Jenkins: Four-Part Consorts
Phantasm (Linn Records)
Four-Part Consorts: Fantasies Nos 1-17; Pavans
Linn Records CKD677 76:15 mins
Phantasm’s hat-trick of recordings exploring the complete viol consorts of John Jenkins reaches its conclusion here with the four-part works of the 1620s. The disc features 17 fantasies and two pavans – and if that sounds like too much of a good thing, rest assured that Jenkins fills these bonbons with sufficient variety to sustain interest. Each work responds to the ‘affect’ of the associated key: from the serenity of C major to the pathos of C minor, from joyful D major to wistful D minor, and so on. Unlike his contemporary William Lawes, though, Jenkins is never ponderous or moody, and these little gems sparkle with contrapuntal bravura, each part bantering in felicitous conversation. Melodies flow like wine and dancing rhythms give way to fleeting moments of quiet reflection.
Phantasm brings its distinctively light, luminous and spectral sound to these busy tapestries, and the consort’s translucent textures are enriched in sundry pieces by the velvet warmth of a chamber organ. In the fantasies, the players’ lithe articulation propels the music forward with graceful energy, while the two pavans are beautifully poised – tableaux of stillness midst the repartee. The airy recorded sound is expertly balanced.