PHANTASM - LAWES: THE ROYAL CONSORT - THE GUARDIAN
07 May 2015
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The viol music of William Lawes (1602-1645) is like nothing else: weird phrase lengths, irreverent weightings and rogue, sumptuous harmonies that will make you gasp out loud every time. Sometimes he seems to repeat a snatch of melody simply because it's too gorgeous not to, which must have caused havoc for anyone actually trying to dance to his music. The Royal Consort comprises 10 sets (or "setts" in the 17th-century lexicon) composed for the court of Charles I, and recorded here for the first time in their complete original versions for four viols and theorbo. In his sleeve notes, treble viol player and Phantasm director Laurence Dreyfus makes the point that "Lawes composes his parts as if the performing musicians are themselves dancing". It's a brilliant starting point, and the Phantasm players really run with it: twist after turn of lapping, pliant lines and spirited counterpoint, all done with a real sense of swing. The ensemble sound is luxuriantly rich, powered by Elizabeth Kenny's feisty theorbo strumming.