In George Benjamin’s masterful transcription of Henry Purcell’s Fantazia No.7 (19 June 1680) the music is transposed up a fifth into G minor; otherwise not a note is altered. To match the celeste’s ethereal timbre the other instruments play very quietly throughout; the clarinettist is asked to produce that very pure sound known as ‘echo tone’, while the violin and cello are confined almost entirely to harmonics and pizzicato. This 5-minute piece has a formal scheme of five short ‘movements’: a slow contrapuntal opening, giving way to a faster-moving section; a central chordal passage; a second fast contrapuntal section and a brief slow coda.
‘The Fantasia sounded completely unusual in Benjamin’s adaptation: strange, lacerated and frayed. Wonderful evidence of Purcell’s modernity.’
Die Welt (Stephan Hoffmann), 22 March 1996