Girl bands comprising recorder consorts probably aren’t going to catch on anytime soon. But if they do, UK ensemble Consortium5 could lay claim to being supergroup of the recorder world. Not only do they regularly collaborate with contemporary composers and performers in unique and challenging ways; they are also committed to the preservation of earlier music for what was for centuries one of the most popular instruments in Europe.
The consort – a set of matched instruments such as viols or, as here, recorders, in different sizes – which flourished in Europe between the late 15th and early 17th centuries, undoubtedly quickened the development of complex instrumental music in its own right. Elizabethan consort music however represents one of the high points of the genre, with the free exchange between transcriptions of vocal polyphonic works, so-called In Nomines, and more abstract fantasias and dances further enlivened by consort songs and broken consorts (usually strings and winds).
Performing on a set of 10 Renaissance recorders, this release finds them moving among the In Nomines of Byrd and Tye, the dances of Ferrabosco and Dowland, the madrigalian fantasias of Coperario and Ward and more besides. Think of a solitary organist producing sounds of the sweetest, mellowest delicacy and you’ll get the measure of this beautiful recording.