A recording consisting entirely of six-part fantasies, pavanes and In nomines by a single composer, even one of Jenkins's calibre, may not necessarily be a guaranteed best-seller. When performed by Phantasm, however, this fine programme is sure to be welcomed by anybody who relishes beautifully crafted, profoundly expressive and enjoyably characterful early instrumental music.
Their playing has a lightfooted crispness and precision which, when combined with their strong sense of rhythmic momentum, gives the complex web of six-part polyphony a remarkable clarity and transparency. This makes it easy to appreciate both Jenkins's skill in creating the tapestry of closely interweaving lines, abounding in rhythmic traps for the unwary, and the players' achievement in surmounting all difficulties with elegant ease and bringing to life the music's kaleidoscopic range of continually changing moods.
Melancholy and reflective passages have a sometimes heartbreaking eloquence which shows Phantasm's rich, glowing sound to full advantage, while livelier ones overflow with delightfully sparkling playfulness, giving each of these 16 fascinatingly varied pieces its own distinctive character.