The Strad Issue: October 2016
Description: Subtle and intimate performances of Dowland’s tear-stained viol cycle
Musicians: Phantasm, Elizabeth Kenny (lute)
Composer: John Dowland
Catalogue number: LINN CKD 527 (SACD)

Subtle and intimate performances of Dowland’s tear-stained viol cycle Phantasm’s luminous and beautifully blended viol consort sound is given a quite different slant in this recording, with the addition of lutenist Elizabeth Kenny. The lute here is not just ‘insinuating’ (Kenny’s word) itself into the consort’s music but playing its own intricately worked part. The result is an attractive lightening of the texture, with little plucked extensions to cadences acting as thoughtful afterwords. Dowland’s 1604 Lachrimae comprises seven slow pavans, each named after a different type of tear, followed by 14 shorter and generally livelier dances, many arranged from songs he published seven years earlier. The Lachrimae sequence is an intensely felt, almost draining experience to listen to. The five players of Phantasm, directed by treble viol player Laurence Dreyfus, bow Dowland’s drooping lines with infinite skill, bringing subtle exchanges of light and shade to his music. In ‘Lachrimae gementes’ (tears of groaning), the treble viol’s passionate interjection really tugs at the heart. The dances, mostly galliards named after celebrities of the day, are a delightful selection, from the leaping syncopations of ‘The Earl of Essex Galliard’ to the intricate lute part in ‘The King of Denmark’s Galliard’. Phantasm relishes the unexpected accents and changes of metre, and the recording puts you right there in the room with them.

Janet Banks