Author Topic: Phantasm - Christopher TYE. Complete Consort Music  (Read 55 times)


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Re: Phantasm - Christopher TYE. Complete Consort Music
« Reply #1 on: October 12, 2017, 05:03:33 PM »
Comentado rápidamente esta vez en Remarks on Recent Recordings (3 October 2017). Ni siquiera separando el comentario en párrafos tengo la seguridad de haberme enterado bien de lo que dice. Mi inglés se va deteriorando con la edad.



I welcomed a new recording devoted to Tye's consort music by The Spirit of Gambo in 2014 (which still seems very recent), as performance practice does continue to develop & become more idiomatic & sophisticated. Whereas I was excited for a change then, that wasn't necessarily the case with the even newer recording by Phantasm. The latter does include all of Tye's consort output, and doesn't employ a vocalist (which Spirit of Gambo did on only a couple of tracks), though, so in that sense, it's a more canonical program — the same 31 tracks as the classic (& dated) Savall program.

I still thought, however, that this would be one of those situations where I'm slowly deciding between two excellent interpretations: That sort of thing is basically a limit case for the project here, which was devised around music for which performance practice was rapidly developing, and so for which better interpretations were always (sometimes very easily) imaginable. (Although one wouldn't say exactly the same of the contemporary improvisation that has been more of my focus the past few years, obviously, those are still "exploratory" performances, and so similar in a sense.)

I haven't been feeling very engaged when I've spent time lately trying to distinguish & rank very similar, both more than adequate, performances then.... Anyway, although I've appreciated Spirt of Gambo, that didn't turn out to be the situation here at all: The Phantasm album is fantastic, and an easy choice. (On another tangent, I'm still trying to figure out which of two excellent recordings of Feldman's Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello I prefer. Kind of a silly task, as noted....) They bring such a command of the music, and project a strong sense of individuality for each piece.

I should probably pause to note what a wonder it is to have this music performed so confidently & idiomatically — it certainly wasn't always this way. There's another question, though, and it's why Tye? Why does this seemingly obscure composer, someone whose vocal music has never stood out to me, occupy such a place in the history of instrumental ensemble music? Laurence Dreyfus discusses this topic in his notes, and not uninterestingly, but conclusions are scarce. Whereas Dreyfus talks about the Protestant-Catholic conflict that simmered in England throughout the period (becoming the Royalist-Puritan conflict soon enough, animated by the latter group's fear of art), it's also worth noting that Henry VIII had seized the monasteries as well, and had turned their members — craftsmen, artists, etc. — out into public space. So although Dreyfus notes Tye's Protestant "connections," the intellectual eruption of later 16th century England should be viewed in this context. It's undoubtedly why I hear some of the last flowering of the medieval artistic mindset in this music, and continue to feature it, despite its relatively late date. (I should also note that Henry's mindset regarding English monasteries was appropriation, i.e. absorbing their talents into a secular economy, but his mindset regarding Irish monasteries was soon to be suppression.) It's a strange intersection.

What of the music then? Well, much of it is basically an unordered set of variations illustrating a wide variety of idiosyncratic contrapuntal treatments. The appeal (for me anyway) is not really in what it might have modeled for the future, since after all, (imperial) music of the 17th & 18th centuries is generally not my thing, but in the projection of earlier polyphonic ideas onto the "blank slate" of the instrumental medium (i.e. without a text). Note further, for instance, that this is not treble-dominated music, as was already appearing on the Continent. What does this mean? Physically, singers of high vocal parts were young (or possibly women) — or else (not so young?) men singing in other registers, i.e. less "naturally" — and for similar reasons, players of the smaller string consort instruments tended to be smaller people. So... it's not as though women & children were suddenly more respected when virtuosic high vocal (& other) parts became fashionable: Usually the opposite in the early modern period, at least in general... such that such a shift can be viewed as another appropriation. Well, let me leave things there, and refer the reader to Lawrence's excellent technical discussion of the music (which leaves these points entirely aside). And yes, his new Tye album was added to my personal list.