Phantasm

Early Music Ensemble

"Phantasm's control is absolute. The playing is remarkable, and technically flawless"

The Guardian

"Phantasm’s playing brims with imaginative fantasy and dance-like momentum"

Gramophone

"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"

The Times

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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. 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. It has since won two further Gramophone Awards - for Orlando Gibbons (2004) and John Dowland's Lachrimae (2017).

The consort has travelled the world over, performing in festivals and on concert series in cities such as Prague, Tokyo, Istanbul, Helsinki and Washington DC. Recent engagements have included the Pierre Boulez Saal in Berlin, Trigonale Festival (Austria), Barcelona Early Music Festival, the Bergen International Festival, the Lufthansa Early Music Festival in London, Mazovia Baroque in Warsaw, the Stockholm Early Music Festival, Brussels’ Palais des Beaux Arts and Ghent’s De Bijloke hall.

Phantasm’s 20 recordings have won consistent praise. Their first recording for the Scottish LINN label was Editor’s Choice in BBC Music Magazine as well as a finalist for the 2010 Gramophone Early Music Award. Their CD with the Complete Consort Music of William Byrd was awarded a Diapason d’Or, CD of the Month by BBC Music Magazine, and was a Gramophone finalist for the best Early Music recording of 2011. Lawes's Consorts to the Organ was nominated for the annual Chamber Music Award in BBC Music Magazine, September 2012. 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).

Phantasm was based at the University of Oxford from 2005 when they were appointed Consort-in-Residence. In Autumn 2010, they began a new association as Consort-in-Residence at Magdalen College, where they performed, recorded, and collaborated with the acclaimed College Choir. Phantasm have also made regular appearances for several seasons at the Wigmore Hall, appearing a total of three times during the 2017/2018 season.

In 2015, Phantasm moved its base of operations to Berlin, Germany, where director Laurence Dreyfus plans the consort's activities and pursues his own independent research in musicology, performance studies, and music analysis.

The 2019/20 season sees the release of Phantasm’s latest disc for LINN Records ‘J.S. Bach: The Well-Tempered Consort’. The ensemble will also return to the Pierre Boulez Saal for the premiere and three performances of a new multidisciplinary project ‘The Art of Being Human’, with visual artist Alexander Polzin and choreographer Sommer Ulrickson.

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.]

SWR2

Musica Antiqua Reutlingen

August 2018

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

Aschaffenburger Bachtage

July 2018

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

Dowland's Lachrimae

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

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