Andrew Lawrence-King & The Harp Consort, El arte de fantasía El libro de cifra nueva (1557)

John Schaefer

By John Schaefer

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

El arte de fantasía: El libro de cifra nueva (1557)

Andrew Lawrence-King & The Harp Consort
In songs and dances of Renaissance-era Spain, the Harp Consort explores the art of the Fantasia.

The Harp Consort is the brainchild of Andrew Lawrence-King, and features his medieval harps, bowed strings and often prominent percussion. This album explores the art of the Fantasia, an improvisatory form of music popular in 16th-century Spain. The album opens with an improvisation that leads into a 16th-century original. There are songs and dances throughout, and in those pre-copyright days, the former freely cribbed from the latter; as a result the album includes variations on popular tunes, sacred chants and other composers 'work, as well as the consort's improvisations. In one particularly effective sequence, the consort takes the Gregorian chant "Ave Maris Stella" and follows it through four increasingly harmonized versions. This all happens at a pretty fast pace — except for the beautiful "A manera de dança," a set of variations which, at 10:18, is positively Wagnerian in comparison.