Friday, June 20, 2008


Four Temperaments - Byrd, Ferrabosco, Parsons, Tallis
Phantasm (plus Emilia Benjamin and Asako Morikawa)
Avie Records, AV2054 (2004)

Tallis: A Solfing song; In nomine I a4; In nomine II a4;
Byrd: Queen's Goodnight (Prelude and Ground); Pavan a6; Galliard a6
Parsons: A song of Mr Robert Parsons; In nomine III a5; De la court; Ut re mi fa sol la; A Song called Trumpets
Ferrabosco: Pavan a5; In nomine I a5; In nomine II a5; In nomine III a5; Fantasia a4; Sur la Rousée (Fantasia a6)


Another fabulous disc from the British gamba quartet, Phantasm, this time joined by Emilia Benjamin and Asako Morikawa. I've been on a bit of a mission to find more of the obscure Robert Parsons, and here are several more of his pieces, in addition to Byrd and Tallis and another fellow of whom I've not heard, Alfonso Ferrabosco (presumably the younger, though he comes from a long line of composers out of Bologna).

There's just something in this presentation--an intimate grouping of expertly-played viols--that brings this music to life. There is a palpable joy in the part writing, in the interplay between voices that bears the indelible stamp of its time and place. But rather than sounding archaic, the group's infectious vitality makes these compositions sound current and thrilling.

The pieces cover an emotional range from rollicking to funereal. The group's phrasing and intonation are spot-on, and the recording is excellent, though close and intimate (in keeping with the settings where this music might originally have been heard, perhaps?). Mr. Parsons shows a bit more playfulness than in the other brief exposures I've heard, and seems to write always with a confident hand.

Highly recommended.

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