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Phantasm is an instrumental ensemble that plays Renaissance music. Their latest CD features works by the English Renaissance composer William Byrd. Reviewer Tom Manoff not only likes the recording, he says it helps clear up some misconceptions about what music sounded like in the 16th century.

TOM MANOFF, BYLINE: I'm a big fan of movies about the Elizabethan Age, but I've always been bothered by the music, which, for the most part, is historic fakery. Let's face it. Queen Elizabeth never heard a symphony. Modern orchestras wouldn't exist for centuries. So what did Queen Elizabeth really listen to? Well, William Byrd for one.


MANOFF: William Byrd was a really intense fellow. Someone wrote of him back then that he was naturally disposed to gravity and piety. True enough, he paid serious attention to craft in all his music, even when composing music one might call lite. Here's his instrumental exploration of a popular tune called "Greening of the Leaves." Everyone knew the words: The leaves be green, the nuts be brown, they hang so high, they will not come down.


MANOFF: The players of Phantasm handle the complexities and nuances of Byrd's style with perfection. The agile melodies sound spontaneous. His rich harmonies emerge as full-bodied colors, and his dense counterpoint sounds easygoing. Indeed, the earthy elegance of William Byrd's music is superbly matched to this ensemble's temperament. Let's hope that the movie director of the next Queen Elizabeth saga gives Phantasm a call.


BLOCK: The album from Phantasm is called "William Byrd: Complete Consort Music." Our reviewer is Tom Manoff.


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