William Lawes – The Royal Consort – Phantasm (2015) [LINN FLAC 24/96]

William Lawes – The Royal Consort – Phantasm (2015)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96kHz | Time – 02:23:30 minutes | 2,54 GB | Genre: Classical
Official Digital Download – Source: LINN | © LINN Records
Recorded: September 2014, Chapel of Magdalen College, Oxford, United Kingdom

Described as ‘one of the greatest collections of ensemble dance music ever composed’, Lawes’ Royal Consort is full of astounding moments of striking musical invention. Guest musicians Elizabeth Kenny on theorbo, Emily Ashton on tenor viol and organist Daniel Hyde join Phantasm to honour the celebrated English Renaissance composer. This sublime collection boasts a range and depth of expression, which excites both mind and body through Lawes’ startlingly individual pieces.

This recording is the first complete recording of Lawes’ version of the Royal Consorts for four viols and theorbo. Phantasm, under the direction of Laurence Dreyfus, presents a passionate and insightful look into this adventurous music. The result is a rich and warm recording of technical brilliance that takes the listener deep into the harmonically rich world of Lawes.

Phantasm’s previous recording of Lawes, Consorts to the Organ, was both a Gramophone Awards finalist and a BBC Music Magazine Award nominee in 2013.

William Lawes’s 10 Royal Consort sets (or suites) were probably composed for the Caroline court during the 1630s. Unswerving royalist loyalty cost him his life at the Siege of Chester in 1645, but not before he had made six-part rearrangements for two violins, bass viols and theorbos. This later version has an eminent discography but Phantasm instead present the first complete recording of the original pieces for four-part viol consort and theorbo. Performer-scholar Laurence Dreyfus begins his 14-page booklet essay in bold fashion: ‘One mustn’t mince words. To put it frankly, this is one of the greatest collections of ensemble dance music ever composed.’ He argues that Lawes’s sets are on a par with Bach’s Orchestral Suites and Rameau’s ballet music but criticises that the later expanded versions ‘offer a clear case of how artists can spoil their work by an excess of fussing’.
Phantasm’s playing brims with imaginative fantasy and dance-like momentum, although from time to time Lawes’s unpredictable liberties with irregular phrase lengths would not have suited actual dancers (eg an Aire and Corant at the core of Set No 7). Every shift in imitative contrapuntal detail, rhythmical emphasis and melodic direction serves a conversational discourse between the pair of treble viols (Dreyfus and Emilia Benjamin) and the tenor and bass viols (Jonathan Manson, Mikko Perkola and Markku Luolajan-Mikkola); Elizabeth Kenny’s theorbo continuo realisations are a model of tasteful clarity. Concise individual pieces often display rare sophistication, such as the seemingly floating Paven that begins No 9 and a song-like Galliard in No 2. A vividly accentuated ‘Morriss’ folk dance follows hot on the heels of an elegant Corant (No 6) without any hint of formulaic articulation. Strong doses of Jacobean melancholy are abundant in a few longer pieces such as the Paven in D minor that starts No 2; this is one of several pavans that quotes from Dowland’s Lacrimae but the inclusion of an extra short set for four-part viols dating from earlier in Lawes’s career suggests that Dowland’s influence cast a subtler shadow later on. A pleasing broadening of textures is injected into this beguiling survey by the additional tenor violist Emily Ashton and organist Daniel Hyde in some denser six-part sets that could not be squeezed on to Phantasm’s 2012 recording of Lawes’s Consorts to the Organ (2/13). –David Vickers, Gramophone

The viol music of William Lawes (1602-1645) is like nothing else: weird phrase lengths, irreverent weightings and rogue, sumptuous harmonies that will make you gasp out loud every time. Sometimes he seems to repeat a snatch of melody simply because it’s too gorgeous not to, which must have caused havoc for anyone actually trying to dance to his music. The Royal Consort comprises 10 sets (or “setts” in the seventeenth-century lexicon) composed for the court of Charles I, and recorded here for the first time in their complete original versions for four viols and theorbo. In his sleeve notes, treble viol player and Phantasm director Laurence Dreyfus makes the point that “Lawes composes his parts as if the performing musicians are themselves dancing”. It’s a brilliant starting point, and the Phantasm players really run with it: twist after turn of lapping, pliant lines and spirited counterpoint, all done with a real sense of swing. The ensemble sound is luxuriantly rich, powered by Elizabeth Kenny’s feisty theorbo strumming. –Kate Molleson, The Guardian


William Lawes (1602-1645)

Royal Consort Set 1 in D minor
1 Aire[1’38]2 Alman[1’46]3 Corant[1’42]4 Corant[0’53]5 Saraband[0’43]

Royal Consort Set 4 in D major
6 Paven[4’54]7 Aire[1’22]8 Aire[2’01]9 Aire[2’02]10 Corant[1’16]11 Corant[1’32]12 Saraband[0’30]

Royal Consort Set 3 in D minor
13 Aire[2’16]14 Aire[1’31]|
15 Corant[1’19]16 Alman[1’20]17 Corant[1’24]18 Saraband[0’44]

Royal Consort Set 5 in D major
19 Aire[3’30]20 Aire[1’42]21 Alman[1’06]22 Corant[1’52]23 Corant[1’20]24 Morriss[0’39]25 Saraband[0’49]

Royal Consort Set 8 in C major
26 Aire[2’18]27 Alman[1’27]28 Corant[2’08]29 Corant[0’44]30 Saraband[0’31]

Royal Consort Set 9 in F major
31 Paven[6’33]32 Aire[1’43]33 Alman[1’42]34 Corant[1’08]35 Alman[1’44]36 Corant[1’38]37 Saraband[0’28]

Consorts to the organ Set 4 in F major
38 Fantazy[2’42]39 Paven[6’10]40 Aire[2’13]

Royal Consort Set 2 in D minor
41 Paven[5’45]42 Aire[1’28]43 Aire[1’30]44 Galliard[1’17]45 Corant[1’28]46 Saraband[0’47]

Royal Consort Set 6 in D major
47 Aire[1’53]48 Alman[1’25]49 Corant[2’09]50 Morriss[0’45]

Royal Consort Set 7 in A minor
51 Aire[2’24]52 Alman[1’48]53 Alman[1’09]54 Aire[1’21]55 Corant[1’41]56 Saraband[0’29]

Royal Consort Set 10 in B flat major
57 Paven[3’48]58 Alman[1’59]59 Corant[1’33]60 Alman[1’55]61 Corant[1’04]62 Saraband[0’35]

Set in D minor
63 Paven[6’07]64 Alman[2’12]65 Saraband[0’34]

Consorts to the organ Set 10 in C minor
66 Fantazy[3’09]67 Fantazy[3’26]68 Inomine[4’04]69 Aire[2’33]

Consorts to the organ Set 7 in C major
70 Fantazy[3’50]71 Fantazy[3’04]72 Aire[3’18]

Laurence Dreyfus – treble viol and director
Emilia Benjamin – treble viol
Jonathan Manson – tenor viol
Mikko Perkola – tenor viol (tracks 38-40) and bass viol (tracks 66-72)
Markku Luolajan-Mikkola – bass viol
Elizabeth Kenny – theorbo (tracks 1-37 and 41-65)
Daniel Hyde – organ (tracks 38-40 and 66-72)
Emily Ashton – tenor viol (tracks 66-72)





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