- Easter Viol School 2008
- Armidale Early Chamber Music Summer School
- The Carcoar Courthouse
- Report on the Pan Pacific Viol Gathering
- Treasurer's Report
- Technical Tip
- Viols on the Web
- Saraband Music
- Chelys Australis
- Voices and viols
- News from the UK Viola da Gamba Society
- The Marais Project - Viol Dreaming
- A viol chat page
- CD Reviews
- Music for viols and voice
- Viol Dreaming
- The Oxford Psalms, Charivari Agréable
- Jaye Viols
- Musica Viva 2008
- Classified Adverts
Easter Viol School - 2008
As already announced the 2008 Easter Viol School will run from March 21 - 24 at the MLC School Burwood in Sydney. The Musical Director is Jenny Eriksson. We have recently finalised the other tutors who will be Louis Begin (Canada), Shaun Ng (Perth) and Caroline Downer (Armidale). We are delighted to have such an exciting and diverse group of experts as our tutors.
Here is a brief resume of each of them:
Jenny Eriksson is one of Australias' leading viola da gamba performers and teachers. She completed her initial musical studies at the NSW State Conservatorium of Music on cello. In 1985 she left Australia to study the viola da gamba with Jaap ter Linden at the Rotterdam Conservatorium where she completed postgraduate studies in baroque music. Whilst in Europe she performed regularly in Holland and Germany including a guest appearance at the Utrecht Festival.
In Australia, Jennifer has performed as a soloist with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Opera Australia, the Victorian State Opera and Salut. Jennifer is a highly sought after as a continuo player and has appeared with the Song Company, Sydney Philharmonia and numerous other ensembles. She has also performed in regular live broadcasts for the ABC in its "Sunday Live" series.
For the last 15 years Jennifer has toured for Musica Viva in the ensemble Sounds Baroque. During this time she has been responsible for the creation of 2 new programs that have been presented throughout NSW schools, administrating and managing the ensemble. In 2001 she co-founded Gambello, an annual weekend workshop for viola da gamba and (baroque) cello players. As director of The Marais Project she has joined forces with Cathy Tabrett and many guest artists to present a highly successful series of concerts celebrating the music of Marin Marais. The project has just issued its first CD "Viol Dreaming" which is reviewed later in this newsletter.
Jenny is well known to Society members as the tutor for many Sydney consort days and was a tutor at the last Sydney EVS in 2005.
Louis Bégin is Canadian and studied Viola da Gamba for 6 years at the Brussels Royal Conservatory of Music in the class of Wieland Kuijken. He was awarded First Prizes in both the interpretation of the Viola da Gamba and Baroque Chamber Music. He took advantage of those years to meet with many well known musicians and develop his concept of the baroque bow. He has been making bows since 1987, with customers in many countries of the Americas and Europe, as well as in Asia. His models are very personal, basically inspired by early bows, but they also include many creations that we could call original bows. His bows are highly regarded in the viola da gamba community.
After many years of performing in concert both as a soloist and in baroque chamber music, and teaching in Canadian colleges and universities, he turned to baroque and modern bow making. He studied with many American masters and French bowmakers. With the help of a Canada Council grant, he visited European museums to study and measure bows, making several plans and designs and meeting specialists of Baroque interpretation. His professional viol playing ability allows him to fine tune his bows for optimal performance.
The varnishing on these bows is not too modern and not too Chinese, in the Baroque style. The average weight is from 78 to 82 g which works best with this unfigured snakewood. His bows are made to support a high tension and can bow outward a lot without damage, the limit being the vibrations of the stick. If the tension is adjusted to a hair-to-stick distance of 2.0 - 2.5 cm, you should find a tension that allows the player to bow without vibrations. His bows are not expensive - costing about $ Aus 1500 to 2500. He hopes to bring a selection of bows with him which will be for sale at the EVS. This will be hist first visit to Australia.
Shaun Ng is a violinist, violist, theorbist, conductor and teacher based in Perth. After gaining a scholarship in 1998, Shaun moved to Europe to study the instrumental performance (violin and viola da gamba) with many of the best practitioners of early music. He studied the violin with Margaret Faultless and Oliver Webber (Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama); and the viol with José Vázquez (Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst, Vienna), Richard Boothby, Lucy Robinson (Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama), Mieneke van der Velden (Conservatorium van Amsterdam) and Philippe Pierlot (Koninklijk Conservatorium). He also participated in the mastercourses of José Vázquez and Catherina Meints.
In 2000, Shaun founded Musica Obscura (Singapore), an early music group, which he directed until the group disbanded in 2004 when he moved to Perth, Western Australia. At the University of Western Australia, he studied musicology with David Tunley and Suzanne Wijsman, as well as orchestral conducting with Peter Moore OAM. During this time, he also taught himself to play the theorbo.
Shaun's recent artistic activities include performances with members of the Perth-based early music group Ensemble Battistin (which culminated in a series of recordings on the ABC classics label), as well as solo recitals accompanied by harpsichordist Stewart Smith. In 2007, he accepted a position with the Australian Youth Choir in Perth as their choral conductor.
Caroline Downer completed a B.A. (Hons Fine Arts) and B. Mus (Hons) at The University of Melbourne majoring in Viola da Gamba performance under Ruth Wilkinson. She was a founding member of the mediaeval group, Cantigas which released 3 CDs and toured extensively throughout Australia and New Zealand, giving concerts, school workshops, demonstrations and Festival appearances. She is a freelance performer on viola da gamba and has recently released a CD of French Baroque Music "Lyrical Passions" with recorder player Zana Clarke. She has taught recorder at Grand Musical Gatherings in Armidale, Melbourne and Morpeth and was recently musical director and tutor at the Hastings Viol Consortium organised by the Australian Viola da Gamba Society.
Music for viols and voice
Consort Eclectus with Vivien Hamilton soprano and Dean Sky-Lewis, countertenor - music by Mico, Ferrabosco, Byrd, Lupo, Dowland, Jenkins, Natalie Williams and Calvin Bowman
// Ruth Wilkinson");
This very interesting recording will give much pleasure. The four-part repertoire, the least represented in recordings, includes a lot of marvellous music, particularly from Jenkins, but also Ferrabosco, Lupo and Mico. William Byrd provides two songs for the soprano, Vivien Hamilton. The best playing is in the very fine Jenkins pieces, and in the Dowland's Pavan from Thomas Simpson's collection Tafelconsort, in which the two florid treble parts are very well matched. Generally the texture is a little treble dominated, no great problem as it is so well played, but the bass sonority needs more presence.
A warm welcome to the recently composed song cycles, both very assured, and with interesting and engaging ideas. The three songs by Natalie Williams which open the recording are beautifully sung by the countertenor. The booklet provides the words with the verses in reverse order to which they are sung. The first song is very atmospheric, a reflective text, set to a chordal accompaniment. Well tuned and well-blended (even where the singer rises to a low pitch high f) it is a very effective opening for the recording. The second song's busy, textured accompaniment, restless quaver movement over which the melody floats, the pulsing rhythms over a slow-moving bass, sometimes plucked, provides a nice contrast after the stillness of the first song. The third song has a polyphonic opening, imitating Byrd's idiom, with a metaphysical text very suited to the medium. The writing is very assured, idiomatic, and very well played by the consort.
I also enjoyed the settings of short Herrick poems by Calvin Bowman. These are much more consistently polyphonic, and, superficially at least, classical in their harmony and polyphony. The lines create chording which is sometimes quite dissonant, which sounds particularly beautiful with viols, as the tuning (as here) is so clear. There is also imaginative variation, for example one song is accompanied by solo bass viol, and the final song with a solo tenor viol. This song, to words by Philip Martin, a tribute to Herrick, opens with the lines "Here in silence.." sung unaccompanied, soon joined by a single tenor viol, which also plays a long, postlude, with which the cycle and the recording concludes, very effectively. These are very beautiful new works for consort of viols, and Consort Eclectus is to be congratulated on commissioning them, as well as performing them so well. The singer is very accomplished and assured in these songs, as in the Byrd consort songs, and many will enjoy her work. I greatly preferred those parts where she reduced her continuous vibrato - the final verse of Byrd's "All as a sea" for example. For my taste, a singer using vibrato does not blend with viols using none, and the very legato approach is at odds with the articulation of the viols.
The booklet notes by John Weretka are informative and well-informed - but there are two statements which can be questioned. He states that, according to Playford, Ferrabosco "encouraged the development of the lyra viol" - he effectively launched it with his publication in 1609 of his Lessons for 1, 2 & 3 lyra viols, which contain some remarkable, and very difficult, music. Hume's more widely-known earlier publications have very little in the so-called lyra tunings. He also says that Jenkins was the last major figure to write for the viol consort. It is true that Jenkins outlived Locke by one year, but Locke's music, particularly for four-part consort was probably written after Jenkins had stopped, and Purcell's Fantasias are all dated 1680, after Jenkins long life had come to a close. But these details take nothing from the importance and the impressiveness of the recording.
The Marais Project
Obtainable from www.maraisproject.com.au (PARD3505001)
At last! We have been waiting for this Marais Project disk for some time. Here it is, and the wait has been well
rewarded. If you have been attending the Marais Project concerts, there has been some variety amongst guest artists, depending upon the repertoire, but viola da gamba players, Jennifer Eriksson (Marais project director) and Catherine Tabrett, with lutenist Tommie Andersson and soprano Belinda Montgomery are the ensemble's staples, and on their new disk are joined by Daniel Yeadon for two of the works. The lure of Marais' Suite for three viols in G Major (1717) is strong enticement to seek out the CD. The viols are smooth and nicely balanced. Tommie's plucked strings are precision perfect; however, in places I find him a little too far to the fore in the recording mix. In the later musettes, there is a better balance and the depth of theorbo and bottom end viols is greatly appealing. The other Marais work, for bass viol and continuo, also in G Major (1725), is possibly my favourite on the disk. I find it an enticing composition with varied and well-integrated movements, and the performance is nicely resonant and judiciously paced. It is melancholy in the Prelude, yet the punctuation is comfortable. The Menuets are sprightly, the Sarabande relaxed, and the Le petit Badinage beautifully suited to the theorbo, for which it has been transcribed. Two early, sensuous vocal pieces - Arcadelt's le ne suis pas si sot, and Ma belle si ton ame (Anon, late C16th) - are nicely and characteristically sung, but the voice recording in the Arcadelt, like the theorbo in parts of the Marais for three viols, is a trifle prominent.
(From Early Music News November 2007)
The Oxford Psalms, Charivari Agréable
Susanne Heinrich, Richard Sweeney and Kah-Ming Ng
with Rodrigo del Pozo, Simon Beston and Nicholas Perfect (Signum Records, SIGCD093)
True to form, the latest CD from the Charivari Agréable ensemble probes one of those forgotten byways of musical history, in this case the English-texted psalm settings that were often used for domestic devotion in post-Restoration households. As Kah-Ming Ng notes in his programme notes, this is a neglected genre, but only neglected by musicians of today: one need only read a random entry of Pepys' diary to discover how important this kind of music was to the cultivated domestic musician of Pepys' day. The great diarist is often found with Thomas Ravenscroft's The whole booke of psalms, whiling away his evening hours in company with the singing of religious texts in chamber music settings.
This CD is surely not quite the 'random sampling' that Ng's notes suggest - there are links of place (Oxford) and person (professional and religious connections among them) that do connect these works. Nonetheless, this a pretty comprehensive survey of the repertoire, passing from composers better known for their instrumental music, like Lawes and Locke, to figures like Clarke and Purcell. Blow is represented by As on Euphrates' shady banks, a work that reminds us that Blow still stands - quite unfairly - in the shade of Purcell. A small clutch of instrumental pieces rounds out the programme, the best known of which are the divisions by Withy.
I must confess to not having known any of these works before hearing this CD although, having many years ago put together a concert programme of music from Pepys' day, I knew of the existence of this repertoire and some of the other works of the composers represented - the verse anthems of Purcell, some of the Latin music of Locke, the great coronation anthem God spake sometime in visions by Blow. That experience revealed a few of the flaws of this disc: these are clearly not the best works of the composers represented; the works themselves are somewhat difficult to get into the mindset of; and that, broadly speaking, Purcell is remembered in the field of vocal music before his contemporaries for a very good reason - he is clearly just better at dealing with text. In the case of Lawes and, to a lesser extent, Locke, this repertoire finds them in slightly foreign territory, as though their musical thoughts were best expressed in an instrumental medium.
Ng makes a good case in the programme notes for some of the more radical features of this repertoire, particularly the way in which they countenance the seconda prattica and, with the focus on two solo parts (the tenors in this recording) and accompanying bass, the way they presage the trio sonata texture. This is all right, of course, as is Ng's remark that they way in which this is achieved is 'anglicised'. But, to my ears at least, the composers of the Lawes/Locke generation missed something in the translation. One hears too much of the domestic utility of these works and a bit too little of the truly remarkable turns of phrase that distinguish Purcell. The prevalence of Lawes and Locke (eight tracks out of fourteen vocal tracks) means that there is a sameness of mood through much of the disc that I found in need of greater leavening.
The Gabrieli Consort's Harmonia sacra disc, a collection of works by Purcell in something like a vein similar to The Oxford Psalms, really hit the nail on the head with the mood of this period; they performed an insightful programme by a justly praised composer, in which music and text (poems by the Metaphysical poets, not the relatively poetically ordinary metrical psalm paraphrases used in the works on this disc) express a unity of devotional vision. I wonder what Charivari Agréable could do with first-class repertoire like this?
I think this group just about always gets what it attempts right, and much is right with this disc: there is some really wonderful singing (the group makes contact again with tenor-altino Rodrigo del Pozo, with whom they worked on Sacred songs of sorrow), heroic and plangent by turns, and the instrumental playing (alas, too little of it, at least solo playing) is sympathetic, warm and intelligent - but this is a disc for dipping.
(Charivari Agréable will participate in an interview for Chelys Australis's 2008 edition)