John Jenkins: Complete Four-Part Consort Music

Reviewed on Fri 06 Apr, 2018

Especially striking is the interplay of individual voices that lends proceedings an air of subdued spontaneity.

Arguably the greatest, certainly the most elegant, composer of music for viol consort in a veritable golden age for the instrument, John Jenkins eschewed the regal patronage of the court in favour of the domesticity of the country house. Freed from daunting protocol and with minor keys dominating, these 17 Fantasias and two Pavans carry themselves with a largely mellow, always mellifluous and altogether serene sense of ease. Although composed for amateur players, there’s no absence of virtuosity here, articulated with a quiet, rapt sense of intimacy and aching beauty. The result is a rich tapestry spun from dark-hued threads. In gently controlled performances, Fretwork respond to the music’s subtlety with admirably nuanced finesse and feeling. Especially striking is the interplay of individual voices that lends proceedings an air of subdued spontaneity. The disappointing booklet notes say little about the music but don’t detract from a recital of sumptuous music superbly played. In a word: sublime.
–Michael Quinn