The Fantasies for viol consort by Orlando Gibbons are among the most sublime works in the string repertory, leading on to the Fantasies of Purcell, even breathing the same air as late Beethoven quartets. Sadly on disc they have too often been treated to performances that slice your ears off in period abrasiveness, but happily the group, Phantasm, is different, at once authoritative and beautifully matched.
The complexity of the six Fantasies in six parts, presented here as a cohesive group, is astonishing both in rhythm and counterpoint, and the two six-part In Nomines, more austere, have a similar intensity.
Four Fantasies in three parts demonstrate Gibbons's contrapuntal mastery just as clearly. Quoting the composer, Phantasm supplement this music written specifically for viols with transcriptions of such keyboard pieces as the superb Lord Salisbury Pavan as well as three of Gibbons's greatest vocal pieces, the motets, O Lord in Thy Wrath and Hosanna to the Son of David, and the lovely madrigal, The Silver Swan.