Record of the Day: John Jenkins, "Consort Music for Viols"

Record of the Day: John Jenkins, “Consort Music for Viols”

John Jenkins
Consort Music for Viols (Cd Astrèe E 8724)

The countdown towards the beautiful season has begun, let's try to celebrate the progressive seasonal improvement with the
music by an author who is not very popular today but who at the time he lived was appreciated both by his colleagues and by the noble families for whom he wrote his compositions.
John Jenkins, unlike other authors who lived between the 16th and 17th centuries, was not called to the Court of London until the end of his career, when he was too old to make a significant contribution to that artistic community.

Most of his activity instead took place in areas such as Norfolk (it even seems that he went to London for the first time at the age of fifty).

A man with an amiable character, he had a happy life full of artistic satisfaction; towns unknown to most people such as Hunstanton, West Dereham and Kimberley were those that hosted him as a court musician, and he was one of the first to take advantage artistically of the growing passion for the viola da gamba among the nobility of the time, in fact he mainly wrote instrumental music for viola ensemble, leaving us with several Fantasias which remain among the most inspired examples of the Anglo-Saxon instrumental tradition.

Compared to musicians like Ferrabosco or Gibbons (who also cultivated a love for these compositions), Jenkins stands out for a greater softness of approach; his instrumental writing is extremely sweet and the contrapuntal games, although developed with the skill of a Maestro, take a back seat compared to the singability of the lines, capable of releasing atmospheres that border on languor; the beauty of this music is such that it makes you want to let yourself go to a feeling of abandonment, almost without thinking; when the instrumental performance is perfect in every detail (as in the case of this recording by the Hesperion XX Ensemble) the satisfaction is total.

Wonderful intonation, lightness of attack, sublime conduct of dynamics, everything is unmissable in the interpretation of
these “Fantasie” composed around 1620 (the exact date is unknown) to which some “Pavane” and “In Nomine” are added on the CD. Jenkins, a refined musician, if he had been able to listen to them, would certainly have shaken hands with Jordi Savall and his colleagues here.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.