The viol consort repertory has largely been the province of groups from its native English, making this French version by the group L'Achéron under François Joubert-Caillet something of a rarity. In another way, however, the recording is English: the viols are exact copies of a set by the Southwark maker Henry Jay (active in the early 17th century). They are unusual, being exactly proportional in size. In Joubert-Caillet's words, "the instruments were, therefore, built to harmonies with each other, as are the pipes of an organ." You may not be able to pick out the effects of this at the local level -- the players, after all, remain individuals -- but over the course of the performance, it adds an element of precision that stands sharply and attractively in contrast with the deeply expressive, melancholy performances of Gibbons' fantasies for viols (also known as "fancies," hence the title). In the hands of L'Achéron, they take on the closed-in flavor of French viol music from the 17th century, but there is nevertheless a certain clockwork quality. It's extremely compelling, and it progressively gains in effect thanks to judicious placement of other kinds of pieces: a galliard, a pavan-galliard pair, and a set of variations. This album has rightfully been a strong seller.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim