Five anthems for choir and viols (as opposed to just an organ) are the showpieces here, and rightly so. Tomkins' use of the consort is more imaginative than just simply mimicking keyboard accompaniment.
Tomkins adds and subtracts instruments to subtly shade the ensemble sound as it sometimes supports and sometimes plays in opposition to the choir. Also included are various consort works, showing Tomkins' consummate skill at instrumental composition.
The Choir of Magdalen College sings in a straightforward fashion. The soloists have a rough quality to their delivery, which sounds completely authentic to me. Phantasm plays with precision and authority. Viols tend to have a wispy sound (compared to modern stringed instruments), but there's nothing anemic about Phantasm.
That solid instrumental work coupled with the not-quite-polished sound of the choir really brings these works to life. These gritty performances have a beauty all their own. And that earthy beauty I found thoroughly appealing.
Thomas Tomkins: Anthems and Canticles
Choir of Magdalen College, Oxford; Phantasm; Daniel Hyde, conductor
Opus Arte OACD9040D