Early Music Ensemble
"Phantasm's control is absolute. The playing is remarkable, and technically flawless"
"Phantasm’s playing brims with imaginative fantasy and dance-like momentum"
"they maintain that quality of conversation among friends that I believe to be the essence of consort music"
American Record Guide
"The performances are elegant, rich-textured and beautifully phrased. Affecting"
Laurence Dreyfus - treble viol, director
Emilia Benjamin - treble and tenor viols
Jonathan Manson - tenor viol
Heidi Gröger - tenor and bass viols
Markku Luolajan-Mikkola - bass viol
Phantasm, an award-winning consort of viols, was founded in 1994 by Laurence Dreyfus and has become recognised as the most exciting viol consort active on the world scene today, with the intensity and technical perfection of its interpretation setting new standards internationally in the realm of consort music.
The ensemble catapulted into international prominence when its debut CD of works by Henry Purcell won a Gramophone Award for the Best Baroque Instrumental Recording of 1997. Since then, the consort has travelled the world over, performing in festivals and on concert series in cities such as London, Prague, Tokyo, Istanbul, Helsinki, New York, and Washington DC. Recent engagements have included the Trigonale Festival (Austria), Heinrich Schütz Festival in Dresden, Musikfestspielen Sanssouci Potsdam, the Lufthansa Early Music Festival in London, the Misteria Paschalia Festival in Cracow, the Stockholm Early Music Festival, Brussels’ Palais des Beaux Arts and Ghent’s De Bijloke hall along with a concert tour of New Zealand – appearances routinely described by critics as ‘the real highlight of the festival’ by ‘the best viol consort in the world’.
Phantasm’s repertoire lays emphasis on the English music of the Renaissance and the Baroque – by composers such as Purcell, Byrd, Gibbons, Dowland, Locke and Lawers – though French and Italian music also appears on Phantasm’s programmes as well as J.S. Bach’s Art of Fugue and Mozart’s arrangements of Bach fugues from the Well-Tempered Clavier.
Phantasm’s 20 recordings have won consistent praise from the critics and the general public. Their CD of Orlando Gibbons (2004) won the Gramophone Award for Early Music and was a Finalist for Gramophone Recording of the Year. Their recording of Lawes‘s Royal Consort not only became the CD of the week in various broadcast stations all over Europe and in the US, but also ranked high on the UK specialist Classical Charts for several months before winning the 2016 Chamber Music Prize from Limelight Magazine (Australia). Their recording of John Dowland’s Lachrimae not only won the 2017 Gramophone Award for Early Music but was also crowned with the prestigious 2017 Diapason d’or de l’année.
From 2005 until 2015, Phantasm was based at the University of Oxford and Magdalen College as their Consort-in-Residence. Since then, Phantasm has made a new home in Berlin, where its members from the UK, Finland, and Germany assemble to rehearse and record new repertoire
This biography is for information only and should not be reproduced.
Matthew Locke: For Lovers of Consort Music
Linn Records CKD594
it is indisputably superb. Phantasm's performances are compelling, their immaculate ensemble always internally balanced to best effect, their near-miraculous transparent textures brilliantly captured by the engineer. Dreyfus’s choices of tempo and application of rubato are both refreshing and nuanced. It is recordings of this calibre that will attract new listeners to the English consort repertoire.
Julie Anne Sadie, Gramophone
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
Kate Bolton-Porciatti, BBC Music Magazine
Performances by Laurence Dreyfus’s ensemble Phantasm are always worth treasuring, although there’s a special glory about this album devoted to Matthew Locke.
Geoff Brown, The Times
Phantasm spielt all das mit viel Liebe zu Detail, mit feinem silbrigen Klang und mit wunderbar federnder Phrasierung.
[Original text: Phantasm play everything with loving attention to detail, a delicate, silvery sound and wonderfully elastic phrasing.]
Musica Antiqua Reutlingen
Anyone watching his facial expressions got an impression of the lightness, the precision and the concentration behind such an appearance. The Renaissance pieces are characterized by simple yet elegant melody. With perfect technique and rhythmic precision, the group mastered the hardest runs, such as in a complex "Aire" by Lawes. The mainly older listeners heard choir-like cantilenas, magical sound bows, difficult tempo changes. Some pieces were reminiscent of courtly round dances, others spread elegiac melancholy.
[Original text: Wer sein Mienenspiel beobachtete, bekam einen Eindruck von der Leichtigkeit, der Präzision und der Konzentration, die hinter einem solchen Auftritt steht. Die Renaissance-Stücke bestechen durch schlichte und doch elegante Melodieführung. Mit perfekter Technik und rhythmischer Präzision haben die zwei Virtuosinnen und drei Virtuosen die schwersten Läufe gemeistert, etwa in einer komplexen „Aire“ von Lawes. Die vornehmlich älteren Zuhörer vernahmen chorähnliche Kantilenen, zauberhafte Klangbögen, schwierige Tempowechsel. Manche Stücke erinnerten an höfische Rundtänze, andere breiteten elegische Schwermut aus.]
Mattias Reichert, Schwäbisches Tagblatt
Bach’s ‘Art of Fugue’ is a definite part of the viol consort Phantasm’s repertoire. It quickly becomes clear that the four musicians around Laurence Dreyfus are not playing the programme for the first time. The phrases are so extraordinarily homogenous, so thoughtfully phrased, and so sensually musically heard. The four musicians of this ensemble, which was created in 1994 on the initiative of Dreyfus, are tonally fused.
[Original text: Bachs „Kunst der Fuge“gehört fest zum Repertoire des Gambenconsorts „Phantasm“. Dass die vier Musiker um Laurence Dreyfus das Programm nicht zum ersten Mal spielen, wird schnell klar: So außergewöhnlich homogen, so durchdacht phrasiert, so sinnlich musiziert hört man die Fugen selten. Klanglich verschmolzen sind die vier Musiker dieses Ensembles, das 1994 auf Initiative von Dreyfus entstand.]
Anja Jaskowski, Leipziger Volkszeitung
Pearls of Polyphony
Chamber Music New Zealand Tour (May 2018)
How many, like me, were drawn into the lilting rhythms and criss-crossing lines as if we were part of the group? How many experienced goosebumps and shivers, caught up in the volatile flow between major and minor, or held the breath when pianissimo chords seemed to float in their own radiant firmament above us?
William Dart, NZ Herald
Phantasm is a group of musicians from the very top drawer, and the music-making was breathtakingly fine. The Elizabethan period was highlighted by William Byrd, but the absolute highlight, for me, were the four Fantazias of 1680 by Henry Purcell - some of the last music written for the viol. The concert ended with music that was not written for viol, but fascinating nonetheless; the music of J.S. Bach. First we heard three fugues from the Well Tempered Clavier arranged for quartet by Mozart, and, finally, four pieces from his Art of Fugue. Then an encore - an atypical piece from Domenico Scarlatti. All in all, the finest viol playing I have ever heard in concert.
John Button, Dominion Post
Misteria Paschalia Festival (April 2018)
The British but now Berlin-based viol consort Phantasm, joined by lutenist Elizabeth Kenny, gave a stirring performance of Dowland's Lachrimae, with every note at once clear and crisp yet beautifully rounded...The lush dissonances teased out during the pavans were deliciously wistful and the rhythmic interplay displayed in the dance movements gave an infectious, impish quality with a real swing.
Miranda Heggie, The Arts Desk
Christopher Tye: Complete Consort Music
Linn Records CKD571
Their playing is technically unimpeachable, and their warm tone is beautifully recorded here with every part distinctly audible. What I find most admirable is their keen sense of forward movement and phrase trajectory. At the same time they maintain that quality of conversation among friends that I believe to be the essence of consort music.
William J Gatens, American Record Guide
Phantasm is an inspired fir for this repertoire. The musicians' distinctive sound - immediately warm but spiced with an edgy kick - is as assured as ever, ideal for Tye's oft-madcap In nomines...Phantasm delight in the eccentricities of his writing
Hannah French, BBC Music Magazine
Sometimes plangent, often ebulliently uplifting, these are ever unpredictable pieces, which can switch from high mood to low, content to unease, on a sixpence. All are exquisitely played by Phantasm, directed by Laurence Dreyfus.
Richard Fairman, Financial Times
what strikes me about this recording is its suaveness, its evenness, its consistent beauty. Phantasm ride the impish contours of Tye's imagination with unbending calm. Even in a stunning "free" composition such as the three-part Sit Fast - which breaks out of its lamentations into sudden squalls of dance, like someone who forgets they are at a funeral and goes a bit disco - Phantasm's control is absolute. The playing is remarkable, and technically flawless.
Kate Molleson, The Guardian
The World of Byrd
Wigmore Hall (February 2018)
But if the composer is great, as Byrd undoubtedly was, an evening-long immersion is bound to reveal all kinds of things lurking under an apparently unvaried surface. That was the case with this superb concert from Phantasm, one of the best viol consorts around. These players know how to aerate Byrd's smooth weave of independent lines, by slipping in telling pauses. They enliven the dances by pointing up the ingenious way Byrd makes the melodies skip across the regular underlying tread. Viol consorts often play with a perfectly smooth reedy sound, but these players - above all the founder and treble violist Laurence Dreyfus - weren't afraid to warm the sound with a touch of vibrato.
Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph