Ward Viol Consort Music

John Ward’s well crafted consort music in stunning performances by Phantasm

Author: 
Julie Anne Sadie
Ward Viol Consort MusicWard Viol Consort Music

Ward Viol Consort Music

  • (7) Fantasias a 6, A minor (VdGS1)
  • (7) Fantasias a 6, A minor (VdGS3)
  • (7) Fantasias a 6, VdGS6
  • (7) Fantasias a 6, F (VdGS2)
  • (7) Fantasias a 6, G minor (VdGS4)
  • (7) Fantasias a 6, VdGS5
  • (7) Fantasias a 6, C minor (VdGS7)
  • Fantasia No 1 a5, 'Dolce languir'
  • Fantasia No 2 a5, 'La Rondinella'
  • (7) Fantasias a 6, A minor (VdGS3)
  • (7) Fantasias a 6, G minor (VdGS4)
  • (7) Fantasias a 6, VdGS5
  • (7) Fantasias a 6, VdGS6
  • (7) Fantasias a 6, C minor (VdGS7)
  • Fantasia No 8 a5
  • Fantasia No 9 a5
  • Fantasia No 10 a5
  • Fantasia No 11 a5, 'Cor mio'
  • Fantasia No 13 a5, 'Non fu senze'
  • Fantasia No 12 a5, 'Leggiada sei'
  • In Nomine a5
  • In Nomine a 6 No. 1
  • In Nomine No 2 a6

Beyond the occasional madrigal, we haven’t heard much of John Ward’s music on CD. As in its own day, it has until now remained the preserve of amateurs. Ward was a Jacobean “gentleman” who published a single collection of madrigals in 1613 and left a body of consort music for four to six viols along with ayres for two bass viols, surviving in numerous 17th-century manuscripts, which Thomas Mace referred to as of “very great eminence and worth”.

Phantasm, in recording the works for five and six viols, has given us what we may hope is the first of two recordings of Ward’s complete instrumental music. As an ensemble, the members of Phantasm perform with authority and exceptional musical awareness. They achieve a remarkable blend of instrumental timbres and breathe as one with their bows. The results on this disc are stunning; but, equally, the recording successfully captures individual voices, so much so that the listener feels almost part of the ensemble.

If not of the first rank, Ward’s consort music is nevertheless well crafted and genuinely engaging. Most movements are broadly in three contrasting sections, the textures now imitative, then homophonic, often antiphonal (VdGS3 and VdGS7) and on occasion rhetorical (VdGS12). His themes are cleverly syncopated more often than not; the tonality deftly shifts between major and minor. His treatment of the cantus firmus in the three In nomines is masterful. But, perhaps best of all, are the chromatic passages positioned for maximum effect (VdGS2, 3, 7, 9), which leave the listener longing for more.

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