Jenkins: Fantasia-Air sets

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Jenkins
LABELS: Channel
WORKS: Fantasia-Air sets
PERFORMER: Locke Consort
CATALOGUE NO: CCS 17698
This is the world premiere recording of 15 newly discovered works by John Jenkins, one of the finest 17th-century composers of consort music. The Fantasia-Air sets – short ‘suites’ that combine free fantasias with dance-like airs — were probably written in the 1660s for Charles II. They are spry, lyrical works — no doubt intended to please a king who famously disliked ‘musick to which he could not keep the time’. Jenkins had grown up with the music of Byrd, Coprario and Lawes, making him ideally placed to bring together the old-style viol fantasias and the newly fashionable trio sonata. If these hybrid works lack the striking originality of Lawes’s earlier consorts or the harmonic daring of Purcell’s later trio sonatas, they nonetheless make for enjoyable listening, and are remarkably fresh-sounding for a man in his seventies.

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The Locke Consort brilliantly captures the vibrant spirit of this music through crisp articulation and fleet tempi. Its choice of theorbo, rather than organ, on the whole works well, adding percussive impetus if occasionally lacking the keyboard instrument’s weight and sustaining power. All in all, a laudable project and one which should enhance our knowledge of this most appealing composer. Kate Bolton