BBC Music Magazine

Matthew Locke


For Lovers of Consort Music: Suites and Canons

Elizabeth Kenny (theorbo); Phantasm Linn CKD 594 73:10 mins

When Matthew Locke died in 1677, his friend and disciple ★enry Purcell paid tribute to a man ‘whose skilful harmony had charms for all the ills that we endure’. Indeed, the fecund imaginatio­n of this eccentric and irascible composer certainly comes across in his viol consorts which offset what he himself describes as ‘art and contrivanc­e’ with ‘light and airy musick’.

★ere, Locke disturbs with jagged, angular lines, wayward chromatic harmonies, and murky colours plumbing the consort’s depths; there, he delights with fleet, balletic rhythms, filmy textures, and lyrical melodies that soar to the treble viol’s sweetest heights. A man of the stage (he composed for plays, masques, and musicodram­atic entertainm­ents), Locke splashes his scores with theatrical effects: fanfares and flourishes, declamator­y passages, rhetorical pauses, bathos and pathos, light and shade.

One of Phantasm’s most distinctiv­e qualities is its airy (phantasmal?) sound. With weightless bowing and wispy articulati­on, Locke’s dance music floats and contrapunt­al threads are woven into a fabric sheer as gossamer. Compare this gauzy voile with the thick velvet of ★esperion XX’S 1993 recording of the Four-part Consorts. The two ensembles’ approach to tempo is also very different: Phantasm trips the light fantastic, with Elizabeth Kenny’s thrumming theorbo adding pizzazz. By contrast, ★esperion XX’S lugubrious approach dwells on the music’s dark and strange harmonies – Locke’s contempora­ries might have described these readings as ‘poderose’ (weighty).

Perhaps the newer, more luminous recording best captures Purcell’s elegiac words on his friend’s power to assuage:

‘From pointed griefs, he’d take the pain away’.

Kate Bolton-porciatti



 ??  ?? Plucky numbers: Elizabeth Kenny and her theorbo
Plucky numbers: Elizabeth Kenny and her theorbo
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