musica Dei donum
Orlando Gibbons: "Consorts for Viols"
Dir: Laurence Dreyfus
rec: Sep 2003, Oxford (U.K.), Merton College (Chapel)
AVIE - AV0032 (71'48")
Fantasia I a 6 (MB 31);
Fantasia II a 6 (MB 32);
Fantasia III a 6 (MB 33);
Fantasia IV a 6 (MB 34);
Fantasia V a 6 (MB 35);
Fantasia VI a 6 (MB 36);
Fantasy I a 3 (MB 7);
Fantasy II a 3 (MB 8);
Fantasy III a 3 (MB 9);
Fantasy IV a 3 (MB 10);
Go from my Window (MB 40);
Hosanna to the Son of David;
In Nomine I a 5 (MB 27);
In Nomine II a 5 (MB 28);
O Lord, in thy wrath rebuke me not;
Pavan and Galliard (MB 41/42);
Pavan Lord Salisbury;
Peascod Time (The Huntís Up);
The Silver Swan
(MB = Musica Brittannica)
Wendy Gillespie, treble viol;
Jonathan Manson, tenor viol;
Markku Luolajan-Mikkola, bass viol;
with Susanna Pell, tenor viol;
Asako Morikawa, bass viol
Orlando Gibbons was a composer of high reputation, as is shown by the jobs which were
given to him. Having been a chorister at King's College in Cambridge he was mainly active
as a keyboard player. From 1603 until his death in 1625 he acted as musician in the Chapel
Royal. In 1617 he became one of the 17 musicians in the private chapel of Charles, Prince
of Wales. And in 1619 he was appointed virginalist in the royal privy chamber. In 1625 his
death after a short illness was widely mourned, in particular in Court circles.
Not only as a player but also as a composer he was mostly known for his keyboard music.
Some of his pieces were published in collections with compositions by renowned masters of
the keyboard, like Byrd and Bull.
He also composed sacred and secular vocal music. In particular in the sacred works he
showed great mastery of polyphony and was keen to express the words in the music.
His music for consort is far less known. None of this was published during his lifetime.
And although some of the pieces on this disc have been recorded before this is the first
recording which is entirely devoted to Gibbons' consort music.
Laurence Dreyfus, the leader of Phantasm, has the unique ability to communicate his
enthusiasm for the music he performs. His liner notes show his passionate belief in the
consort music of Orlando Gibbons. He tries to convince the listener that the six
Fantasias which open this disc are masterpieces, and he succeeds. Like a tourist
guide he points to the things the listener should pay attention to, like the rhythmic
irregularities of the Fantasia V, or the melancholic character of the opening
passages of Fantasias III and VI. And by persuading his audience that
unusual things are happening, they discover things he doesn't mention, like the
extraordinary harmonic development in Fantasia V.
There are more pieces here which deserve to be considered masterpieces. One of them is the
second setting of In Nomine. It creates the picture of a river, quietly streaming
at its source, than gradually becoming stronger and wilder, and finally coming to rest in
Apart from the pieces Gibbons composed for viol consort Phantasm has also recorded
keyboard music, a madrigal and two anthems. In the case of the madrigal The Silver Swan
Laurence Dreyfus refers to the title of the collection it comes from (Madrigals and
Motets, 1612) which says they are "apt for voices or viols". It works very well in a
performance with viols, and this short piece is another masterwork. The anthems also come
across quite well, in particular the reflective O Lord, in thy wrath rebuke me not.
By the way, it had been a good idea to print the texts of the vocal items in the booklet.
The first keyboard work, Peascod Time, which is a musical picture of a hunt,
doesn't work for me. The 'running' melodic lines, with their long sequences of short notes,
don't sound very natural on viols. But the second item, Pavan Lord Salisbury,
with its many dissonances, gets a moving performance here.
The programme ends on a lighter note, with a Pavan and Galliard, and variations on
the song Go from my window.
The virtue of this brilliant recording by Phantasm is that it points out Gibbons's
consort music belongs to the best of its kind. Its playing is a vivid and eloquent
underpinning of the passionate plea of its leader in the booklet.
Johan van Veen (© 2004)