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GRAMOPHONE (11/2023)
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ECM  4856006

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Reviewer :
 Fabrice Fitch

There are many recordings of Purcell’s Fantazias to choose from: broken consort in London Baroque’s early account (EMI, 3/84 – nla), viols from Hespèrion XX (Alia Vox, 9/96), Fretwork (Erato, 3/95; Harmonia Mundi, 9/09) and Phantasm (Simax, 2/97), to name just these, and even a previous one with violin family only from London Baroque again (BIS). John Holloway and friends use a violin, two violas and a cello, which limits them to just the three- and four-part pieces.


They extract more dynamism from the music than many viol consort accounts: the first four-part one is a case in point, usually a rather dreamy thing, but here altogether jauntier. Two moments stand out for me: the opening held cello note of the A minor fades in out of (almost) nowhere, and the slow section of the G major channels late Beethoven – both effects that might be harder to achieve on viols, and which I’ve heard nowhere quite like this. But some may miss the astringency of the viols in some pieces, and in others that dreamlike quality that I’ve just alluded to. Both of these affects are possible on fiddles, of course, so perhaps one’s missing more variety in dynamic, tone or articulation: the pathos of the ending of the three-part F major, for example, is underdone and rendered more poignantly elsewhere. (The charge of lack of variety could, in fairness, be levelled at a few accounts on viols, though in a different sense – and with the conspicuous exception of Hespèrion XX.) Intonation is a touch uncertain at times, which cannot be said of London Baroque’s account for BIS.


Finally, for those buying the physical CD, the duration of the album (little more than 40 minutes’ worth of music, all out of copyright) may seem like poor value for money.

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