Jenkins: Six-Part Consorts

Jenkins: Six-Part Consorts
Phantasm - Laurence Dreyfus
Avie Records 2099

Jenkins is a composer who was writing in a style that was long abandoned by more famous composers of his day. (Actually, it now appears that many or all of the works featured here were written relatively early in his long life, when such styles were more in fashion....) Consequently, his reputation can vary considerably, depending on one's views of this particular style. (But Jenkins' reputation has only seemed to rise since I wrote that remark.) I greatly enjoy it, and so am glad Jenkins continued to write this type of music well into the 1600s. I am finally embracing listing all of his major works here, something I had long resisted, perhaps feeling the need to be more selective with a so-called "lesser" figure. The truth becomes that, in the world of consort music, Jenkins is not a lesser figure.

In particular, the 6-part material is more old-fashioned (relative to the 5-part & especially 4-part fantasies...), but was also some of the first recorded. So Phantasm was actually following something of a tradition with this album, but the works haven't been recorded since.... The 6-part consorts thus tend to be more traditional, but also with a lot of daring (as typical of Jenkins), apparently suggesting showpieces (relatively speaking), i.e. using a wealth of historical tricks.

And the performance by Phantasm is indeed of high quality, drawing on their broad experience with the English consort repertory, and making this an easy choice. (I particularly enjoyed the Phantasm readings when they appeared, but performance style & technique march on....) Even if Jenkins didn't have much historical influence, his abstract instrumental writing continues to make for consistently enjoyable listening, nearly 400 years later. The main reason for this would seem to be the basic equality of the parts, surely at least implicitly a political statement.

To instrumental list.

Todd M. McComb
Updated: 1 March 2022