Jenkins: Works for chamber ensemble

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COMPOSERS: Jenkins
LABELS: NAIVE
ALBUM TITLE: Jenkins – Fantazia
WORKS: Works for chamber ensemble
PERFORMER: Ensemble Jérome Hantaï
CATALOGUE NO: E 8895
Among viol enthusiasts, John

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Jenkins (1592-1678) towers:

prolific, virtuosic and versatile, he

skilfully moved from polyphonic

to harmonic writing in his mining

of the viol’s expressive potential.

Since his 400th birthday, top

ensembles have shown why his

music deserves recognition outside

circles of viol amateurs.

This recording by the Ensemble

Jérôme Hantaï, an offspring of

a festival performance, rivals

and sometimes outshines

earlier interpretations. Whether

illuminating Jenkins’s contrapuntal

mastery or executing extravagant

diminutions, the Ensemble imbues

each phrase with conviction. Its

strengths shine forth particularly

in the ‘Newark Siege’, whose

programmatic aspects elicit a panache

unmatched in other versions. The

problem is that the Ensemble’s

pleasing muscularity and rich

textures largely result from replacing

treble viols with two violins, adding

an organ and enriching the venue’s

acoustic in the studio. Few works on

this disc seem late enough to justify

the violins, and such a beefing-up of consort playing may offend

Jenkins devotees. Purists will prefer

performances of the same pieces by

the Hespèrion XX (also Naïve) or

the Rose Consort (Naxos), who fit

their interpretations around the viol’s

sonorities. But all said, this recording

will at least entice newcomers to

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explore Jenkins. Berta Joncus