Developing an already enviable discography with a similar predeliction for English Consort Music, Laurence Dreyfus and his internationally acclaimed ensemble Phantasm advance their exposure of music by John Ward in a second album. This time, joined by the Choir of Magdalen College, Oxford, the microscope is aimed at small-scale instrumental pieces and more substantial sacred works in John Ward: Fantasies and verse anthems (Linn CDK247). Throughout six four-part viol fantasies, and seven accompanied anthems in an hour-long recital, this well-structured selection displays Ward’s energy and ambition, as well as his skill in refined, yet unrestrained music for the chapel of the court. The instrumental ensemble is at once charming and elegant, then fiery and direct with an impressive focus that relishes each individual viol’s rich tone in a rewarding body of sound that unfolds a flowing, seamless musical discourse. Daniel Hyde’s Magdalen choir responds admirably to Ward’s extraordinary word-setting, and confident, well-trained soloists lead naturally into full choir with impressive clarity of text. Including inventive music that is perhaps pointing the way towards Purcell, Dreyfus’s informed liner note unravels the history of Ward’s life and music through the story of his times, and makes an excellent case for further investigation. It does not seem unreasonable to assume that we may, happily, anticipate additional volumes.
Review of John Ward: Fantasies and verse anthems
Early Music, (February 2016 ), p.171
By Andrew H. King