Jenkins: Complete four-part consort music

Fretwork
83:02 (2 CDs in a single jewel case)
Signum Records SIGCD528

Britain’s premiere viol consort gives wonderfully spirited and expressive accounts of Jenkins’ 17 Fantasias and two Pavans for four viols in this comprehensive and thoroughly engaging double CD set. Sometimes complete recordings such as these need to be dipped in and out of, but such is the variety Jenkins builds into his Fantasias, almost as if he anticipated them receiving complete performances, that boredom is never a danger. Compared to the other English masters of the viol consort, it strikes me that Jenkins displays two diagnostic features: his unerring sense of melodic direction which carries his music through every harmonic complexity, and his unfailing musical imagination which evokes constantly stimulating phrases from even a quite limited number of voice parts. Fretwork’s incomparable familiarity with this repertoire makes them the perfect guide through Jenkins’ rich collection of works, and just as their interpretations never flag neither does our interest. About halfway through the second CD it struck me that these are in general pretty upbeat readings of works, which could conceivably be played much more slowly, but Fretwork’s attention to detail means that we miss nothing in these charming and idiomatic performances.

D. James Ross

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