Ward: Fantasies & Verse Anthems

Reviewed on Mon 26 Jan, 2015

English composer John Ward (c1589-1638) wrote these anthems and viol fantasies while a close associate of the young Prince of Wales, Henry Stuart, by all accounts a cultured and musically astute young man who died prematurely in 1612, but not before Ward had (very possibly) written 'This is a joyful, happy holy day' and several other works at his behest. In this and the other anthems performed here Ward interweaves solo voices and viols to create a rich, polyphonic tapestry of sound, though never sacrificing the clarity of the sung text. The viols are integral to the mood, sometimes prefiguring the vocal lines, sometimes (as in the opening of 'Down, caitiff wretch') setting the scene with their own melodic material before the voices join. The four viol-players of Phantasm are a fluent, resonant string quartet whose dark, treacle-rich tones blend beautifully with the Choir of Magdalen College. A captivating album.
–Mark Walker