Fretwork

John Jenkins: Complete Four-Part Consort Music

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These four-part fantasias pre-date the viol fantasias of Henry Purcell by a few decades (it is not known exactly when they were composed), and it is likely that those who enjoy Purcell's works will likewise want to hear these lesser-known examples. Yet John Jenkins, who worked among the aristocracy but apparently had no court position, had a style of his own, and Fretwork catches it in this beautiful recording. Jenkins had neither the Mozartian melodic gift of Purcell nor much of the bent toward chromatic experimentation that was common through the tradition of viol music. But there's a kind of balance between knowledge and expressiveness, between what Mozart would call an appeal to Kenner (connoisseurs) and to Liebhaber (enthusiasts), that draws you in and justifies performing all these works at a stretch -- two CDs' worth -- even though they were never intended to be played this way. Some of the fantasies begin with single lines and have the flavor of Bach fugues, an impression strengthened by the combination of complex polyphony and strong expressiveness. This is intense music that may never be for everyone, but you may find it addictive.

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