwork’s proficiency.
In the ten years since its formation, this ensemble has established itself as a Rolls-Royce among viol consorts, offering performances that are always finely tuned, polished and reassuringly reliable. It’s only a pity that current pressure on performers to produce ‘immaculate’ recordings seems to prevent them taking any musical risks: one would forgive a few rough edges for an extra ounce of intensity. Kate Bolton