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Fanfare Magazine: 38:5 (04-05/2015) 
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Musica Ficta

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Reviewer: Barry Brenesal

This is the second recording by The Spirit of Gambo of music by John Jenkins. Christopher Brodersen greatly enjoyed a release by the ensemble of Jenkins’s Consort Musick of 4 Parts (Musica Ficta 8011) over two years ago, in Fanfare 35:5. He described the album as “everything one could hope for: polished and expressive, quite hypnotically beautiful, in fact.” He also described it as containing all of the composer’s four-part fantasias, though this latest release includes seven four-part fantasias, as well as three airs, three pavans, and a galliard, all in four parts, as well. I suspect the answer is that the earlier album was comprised of music for viol consort, while this one includes works that mix violins with viols. No word on this is given in the short, uninformative liner notes, but instrumental substitution would have been a common enough practice during the composer’s time—indeed, encouraged by composers and publishers alike, who wanted to sell as much music as possible, during a period when score sales was a big business, and home entertainment meant a lot of amateur but proficient musicians.

The performances are smoothly played, well articulated, and energetically paced. The musicians keep an important sonic distinction among the parts that allows any to take appropriate lead as defined by the homophonic, polyphonically independent or imitative textures. Phrasing is subtly flexible. All four performers are expert, and they are joined by organist Haru Kitamika on what sounds like a chamber organ in three works: the Galliard XXIV, Fantasia XXXI, and the witty Fantasia XV. She balances well against the consort and doesn’t overwhelm them. Musica Ficta’s engineering is spacious without being heavily reverberant, a killer in works of this kind.

Among the competition for CDs devoted to Jenkins, I find that the Rose Consort of Viols on Jenkins: In a Garden Green (Naxos 8.550687) possessing a tight, moderately harsh tone, while Jordi Savall with Hespèrion XX (Astrée 9962, currently out of print) is anachronistically outsized, and too emotive after a modern fashion. The only other release in the running, in fact, comes from the ensemble’s earlier album, mentioned above; and as it complements rather competes, I can recommend both unreservedly.



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