Lufthansa Baroque Festival 15 June 2000 St John's Smith Square - London (England)
Flights of Fancy and Fugue
The highlight of the festival for me was the performance on 15 June by Phantasm, a young London-based viol consort. In the first half they performed fancies and fantazias episodic works, with dark, chocolatey harmony by Richard Mico and Henry Purcell. The balance was near-perfect, their intonation superb. They breathed, swayed and listened as one: this was truly communicative, engaging music-making. The second half contained two fascinating groups of works: Mozart's arrangements for quartet of fugues from the book 2 of the Well-Tempered Clavier (K405) and movements from Bach's Art of Fugue (BWV 1080). In the Mozart arrangements the unfolding of the familiar fugues was beautifully articulated, with contrasting subjects and countersubjects well characterised as they moved around the semicircle of players. Best of all was the Bach: no note or phrase went unthought, each player aware of his place in the shifting polyphonic web. This was far from a didactic performance: indeed, the ravelling and unknotting of tension, the ebb and flow of the musical argument, was touching, alive. I was unexpectedly moved by this most intellectual of works. The rush of warm applause which followed was heartfelt, and well-deserved.