His discography may not be extensive, perhaps, but in terms of quality John Jenkins has been remarkably well served on disc, first by Fretwork (Virgin) and more recently by the Ensemble Jérôme Hantai (Naïve). His msic makes enough demands on players to be more than a match for all but the most intrepid consorts. On that count Phantasm have few worries, though as with the previous recordings, there is the odd moment to remind one that these superlative musicians, too, may find themselves taxed. Never mind; the real interest in this recording lies in the different approach Phantasm bring to this music. The slightly languid, Carolinian reserve one so associates with the repertory is replaced by a more incisive, top-down approach, with sharper attacks and more forthright articulation.
This brings the viol consort nearer to the sound and feel of the string quartet than it has ever been on disc. Whether this reflects what a viol consort is ‘about’ is a moot point, but to hear music of this refinement and subtlety in a new light is exciting. Of the three anthologies mentioned, Phantasm’s is most focused on the six-part consorts; Fretwork’s and Hantai’s programmes are rather more varied. Phantasm do their formidable reputation no harm here; if they coax listeners into snapping up more of this music, they have done right by Jenkins, too.