Celestial harmonies: top classical albums of 2006 ****
Cast aside any prejudices you might have about 'early music' and try these amazing viol pieces by John Jenkins (1592-1678). Born in Maidstone, he was mainly active in East Anglia, and one can imagine that he was a welcome guest in the great houses where a 'chest of viols' was part of the furniture. These works in six astonishingly equal parts were written for amateurs but respond well to the highly professional musicians of Phantasm, led by the American Laurence Dreyfus. This is the kind of playing that banishes any thought of dry and dusty antiquarian professors. The four members of Phantasm and their guests hold the interest with lively interchanges.
You have the feeling that you are eavesdropping on six friends who are indulging in viol consorts for their own enjoyment. The recordings are splendidly alive, too.