DOWLAND: Lachrimae or Seven Tears – Phantasm – Linn

JOHN DOWLAND: Lachrimae or Seven Tears – Phantasm – Linn multichannel SACD CKD 527, 57:00 (8-12-16) [Distr. by Naxos] *****:

Phantasm just keep doing excellent recordings of early music.

This new audiophile recording, featuring lutenist Elizabeth Kenny and Phantasm, directed by Laurence Dreyfus, takes listeners on a refreshingly varied Dowland soundscape in which sublime sadness, grief, anger and melancholy is consoled by moments of joy and gladness. Dowland’s exceptional melodies combined with Phantasm’s luxuriantly rich sound really is a match made in heaven.

Half in jest, I asked Phantasm why they need a director on a recording by five musicians. Here is Phantasm’s wonderful answer:

“Some viol consorts are more democratic groupings, but Laurence Dreyfus founded and has directed Phantasm since they were first formed in 1994 and he’s been called director on each of their 17 or so recordings since then. The idea was first to develop a unified approach to sound and ‘interpretation’ – Dreyfus also works on all editions and manuscript sources when needed as Phantasm make their way through the entire tradition of English viol music along with Bach’s Art of Fugue (and still to come, some French and Italian repertoires), and it shows, we think, in the concentrated way Phantasm plays where one person still has the final say and has an overview and oversight on the entire artistic project of the group.”

“The other Phantasm players have over the years certainly become far more involved and there is very much a chamber music feel to the group but Dreyfus still has the scholarly and musical expertise to formulate the overall approach. Some famous late 19th-century string quartets – Joachim or Hellmesberger – for example – were ‘led’, i.e. directed from the first violin, and there were only four players, and the group bore the name of the first violinist, so there’s a precedent also lurking in the background.”

—Laurence Vittes

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