Early Music Review

A real feast of Gibbons: all six 6-part fantasies, two of the 5-part In Nomines, 4 of the 3-part fantasies, some keyboard pieces arranged for consorts, The Silver Swan and two anthems: O Lord, in thy wrath rebuke me not and Hosanna to the Son of David. Pavan, Galliard, and the brilliant (and brilliantly played) Go from my Window divisions bring the disc to a toe-tapping conclusion. The approach is mostly full-toned, strongly contrasted, almost orchestral at times. The playing is at once authoritative and careful, with a studied feel to it, which suits the music. I feel these string works of Gibbons are the perfection of the genre - a mix of charm to the senses and delight to the musical mind, with that extra fire of inspiration which warms the greatest music. This is evident enough in the 3 part fantasies, with their delight in puzzles and cross-rhythms, yet an almost popular melodiousness like the opening of VdGS 1, but particularly in, for example, the ecstatic opening of that A minor 6-part fantasy which requires the two treble viols to be so perfectly tuned. The arranged keyboard works are fun, but less convincing to me as consort pieces than the vocal works. My enjoyment is slightly tempered by some over-emphatic accents and contrasts, and over precise imitation of some phrases, but the playing is really very good, and the music so marvellous that it can be warmly recommended.



May 2004


Robert Oliver

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