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Reviewer :
Mark Seow

What a wonderful surprise. I had assumed that with Vol 2 of their ‘Well-Tempered Consort’ done and dusted, Phantasm had long completed their project of Bach arrangements for viol consort. Lucky for us, Laurence Dreyfus chose to ignore the two-part structure of Bach’s so-called ‘48’, and here is the third (and final) instalment. In addition to the WellTempered Clavier books, Phantasm have drawn on Bach’s mighty Clavier-Übung III for organ (1739). They’ve also dipped into Bach’s earlier Weimar period, and have included a transcription of the Pièce d’orgue, the second section of the Fantasia in G, BWV572 (c1710). The transcriptions, as the excellent two first instalments would have us expect, are exceptional.


Phantasm couldn’t have created a lovelier way to open the album. The Sinfonia No 1 in C, BWV787, conjures a wonderful sense that we are embarking on a journey together: the performance bubbles with anticipation and a charming naivety. The individual melodic lines are gently inflected and the palpable rapport between the players spins the narrative with enviously childlike ease. And then it’s over before it’s hardly begun: leave the room and you’ll miss it. Indeed, some of the fugal structures are so fast-moving – how delight unmarkedly slips into angst in the Fugue in B minor (Book 2). Phantasm glide through different moods with the slink of a SWAT team.


The arrangements sound incredibly fresh. Yet glorious above all is the sense that I know them dearly: indeed, are these the performances I’ve been waiting some decades for? Are these, with fingers fumbling over fugal entries as a young violinist sitting at the piano, what I could hear in my mind’s ear? This sensation is particularly palpable for the Fugue in C minor (Book 1) and the Prelude in F minor (Book 2): there is lusciousness here that I could never find at the piano. Recoloured in this scrumptious, nasal resonance, Phantasm have brought to life aspects of Bach’s music I knew to be there, inscribed into the musical notation, with utter stylishness.

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