John Jenkins Fantasy a6 no.3 in c

July 19, 2013

There’s a big difference between 5mins 52secs and 3mins 37secs. Those are the total times at which this fantasy is played by viol consorts L’Acheron and Phantasm respectively.

Bars 1-25 establish a mood of quiet confidence, not with a lot of hubris but there’s a certain grimness in the moving harmonies and gentle defiance in the cadences (e.g. bar 13). However, thereafter, some doubt starts to creep in, though the upper parts maintain a grim determination in their interval leaps.

Subtly from bar 25 onwards, the mind of Man, the rhetoric of human thought, seems to be overtaken by, or blend into, the natural world. I see Nature and the World as reflected in the increasing swirls of descending notes. For L’Acheron, these quaver patterns fall like autumn leaves, steady and lingering in the air, while for Phantasm they have more of the scamper of squirrels. It’s hard to decide whether or not Phantasm’s tempo flits to the final cadence or whether L’Acheron’s overall tempo, slow to the point of a rare and crystalline stillness, reveals or conceals.

For both though there is the evocation of the wondrous light of Nature. I see the whole as a commentary on the affairs of human kind, the rise and fall of greatness, the passing of reputation and good intentions. Personally I prefer the L’Acheron tempo, but although it evokes the woods of Kent in Autumn and of the Auvergne in Winter as much as it does the woods of Massachusetts in Summer, I’m sure that when it comes up on the music stands of the consort I play with, we will take it a faster clip.

References Fantasia a6 in c (; 2012)

John Jenkins, Six-Part Consorts. Phantasm, AV2099 (2006)


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