A final volume of Bach yields delights

Phantasm: The Well-Tempered Consort III


The Strad Issue: April 2023

Description: A final volume of Bach yields delights

Musicians: Phantasm

Works: Bach: Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1: Prelude and Fugue in G sharp minor, Fugues in C minor, B flat major, D major; Well-Tempered Clavier Book 2: Prelude and Fugue in F minor, Fugues in C sharp minor, B minor, G major, B major, F major, G sharp minor, A minor, D sharp minor; Sinfonias: No.1 in C major, No.8 in F major; Fantasia in G major (Pièce d’orgue); Clavier-Übung III: excerpts

Catalogue number: LINN CKD708 

Surprised as Bach might be to see a consort of viols, out of fashion and consigned back to their boxes in his own day, playing his keyboard works as chamber music, I like to think a smile might come to his face at the sound of his contrapuntal voices taking on characters of their own as each is assigned to an individual viol player.

After two award-winning albums doing just that, viol consort Phantasm, formerly of the UK but based in Berlin since 2015, completes its revelatory project with this third volume. Remaining preludes and fugues from Books 1 and 2 of the Well-Tempered Clavier alternate with less familiar, harmonically adventurous wonders from the third Clavier-Übung – including three kyries and several polyphonic preludes based on chants – in another imaginative programme devised by its director Laurence Dreyfus.

Phantasm’s haunting and luminous consort sound, beautifully captured on this recording, transports us back into chilly candlelit, wood-panelled chambers. The florid embellishments that end many of the fugues come across as spontaneous personal improvisations, and the ability to give extra emphasis on the strong beats brings real zest to the dance-like Fugues in F major and minor. The well-known organ Fantasia in G brings the project to a glorious and moving conclusion.


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