Here’s another valuable contribution from Phantasm to the repertory of English viol consort music on disc. Locke’s suites consist, for the most part, of a substantial multisectional fantasia followed by a group of dance-like pieces, usually courante, ayre and saraband. One says ‘dance-like’ advisedly, because although they fall into the standard bipartite form with each half repeated, these are clearly no more dances for dancing than those in Couperin’s ordres or Bach’s keyboard suites and partitas. They are true chamber music, to be enjoyed above all by the players, who can relish the genuinely contrapuntal conversation of their individual parts and the witty shifts of rhythm (particularly in the courantes).
For all his turbulence as a personality, Locke’s music on the whole makes a less extravagant impression than that of William Lawes, which Phantasm has also recorded recently (reviewed by me on page 64 of the August issue). At the same time there is something almost theatrical about the way in which the various sections of the opening fantasias juxtapose contrasting material, contrasting moods. The young Purcell, who knew Locke’s music and composed an elegy on his death in 1677, learnt much from this, and Phantasm’s alert, pointed playing does full justice to it. The six four-part consorts are printed in Volume 32 of Musica Britannica, the three part ‘Flatt Consort’ in volume 31.