Matthew Locke: For Lovers of Consort Music

Linn Records CKD 594

Of all the composers of Jacobean viol consort music, it seems to me that Matthew Locke is the one who makes most characteristic use of the viol while at the same time maintaining his roots firmly in the English idiom. The various four-part Suites and the two six-part Canons which Phantasm have chosen for this rich and varied programme show every aspect of Locke’s talent, ranging from music of profound intensity and seriousness to dancing episodes of felicitous energy. The sonorous texture of the viols is beautifully augmented by the theorbo of Elizabeth Kenny, which adds a percussive quality to the superbly smooth viol texture, points up the part writing and enriches the harmonies. These musicians are steeped in the music of this turbulent period, which saw the execution of a king, the temporary triumph of republicanism and then the restoration of monarchy, and they apply the full depth of their understanding to this unique music all composed in the potentially hostile England of Cromwell. As the group’s director Laurence Dreyfus suggests in his hugely readable programme note, this ‘hostile environment’ goes some way to explain Locke’s constant quest for novelty and originality. However, this is by no means music for those with a short attention span, as for every quirky body-swerve and unexpected change of tack there is an extended and eloquent passage in which a musical idea is more than fully developed. This is a lovely CD oozing musicality from every pore, and Phantasm and Elizabeth Kenny provide expert guidance through every twist and turn of Locke’s rich imagination.

D. James Ross

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