Jenkins: The Mirrour and Wonder of His Age

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COMPOSERS: Jenkins
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.

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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