|Newsletter Issue 39 - January 2010|
|Written by Richard J Milner|
|Wednesday, 24 February 2010 06:39|
It is that time of year again - time to renew your subscription and to get your forms for the Easter Viol Workshop sent in. We are fortunate to have one of Australia's leading teachers, Miriam Morris, as Musical Director, one the leading teachers from the USA, Sarah Mead, a guest tutor and one of the most charismatic of performers in Paolo Pandolfo all coming to Bermagui this year. I provide some updated information about the Workshop below and also provide a guide to Paolo Pandolfo in Viols on the Web. I urge you to look at some of the YouTube videos showing his amazing playing.
A major event last November, which seemed to pass without any fanfare, was the launch of Alison Crum's long awaited book on viol playing called 'Viol Rules'. I am hoping to have some copies for sale at Easter and we are promised a copy for a formal review to be published in Chelys Australis.
A new maker on the scene in this part of the World is always welcome and I bring your attention to Hanna Krause who has settled into Christchurch in New Zealand and makes violins and now starting on viols. I am told her instruments are very fine.
Finally, we have a review and information about The Marais Project's latest CD and they have generously donated 5 copies which will be sent to the first five new members to subscribe for 2010.
See you in Bermagui!
Notice of AGM
Notice is hereby given that the Annual General Meeting of the Australian Viola da Gamba Society Inc will be held during the Easter Viol Workshop at Bermagui Public School on Monday 5 April 12.45 pm. Reports will be given by the President and the Treasurer and all positions on the committee will be open for nomination at the meeting. The Agenda is:
Bermagui - Easter Viol Workshop (April 2 -5) - Update
We are in an advanced state of planning for this workshop and hope that many of you are organised to come. We expect accommodation to become scarce as we near Easter so you need to have this organised now or very soon. The brochure and enrolment forms were sent out with the last newsletter and are available for download from the web (avdgs.org.au) or by phoning me on 0262369212. The deadline is 19 March you can still get in after that (a late fee will be charged) but early enrolments are most welcome. Also you will need to be a paid up member of the Society to attend. Most people have an annual subscription which expired in December 2009. See membership form at the end of this newsletter or download a form from the web.
Shaun Ng from Perth (and soon to be from Sydney) has joined our team of tutors as a part-time tutor cum participant.
Paolo Pandolfo will be giving a masterclass 9 -11 on the Saturday morning. So far there are 4 players and a possible 5th but I don't know if that will come about. If there are any more we might have to think about extending the time. The participants are Shaun Ng, Laura Moore, Reidun Turner, and Mateusz Diehl. It will be almost worth the Workshop fee just to come to this masterclass and also you get a quality seat for his solo recital on Sunday.
Paolo Pandolfo began his research in the field of renaissance and baroque music in 1979. He then went on to study with Jordi Savall. In 1982 he became a member of J. Savall's Hesperion XX and played throughout the world with Hesperion XX until 1990, making dozens of recordings. In 1990, after the huge success of his first recording as a soloist (C.P.E.Bach's Sonatas for Viola da Gamba), he was nominated as professor of viola da gamba at his alma mater, the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Basel. His performing career takes him all over the world, playing with artists such as Emma Kirkby, Rolf Lislevand, Rinaldo Alessandrini, Mitzi Meyerson, Jose Miguel Moreno and many others. Since 1992 he has directed the viol consort Labyrinto.
Pandolfo has recorded for radio and television stations world wide, and for record companies such as Astree, Emi, Philips, Erato, Harmonia Mundi, Tactus, Simphonia, and more recently, GLOSSA. Pandolfo builds bridges between the past and the present, bringing spontaneous and immediate life to the performance of baroque and renaissance music. As well as playing historical repertoire, he also improvises, makes transcriptions, and composes new music. He is convinced that the patrimony of ancient music can be a powerful inspiration for the future of the western musical tradition.
His solo recital "Metamorphosis" on Sunday morning will include music from 5 centuries by Bach, Ortiz, St Colombe, Abel, Panolfo etc.
We are considering having separate technique classes for the three sizes of viol - treble, tenor and bass. If you have any thoughts on this arrangement
then please let me know or get in touch with Miriam Morris. Also you will need to consider the choice of electives in the afternoon. The 6 topics will be:
Some consort music will be available beforehand for those who wish to do some practice!!! The music is still being selected but you will be informed as soon as possible. The music will be available from Richard and may be downloadable from the web page depending on copyright.
News from New Zealand
On 15th January, late in the afternoon, eight new viol players gathered in Auckland for the first Auckland Viol Summer School. Two came from south of Auckland. Almost everyone who came was already a string player or a beginner violist. Four others would have liked to come but were unable to.
On the Friday evening I played some solos on treble and bass viols and explained the elements of tablature notation, as I think it should be taught right from the beginning. This was an introductory evening with a short try-it-out session to round off the evening.
On Saturday morning we got down to hands-on playing. I lent several of my own instruments, as did a local luthier, Simon Snape, who had made several trebles as part of his studies in fretted-instrument making in London, before he came to New Zealand. A generous enthusiast from Palmerston North sent three instruments up with one of the participants, Sasha Routh, who attended a VdGSA Easter Viol School in Melbourne a few years ago.
We divided the time between playing in groups, learning the basic techniques of bowing and left-hand, and practising alone with me racing from room to room to give everyone some time. We listened to cds to get an overview of viol sound, alone and in consort.
It was not easy to cater for the mixed group abilities but I compiled a course booklet with solos, duos, trios and all the consort examples in score, so that there was quite a choice of material. The booklet also contained recommendations for further self-instruction and hints for where to go on the internet.
By Sunday afternoon, everyone could play a simple piece in tablature and we had managed to get through a Ferrabosco 6 part without stopping.
The participants seem to have had a good time and four are asking for follow-up tuition so I feel it has been a good beginning.
Viols on the Web
The star attraction at Bermagui is Paolo Pandolfo and so I decided to track him down on the web. A good place to start is his own web page at http://www.paolopandolfo.com/. However apart from a detailed list of his recordings the site is disappointing.
Wikepedia has a brief biography:
"Paolo Pandolfo is an Italian virtuoso player, composer, and teacher of music for the viola da gamba.
He began his studies as a double bass and guitar player, becoming a skilled performer of jazz and popular music. In the mid-late 1970s he studied viola da gamba at the Rome Conservatory. In 1979 he co-founded the early music ensemble La Stravaganza, and then moved to Basel, Switzerland in 1981 where he studied with Jordi Savall at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. From 1982 to 1990 Pandolfo was a member of Jordi Savall's early music groups Hespèrion XX and Hespèrion XXI.
Since 1989 Pandolfo has served as professor of viola da gamba at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis — a position previously held by maestros August Wenzinger and Jordi Savall. He also directs, records, and performs regularly with his viola da gamba-oriented early music ensemble Labyrinto, which he co-founded.
Pandolfo has recorded numerous CDs. For most of the 1980s he recorded primarily with Jordi Savall and others. His first recording as a soloist was in 1990 with the release of his highly acclaimed CD C. P. E. Bach: Sonatas for Viola da Gamba (Tactus). He has also recorded a viola da gamba interpretation of the cello suites of J. S. Bach. Pandolfo explains that the suites, although written for the cello, were conceived in the polyphonic style of the viola da gamba; further, the dance suite was a common form for viola da gamba music, and playing the Bach suites on the gamba is thus a way to reclaim this tradition for the viola da gamba.
Pandolfo has said that the patrimony of ancient music can be a powerful inspiration for the future of the Western musical tradition. Building bridges between past and present is therefore an important part of his work."
His recording label Glossa has the following biography
"Widely admired as a virtuoso exponent of the viola da gamba through his concert performances and recordings of key composers from Germany, France, Spain, England and his native Italy, Paolo Pandolfo has in recent years been developing the instincts and skills for improvising and composing. He began his research in the field of renaissance and baroque musical idioms around 1979 along with violinist Enrico Gatti and harpsichordist Rinaldo Alessandrini. Studies with Jordi Savall at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Switzerland were followed by membership of Savall's Hespèrion XX between 1982 and 1990. A highly successful recording of the CPE Bach Sonatas for viola da gamba (on Tactus) in 1990 saw Pandolfo nominated as Professor of viola da gamba at his alma mater, the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Basel, where he has been concentrating his teaching activities ever since.
Since 1997 all of Paolo Pandolfo's recordings have appeared on Glossa. The odyssey commenced with the first complete recording of Antoine Forqueray's Pièces de Viole, followed by discs devoted to the music of Tobias Hume, Marin Marais (Le Labyrinthe et autres histoires was devoted to character music whilst Grand Ballet focused on Marais' gestures and dance music) and Sainte-Colombe. Pandolfo has regularly ventured beyond the realms of Renaissance and Baroque notated music for his instrument; he achieved a notable success with his own transcription of the six Bach Solo Suites and recorded an unaccompanied recital, A Solo. Travel Notes and Improvisando have further demonstrated Pandolfo's command of the possibilities of the viola da gamba as a composer himself.
His performing activities have taken him all over the world, playing with artists such as Emma Kirkby, Rolf Lislevand, Rinaldo Alessandrini, Mitzi Meyerson, José Miguel Moreno and many others. He has been described as the Yo Yo Ma of the viol. Since 1992 he has been directing Labyrinto, a group of four or five viola da gambas, which is dedicated to the huge consort music repertoire.
Paolo Pandolfo builds bridges between the past and the present, bringing spontaneous and immediate life in the performance of baroque and renaissance music using medias such as improvisation, transcriptions and composition of modern pieces, being convinced that the patrimony of ancient music can be a powerful inspiration for the future of the western musical tradition."
There are many videos of Paolo Pandolfo on You Tube, but most of them do not show him in actual performance, in fact most have visuals of paintings etc and do not even show the man himself. However 3 contrasting videos which show him actually playing and I can thoroughly recommend are:
'Viol Rules' - Alison Crum's New Book
"My new book on playing the viol is The Viol Rules ... it was just published last month and is available from Corda Music, who have published all my books of music such as First Solos, Intermediate Solos, and the Pièces de Résistance. It is in a small A5 'notebook' format, with a wire binding which opens flat, and has 148 pages in full colour.
It is 20 years since my first book Play the Viol was published by Oxford University Press, and that has been reprinted five times since then. One might call this new book a 'sequel' to the first one - very different in style, written more informally perhaps, but going much deeper into many details of viol technique in a way which I think no one else has yet committed to the printed page.
My ideas and suggestions are the result of many years of teaching experience combined with details from the most important viol treatises of the 16th to 18th centuries, quotations from which begin each section of the book. Every section ends with a 'little rule' of my own, which sums up some of the key facts.
You can also see an image of the cover on the new 'Viol Rules' page of my own website: www.alisoncrum.co.uk There is not much else there yet, but I am intending to use this page to add new ideas and comments, and maybe eventually photos and video links."
It is now twenty five years since Alison Crum wrote her first seminal book Play the Viol. The Viol Rules is a detailed analysis drawn from many years of teaching the viol in colleges seminars, courses and festivals around the world, updating and expanding on many of the topics first discussed in Play the Viol. The Viol Rules is not intended as a complete tutor for the viol, but rather a reflection and enlargement based on many years of teaching experience. There are multiple music examples, with explanatory text on a facing page so that technique and interpretation can be instantly cross referenced to the music. There are a number of full colour illustrations, including details taken from historical works of art, as well as humorous sketches to enliven the matters dealt with in the text. The principal chapters are:
There is a list of treatises and sources, a selection of web pages to visit, a glossary of terms used and an index. 148 pages. Price from Corda Music (UK) £16.00 plus postage. UK: £3.00, Europe £4.25, Rest of World £6.60
Technical Tip – do your strings need changing?
(based on 'Ask your viol teacher' in the Viola da Gamba Society of America Newsletter)
Sarah Mead, Natick, MA, USA
The Easter Viol Workshop is often the time when our members take a good look at their instruments and wonder if they should be putting on new strings. How do I know when it's time to put on new strings? Obviously, I replace them when they break, but should I be doing. it more often? The metal-wound ones seem to last forever; and they're pretty expensive. The discussion may be therapeutic! As Alice Robbins put it when I reminded her that I was looking for responses, "I've been avoiding these questions because I'm such a cheapskate I never change my bottom strings unless it's necessary, and I didn't want to confess it. But after admitting this to some of our colleagues, I found I'm not the only one." Economics certainly plays a part in the decision to change a string that's not actually broken, which is one of the reasons that the responses dealt primarily with the higher, all gut strings. As Alice Renken points out, "The frequency with which strings need changing depends to a great extent on the climate." Fluctuations in humidity are the greatest culprit. The stresses of use tend to age a string, also; in addition to absorbing and losing moisture, the string is also being stretched, rubbed (by fingers and bow), and vibrated. Eventually small strands begin to let go, and natural weaknesses in the material occur which will effect the sound. Jay Elfenbein puts it this way: "Raw gut strings tend to play out of tune (on the sharp side) on the frets when they are too old, and they fray easily. Wound strings tend to sound dead (no resonance/too quick decay) when they are too old, and the overtones (harmonics) don't ring true. If these things don't bother you, leave your old strings on, but seek professional help."
Ideally, the first indication that a string needs changing should be the sound it produces. However, there are many other factors that influence sound-including experience, technique, and equipment-that students often have a hard time identifying when a string is no longer performing optimally, For that reason, it helps to have some other things to look for. Alice Renken gives a handy checklist of reasons to change a string:
Julie Elhard elaborates on the second point: "If you have many little loose bits of string sticking out and buzzing lightly, then I'd change the string before it breaks. I will usually cut off the first loose bits that show up, but after two or three loose strands the string probably sounds pretty thin and dry and is getting ready to snap." I find it helpful always to have nail-clippers nearby fo~ removing the little wisps. One or two showing up between the frets are generally not an immediate problem, and can be snipped close to the string. However, they will effect the sound if they are directly at the fret, and especially if they occur where you bow. (The clippers come in handy when you notice your lefthand fingernails have gotten away from you as well!) A physicist told me that snipping off the wisps of gut actually removes mass from the string at that point, and thus makes it more false; although I recognize the veracity of this statement, my aesthetic sense is bothered by the whirring bits of string and my ear is annoyed by the faint buzz, so I continue to chop them off.
Alice Robbins points out: "The third or fourth strings, if plain gut, tend to be thick enough that they don't often break, but because of this they can get so old and irregularly shaped that they go "false," which requires replacing them. 111is can happen to upper strings, too. The symptoms include frets that don't sound in tune on one string though they are on another. If you pluck the string, it may look wobbly when it vibrates. (Try this test in natural light, because fluorescents make it look wobbly because of a strobe effect.)" Julie Elhard adds: "Also, feel under the string sometimes to see how much wear is happening between the string and the fret. This is especially useful on the third and fourth strings which don't show wear as much as the top two strings."
Your ear may not notice that your strings are becoming false if they are all of a similar age. Although a false string will sound. sharp on the fret, if all your strings are old, you may have been tuning your frets to accommodate them. You may notice this when you replace a single string-if it sounds flat on the frets compared to the ones around it, it can make you wonder if the new string is bad. That's why it's a good idea to replace strings in pairs when you can, especially if you know that the one next to it is of a similar age to the one you're replacing. Here's what Loren Ludwig says about it: "I try to change my upper strings (D, A, E) all at the same time. By the time I've burned through the varnished high D string that I use, it is usually time to throw on another A, if not a new E. The problem with changing the upper strings individually (Le. only when they break) is that they age differently and become progressively less and less in tune with each other (for example, the fifth fret will be sharp on the E and A and flat on the high D)." For this same reason, some people like to make a note of when they change a string, so that they have some idea of its relative age. You can keep a slip of paper in your case, or just write the date on the empty string envelope.
Finally, here are a few thoughts on the lowest strings. Loren Ludwig says, "I change my lower strings ©, G, and D) about once or twice each year. I am always so amazed at how much better my instrument sounds with new lower strings. Crisp and bright and loud." Alice Robbins would undoubtedly agree, but is more fiscally circumspect: "I do tend to leave my metal-wound strings on 'forever,' partly because of the expense, and partly because they usually sound fine. I change them if the winding becomes loose and buzzy. (This seems to happen with more frequency recently. They don't make them like they used to.) Sometimes they sound dull, and then I change them, and of course I change them when they've gotten so short from retying the knot at the tailpiece end that the cloth wrapping at the scroll end extends below the nut."
It's important to remember that the metal is wound around a core of gut (in most strings) which is still susceptible to changes in humidity. If the core becomes dry, it will shrink away from the windings, which will then be free to spin around the core like a slinky on your wrist. This often occurs in the wintertime in cold climates if the instrument is not kept sufficiently humidified, and it can happen just as easily to a new string in its envelope. Unfortunately, there's no way back when this happens. You can moisten the string (by rubbing it with a damp sponge or paper towel, or even-as I've seen a really desperate person do-by licking itl), but this is only a temporary cure; you're going to have to replace it. This rarely happens where there is sufficient moisture in the air, but be on the lookout for a low string that starts to feel "slippery" or unexpectedly quiet. You can test it out by pinching the string in the area where you bow it and rolling it between your thumb and fore- finger. If it rolls easily, you're probably in trouble!
I'll end this installment with some words from David Douglass, reminding us all that the proof of the string is in the hearing: "As a professional I change strings the instant I know they won't allow me to sound my best on stage. I hear the deteriorating sound first, I feel the lack of complete response under my hands second, and I see the worn marks on the string third. Also, I have the most fun and pleasure when the strings are working for me in their most efficient way. As a consumer I can't afford to put on strings as often as I may like, so I often put up with long rehearsal periods using strings not in their best shape, so that I can afford to play under the best conditions when I need to. For amateurs I would recommend changing them as soon as you feel the need-first, hopefully, by hearing it, second, by feeling it as you play, and as a last resort, when you see the string is worn-at your particular financial comfort level. But you'll learn more and get more out of playing on newer strings."
'Love Reconciled' - CD from The Marais Project -Move MCD424, 2009.
Jenny Eriksson's second cd continues the Marais project's theme of French bass viol music centred on the monumental sets of solo and duo pieces by the great violist himself. Interspersed between are other treats by two of Marais' contemporaries; the Morel Chaconne with violin (delightful playing by Fiona Ziegler) and one solo viol, and two lovely motets for soprano with two obligato viols by Bouteiller. The cd finishes with the work, which gives its name to the recording, Stephen Yates' Love Reconciled or the Rewards of Evil – a Ballet Vivant in One Act. This contemporary work, commissioned by the Marais project in 2003, is a charming piece, based on dance melodies by early eighteenth century French composers, carefully harmonised and joined, with some original material in appropriate style to make one movement; a ballet danced by two solo performers.
There is plenty of variety in this generous programme and the sensuous quality of the viol pervades all. Belinda Montgomery's voice in the motets is a lovely compliment to the otherwise wholly instrumental performances. In the Marais works that call for two solo viols as well as continuo, Daniel Yeadon shares the solos with Jennifer, Catherine Upex playing all the continuo lines. This is a very happy trio of bass viol players, accustomed to one another and showing that maturity of ensemble that one expects from long established groups.
Tommie Andersson (theorbo) and Chris Berensen (harpsichord) complete the continuo line, always thoughtfully orchestrated to fit the particular demands of each individual work.
The booklet focuses more on the performers than the music, with ample biographical details. A little more information about the composers and the music would have been welcome. It is a pity, too, that the only historic illustrations of viol players in the booklet, are not French ones from the period of the music. It would have been fitting also to have the one photo of the whole group showing Tommie with theorbo rather than lute, but this is a minor point in a cd that is utterly charming and heartily to be recommended. It is a tribute to the longevity of the Marais project and to Jennifer Eriksson's enthusiasm and musicianship.
The Marais Project
I am so pleased with "Love Reconciled". I believe we have captured something of the freedom, excitement and virtuosity of the music of Marais and his friends. Virtually every work on the CD represents a first Australian commercial recording from the monumental Tombeau de Mr.Meliton,the lament Marais wrote upon the death of his friend Meliton, to the delightful Chaconne by Jacques Morel, Marais' suite for two viola da gambas in d minor, and Stephen yates' witty ballet music, Love Reconciled. I do hope that you enjoy the results.
Belinda Montgomery Soprano Fiona Ziegler Baroque violin Daniel Yeadon Viola da gamba Jennifer Eriksson Viola da gamba
Catherine Upex Viola da gamba Tommie Andersson Theorbo Chris Berensen Harpsichord
"Love Reconciled" CD's are $25.00
(plus $4 postage and handling in Australia) and can be purchased on line via Paypal at: www.maraisproject.com.au
We accept cheque or credit card (Visa and Mastercard only).
To order please complete the attached form and fax to (02) 99297962 or by mail:
The Marais Project C/O The Leading Partnership, Suite 105, 25-29 Berry St, North Sydney NSW 2060
News from Saraband Music
Happy New Year to all customers. The new web page has the following items of news:
* As a new year present, there are four new pieces for bass recorder (or cello/bass viol/bassoon) available now on my Free downloads page.
* SM66, The Bass Recorder Book Vol. 3 is available now. It contains 27 pieces of Mediaeval music. The first 2 volumes are proving very popular, with positive comments coming in. Get yours now! Also suitable for bass viol/bassoon/cello. Lots of easy music, and some more challenging pieces in Vol 2. Sample pages for all three are here.
* AND ... SM67 is about to go to the printers. The Bass Recorder Book Vol. 4 contains 43 easy pieces by Henry Purcell. All arranged from keyboard repertoire, and there are some very hummable tunes coming your way.
*There's a very handy SEARCH button below the menu at left which will do a keyword search on this whole site, including the pdf catalogues.
* A new Easter motet for the Festive Collection is ready this week. William Byrd's gorgeous 6 part motet Haec Dies presented in its original key of F major, with score and parts, including alternative clefs for the middle part. Text included.
* A new article by Prof. John Griffiths from Melbourne is up on my Student Resources pages. It deals with Juan Bermudo, and his treatise on vihuela technique.
* I've begun to update my other publisher catalogues which are pdfs on the Other Publisher page. Corda, PRB Productions and Barenreiter have been repriced, but there is a lot more work to do, so please continue to use it as a guide, not an absolute! There are also a couple of publisher removals, and an addition.
* Orders for many Barenreiter and other items will now be quicker, as Saraband Music can order from another wholesaler with a very speedy turnaround. Prices may differ a little from the catalogues (well they change all the time anyway ...) and in some cases will be cheaper.
* The latest Salut! CD and their previous releases are available now. Stock is at Saraband now.
* The Lyrichord page has been extensively updated with the early music series of CDs.
* The Elizabethan Playalong page now has a list of all the standard CDs available.
* Many of you know that I was one of the prizewinners of the 9th Leo Traynor Competition for New Viol Music in 2009. My winning piece is available from the Viola da Gamba Society of America, and you can order the piece from the site.
* Music greeting cards by Janina Evangelou of Tasmania are now on the cards menu.
Hanna Krause - Instrument Maker
Hanna Krause is a young German Master violin-maker who lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. She also makes lovely viols, as I discovered recently when I went in search of a pardessus de viole.
Hanna comes from a violin-making family in Saarbrücken, Germany. Her parents Angela and Jürgen-Dietrich Krause also make viols. Well before her formal studies at the Mittenwald violin-making school, Hanna and her brother Martin learned informally from their parents. The children had a small table in their parent's workshop, where Hanna started to make her first violin when she was twelve. It took a long time to finish, she says, and she still has it. In her last two years at school, she made a viola d'amore, which is on display on her website. She counts that instrument as her first gamba. By the time she began her formal violin-making studies, she was familiar with the tools of the trade.
At the Mittenwald School, Hanna made violins and one viola, and left with the basic journeyman qualification. As is the custom for students preparing for the further study for the Meisterprüfung, she gained further experience by working in a number of workshops for a few years. The Meisterprüfung is the qualification necessary to open a shop and take on apprentices. After working in a number of violin workshops, Hanna learned more about viols and baroque instruments by working with Tilman Muthesius in Potsdam. There she made a baroque cello, a bass viol da gamba, and did lots of necks, scrolls, carving, and repairs.
I found out about Hanna when I did an internet search for a pardessus viol, and found one not far away from Australia, in Christchurch. Hanna made the pardessus with her father, in the years following her Meisterprüfung. Daughter and father used a "bent wood" technique for the top, in search of a light instrument with a clear viol-pure sound.
It was fascinating meeting Hanna, and being put in touch with the medieval guild tradition of craftsmanship (currently in transition to new European Union rules). The old traditions clearly work. Her instruments are lovely.
The website of Hanna Krause is at http://www.violin.co.nz
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 May 2010 13:52|