John Jenkins, Five-Part Consorts, Fantasy no.1 in Gmajor

February 10, 2010



Tempo in this recording is a very pacey 160/minute for the crochets/half notes. This creates an overall effect largely of birds twittering, with the more graceful insistent bird song when the largely quaver-dominated runs turn to crochets, for example in bb.11 and 12 in the top treble line. Everything has a very English sense of the ‘rollicking’, despite all the surface shimmer. The moments of seriousness are but brief, for example at bar 50 where there is a plaintive turn, quickly dispelled by the quaver runs from bar 51 onwards. Phantasm bring out the strong Gibbons-like feel to the syncopated imitation in bar 20 and you can see Jenkins really ‘pushing the envelope’ with this Gibbons-like phrase in the following five or six bars before he decides to bring the whole thing to a stop.

Here’s what I said earlier about the structure of the piece:

BB 1-26: first section with a rising motive.

BB 26-55: second section with a falling motive.

BB 1-5: Opening motive, starting with a rising fifth in all parts over five bars. Strident and confident, a Treble and Tenor announce it echo-like in bar 1, with the other Tenor and Bass tripping over each other to bring it in in bar 4. The quaver runs following this clarion call are not identical in all parts; some parts exactly imitate others (Tenor 2 and Treble 2) while others are only approximate. This lack of strict imitation may be somewhat offputting for some players used to stricter imitation as provided by other earlier composers.

BB 18-19: The theme is repeated at regular intervals in all parts up to and including bar 17. Of note is the fall from top treble to bottom bass of a cascade of running eighth-notes. This “Jenkins cascade” is a feature of other fantasias.

BB 20-25: Perhaps the knottiest part of the fantasy in terms of fragmented eighth-note runs and rests, there are moments of homophony where two or three players play the same quaver rhythms and moments when that homophony fragments and scatters. If a consort can get right bars 18-25, then they are on their way t0 conquering the whole.

BB 26-30: establishment of a new theme.

BB 32-36: imitation from bass 2 to treble 1.

BB 37-55: knotty again, with tension only coming off in b.50, with a Chord V in bar 51 resolving to Chord I G in bar 52, bars 52-55 forming a final close.


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