First published in the Guardian on 31 August, 2017
Christopher Tye: Complete Consort Music
Much is made by Laurence Dreyfus, director of the viol consort Phantasm, of Christopher Tye’s eccentric ways. “Craggy lines, indecorous clashes and sudden deviations work their special magic,” Dreyfus writes in the sleeve note. And indeed they do, with sudden mood swings, rogue metre changes and harmonic mayhem making the ground feel like it’s always shifting under your feet. But what strikes me about this recording is its suaveness, its evenness, its consistent beauty. Phantasm rides the impish contours of Tye’s imagination with unbending calm. Even in a stunning ‘free’ composition like the three-part Sit Fast — which breaks out of its lamentations into sudden squalls of dance, like someone who momentarily forgets they’re at a funeral and goes a bit disco — Phantasm’s control is absolute. The playing is remarkable, technically flawless, but in music so full of surprises I would love to hear some surprise.