Whisper it, but this must be one of the best-kept secrets in the UK classical calendar. The Lammermuir festival takes place in churches and stately homes around East Lothian, the part of Scotland with the softest contours and most hours of sunlight per annum. There’s a quiet class about the whole thing that generates a special kind of listening; for all the dark arts of conjuring festival ambience, Lammermuir tends to simply programme right and let the music do the talking.
A late-night concert at St Mary’s in Haddington – a riverside church, staunchly gothic and moodily floodlit – featured the viol quartet Phantasm delving into some of the most searching music ever written. JS Bach never finished his epic contrapuntal masterpiece The Art of Fugue: the final passage, in which he enigmatically encrypted his own initials, simply cuts out mid-sentence and nobody quite knows why. The manuscript doesn’t specify instruments, and Phantasm made it their own, spinning each line with a sense of lyrical, wide-eyed storytelling that summed up Bach’s love of song and dance as much as the formidable mathematics of his counterpoint. I only wish they hadn’t played an encore: sure, their Purcell Fantasia was gorgeously lissome, but I wanted to leave with Bach’s mystery still hanging in the dark.
Phantasm/Danny Driver at Lammermuir festival review – lyrical mystery and dauntless cool
St Mary’s Parish & Holy Trinity Churches, Haddington
One of the UK’s classiest classical festivals saw viol quartet Phantasm excel in an unfinished Bach masterpiece
To Phantasm's amazement, Lawes's Royal Consort (Linn Records) is #2 in the UK Specialist Classical Charts for the week of 23-30 May 2015, and - what's even more startling - #9 in the Classical Artist Albums.
Hurrah for Lawes and English Consort Music!
Official Specialist Classical Chart Top 30 | 24-05-2015 - 30-05-2015 | Official Charts Company
Compiled by the Official Charts Company, the UK's biggest specialist classical albums of the week, based on sales of digital bundles, CDs, vinyl and other formats, across a seven day period.
On Tuesday 25 March at 7.30p (CET), Austrian Radio (ORF1) broadcasts Phantasm's concert from the 2014 Resonanzen Festival at the Vienna Konzerthaus.
The Festival's theme this year was Oddballs (Querköpfe).Modifying the Wagnerian logo visible on the Konzerthaus portals, Phantasm sought to 'conjure up goodly spirits' by 'honouring' some wonderfully eccentric English 'masters' - Lawes, Tomkins, Jenkins, and Gibbons.
Byrd Fantasia a6 (II)
Byrd Pavan and Galliard a6
Lawes Sett in F a5 - Fantazia
Lawes Sett in F a5 - Pavan
Lawes Sett in F a5 - Aire
Gibbons Galliard a6
Lawes - Sett in g a6 Aire
Best heard with decent audio playback!
'For stylistic insight and subtlety [Phantasm's recording of William Byrd's Mass in Four Voices played on viols alone] is ironically one of the most satisfying performances of Byrd's Mass.' - Andrew McGregor (6 June 2013)