|Newsletter Issue 46/47 Summer Autumn 2012|
|Written by Richard J Milner|
|Sunday, 29 April 2012 10:14|
The brochure for the Easter Viol Workshop is now out and has been distributed by email and by normal mail. It is also on our web page to be downloaded. Notice is hereby given that the Annual General Meeting of the Australian Viola da Gamba Society Inc. will be held at Canterbury Girls' Secondary College, Melbourne, starting at 12.45 pm on Monday April 9. The agenda will follow the normal sequence – apologies, minutes of last AGM, reports from President and Treasurer, election of office bearers and committee, any other business. All positions will be open to election. We are needing a new treasurer as Rosaleen Love has indicated that she is unable to continue in the position.
Voices and viols continues to flourish in Sydney and I bring to your attention John Cunningham's report in this Newsletter. Alice Chance is a young student of Jenny Eriksson's who has recently played the viol for her HSC and has been awarded a scholarship to study at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Victoria Watts has an interview with her in this newsletter. There are lots of concerts coming up in Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne with the details below. Lots of other news besides.
Hope to see many of you in Melbourne at Easter – should be special!!
Easter Viol Workshops
Easter Viol Workshop 2012
It is great to welcome back to Australia Brent Wissick from the University of North Carolina as our overseas tutor this year. Brent is a very experienced performer, teacher and tutor at workshops such as ours. He was President of the US viola da gamba society from 2000 until 2004. His current research and performance interests include the cello music of Benjamin Britten, Chopin's Cello Music on period instruments and French Gamba Music. A graduate of the Crane School of Music at Potsdam College in NY and of Penn State (MM cello, 1978), he also studied with John Hsu at Cornell University. He can be seen performing in a Jenkins 4 part fantasy on:
Brooke Green now resident in Sydney will be the musical director. Brooke is well known as a producer for ABC Classic FM and also performs widely on the treble viol with Josie and the Emeralds (photo). She was a tutor at last year's Sydney Easter workshop. For more about this exciting group and to see some videos go to:
Other tutors are Laura Vaughan and Josie Ryan. Talks will be given by Brent, Brooke and Laura. Besides the normal sessions of technique and consort playing, there will be choices such as Italian Songs and Dances, Chansons, contemporary songs and consorts and Gibbons. Private lessons from the tutors will be available. Bring your cheque book as Chris Twidle will have some viols for sale and Saraband Music will be selling music and strings.
Easter Viol Workshop 2011
Across the ditch from earthquake-ravaged Christchurch, I came for four welcome days relief, just to make music. Not any old music, you should understand, but fine old vintages which had been maturing in the archived barrels of museums and libraries for centuries. Names of Elizabethan master vintners of the finest musical polyphony such as Jenkins, Byrd and Lawes. Performed in this land which was, of course, unknown to them at a time when it required Sir Francis Drake in the Golden Hind (1577-80) to prove to many that the world was indeed, not flat. Had Drake sailed a few hundred miles further south, he would have likely seen and landed in Australia – perhaps landing his viol quartet to play to the aboriginal natives. How that would have affected the history of Australia, and even the viol! But he didn't and so it has been left to the AVGS to pick up the tab and offer opportunities for the viol fraternity to indulge and share the rarefied vintages of the consort repertoire in the Antipodes - albeit several centuries down the track.
At least we beat the volcanic ash from Chile by a couple of months; how that could have decimated our consorts. As it was, there we were ready to go at 9am sharp or thereabouts on Friday 22nd April for the first of four sessions of 'technique'. My tutor, at first wondered as to what was intended here by the organisers. Still, a few moments playing provided the realisation of its absence in most of us and then we were away.The home group consort quickly followed and the first of the many fantasias, fancies and fugues that made up the four days was painstakingly murdered. One learned slowly not to get too involved beyond the allotted time in these late morning sessions because a satisfying lunch was waiting downstairs and consort playing seemed to assist a healthy appetite. Not that we had much time to indulge, for the second course was another healthy and satisfying talk by one of the tutors. Then, more consort playing in different groups helped us with enjoying more repertoire and meeting others.
Then, rather like feeding vegetables to a young child, who had already eaten more than enough, we were offered 'choices'. How could one refuse? Not only were there some good choices but the tutors provided such a skilled and practical level of teaching. We kept going - well satisfied. After all that, the final session back with our home consorts for some, lost impetus.The tutors, deservedly, were given a break or more likely were rehearsing for the evening consort so we missed them.The odd local seemed to have to leave early but mostly, we were, by that stage of the day, to use a Christchurch earthquake term, munted.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Saturday evening concert by the tutors. What a clever choice of music and like programming Haydn's Farewell Symphony in reverse. Great fun, too, having to guess the composer. A gentle hint that we should all be able to discern one good vintage from another. The Saturday concert reinforced the view that we had such a proficient and professional team of tutors – great teaching and memorable performances; all thoroughly approachable and helpful as one could wish. Thanks so much to musical director, Catherine Finnis and tutors, Ibi Aziz, Laura Vaughan, Jenny Eriksson and Brooke Green.
The School itself ticked over like a well rehearsed ensemble. I have been involved in many early music and recorder schools over the years but not as a student. It was such a pleasure not to have any responsibility other than to play as well as one could. One learns to realise just how much effort goes into the organisation and I am sure that all students appreciated the apparently effortless and friendly organisation by Victoria Watts, ably supported by Richard Milner and Rosaleen Love.
In New Zealand, Robert Oliver, Polly Sussex and Rhona Lever have been steadfast and undaunted over the years in encouraging knowledge of the instrument. Still viol playing in Godzown is fragmented across the country. The opportunity to share in the 32nd Australian Easter workshop is greatly appreciated and provides a catalyst for the development of the movement in New Zealand. The AGM discussed the idea of New Zealanders acting as hosts to our Australian friends. Our Prime Ministers have even gone so far as to call each other 'family'. How close can you get? Not much further, in politics anyway. We are talking about it over here for 2012. I have heard Dunedin and Wellington suggested. I think I agree with Richard that it might be better to leave the Easter schools in Australia and provide another in New Zealand at some other time of the year. Watch this space.
Just imagine the publicity that a wondrous store of Elizabethan wine had been discovered. Imagine the auction price at Sotherby's of even one bottle. Yet this is the case (no pun intended) with most of the viol consort music and every Easter, we are given the opportunity to sample. It's a bargain.
Here's the usual reminder, for this time of year, that subscriptions for 2012 are now falling due.
It's still the same amount as listed on our website: electronic only membership is $35 (single), $45 (family), $25 (concession). Hardcopy membership $45 (single), $55 (family) and $35 concession. We also have three year subs at $125 (single), $155 (family) and $95 (concession). Most members are now paying by direct debit.
There was some discussion prior to the last AGM that the society is now reasonably well established financially, and perhaps we might decrease our subscription amounts, but that topic didn't make it to the 2011 agenda. It might be worth thinking about for this year.
News from the USA and UK
The December 2011 issue of VdGSA News covers plans for their 50th conclave to be held at the University of Delaware, Newark, from July 22-29, 2012. Interestingly they are not planning a printed brochure – the brochure and registration will be entirely on line. They have set up a fund for special projects etc and have so far raised $20,000 of the $50,000 needed.
The death in a mountaineering accident of the esteemed viol maker from Austria, Peter Hutmannsberger, is reported He was only 49 years old. His web page is still up and worth looking at for the list of prominent viol players who own his instruments – described as 'fine', 'fabulous', 'classics', 'wondrous' . He also is described as 'cheerful, boyish grin, beautiful and good natured soul'. (Ruth Wilkinson and Victoria Watts own instruments made by Peter).
The Society'sweb page has lots of music to print out including all the 4, 5 and 6 part Jenkins fantasies as well as 2 pieces by Bach arranged by Yukimi Kambe. Tom MacCracken's database of old viols is also now on the web page. This 'first instalment' includes 222 instruments known or thought to have been made in England prior to the 20th century.
The new CD by Phantasm of the complete consort music by Byrd is favourably reviewed by Elizabeth Macdonald and Tom Manoff. Elizabeth remarks on the superb recording, with a clear rich sound, and the acoustics of Merton College Chapel in Oxford coming through. The performances she says are 'immaculate'. Tom's review says "Byrd was a really intense fellow. Someone wrote of him that he was naturally disposed to gravity and piety. True enough. He paid serious attention to his craft of music, even when composing pieces one might call 'light'. The players of Phantasm handle the complexities and nuances of Byrd's style with perfection. His agile melodies sound spontaneous. His rich harmonies emerge as full-bodied colours. His dense counterpoint sounds easygoing. Indeed the earthly elegance of William Byrd's music is perfectly matched to this ensemble's temperament."
Three books of printed consort music for 5 viols edited by Jacqui Robertson Wade and Andrew Fowler (Rondo Publishing) provide a progressively challenging repertoire and are particularly intended for educational purposes. The reviewer notes that they are an 'excellent resource to teach a wide range of technical and ensemble skills". The music is conveniently set out with pieces over two facing pages. Book 1 is largely homophonic dances while the parts become more complex in Book 3. The reviewer would have liked more supporting comments and also is concerned that bowings are 'often a problem'. A useful part of this collection is the discussion in the first and third books on ornamentation in consort playing.
The Society held a meeting in November on "Life after Death; The Viol in the 18th and 19th Centuries" with Peter Holman, Robert Rawson, Ben Hebbert, and Susanne Heinrich. Topics covered by talks were Gottfried Finger, Handel, old viols, Abel. Music was provided by Judy Tarling, Mark Caudle, Susanne Heinrich, and Louise Jameson and Peter Holman and included pieces by Finger, Conti, Bocchi, Pepusch, Abel, and Lidel. The next meeting will be in Oxford on March 17 and the theme is "The Viol in Germany" directed by Charles Medlam. Music by the Grauns, Schaffrath, CPE Bach and Hesse.
There is a very interesting interview with Gary Bridgewater (see picture) of Bridgewater and Neizert in England. Here are some extracts from the article ( The Viol no 24 for full interview):
"Bridgewood & Neitzert are recognised as prominent specialists in rare and fine violins. In their showroom you will find fine examples of violins, violas, cellos and double basses together with a superb selection of bows from some of the great names of the 19th century to current modern masters. In their workshops they employ cutting-edge restoration procedures along with advanced original concepts all grounded in a thorough knowledge to achieve optimum sound.
One significant area of speciality is for period instruments where they are established as a leading authority for Baroque and Classical period instruments and specifically those of the violin and viol family.
The business occupies all 3 floors plus windowless basement (complete with ghost!) of a 19th century building that has in the past housed many different types of shop. Before they took it over, it had been an electricity show room. On the ground floor there is the shop counter, behind which are rows and rows of drawers each containing strings by a particular maker.
The business started in 1982, and has been in this location for 18 years. My first workshop was in Dalston together with 3 other instrument makers: there were 2 lutemakers, one harp maker, and me making viols and violins. We were on the second floor, below us was a bespoke furniture maker, above us he lived with his wife, later we discovered this was a screen for his rather more tasteless activities as drug dealer and pimp. The prostitute was a lovely woman - I felt very sorry for her. We got on alright with the drag dealer, but every Wednesday and Friday he would let anyone come in, and the
There are 3 who work in the shop: Colin, who is fulltime, and Sara and Eva who job-share. They all have a musical background - Colin worked for Tysoe's in Kent and is very good at setting up violins, and Sara studied baroque cello at the Guildhall School of Music. These are the people who normally answer the phone if you ring with an order or an enquiry. The bulk of our business is in repairs and sales of new instruments (made by our own staff and a number of others — we are very supportive of new makers) and second-hand instruments (some sold on commission).Though the sale of strings makes up only a small part of our business, it is a very important part. For one thing, there is always the chance that an order for a few strings may lead to other things! As well as selling strings, we are always happy to give advice about strings, either over the counter, by phone or by email. In fact many people come to us because they know that we have knowledge in this area. About 40% of the strings we sell are gut; the rest are 'modern'. About 15% of the strings go abroad, mainly to Northern Europe and Australia. 70% of our gut strings go to professional players, 30% to amateurs, though of course any one professional player may buy about 6 times the number of strings that an amateur would, so our customer ratio isn't 70:30.
It is very useful to know the following; string length, reference pitch e.g. 415hz, tuning or tuning range and it also helps to have information about the strings you have used in that position in the past the ones you didn't like as well as the ones you did! As well as all this, we would like to know any other relevant details - if you want this or that feel, for example. We can then advise you on what we think would suit you best.
Can you see that gut will be superseded as a material for early strings? Not in the foreseeable future - I think it is a long way off. Some artificial materials seem to work well when plucked, and many players of plucked instrument find that Nylgut, for example, is very close to gut. Nothing has been found that can be bowed, though."
Technical Tip – Consort Reheasals
(reproduced from US Viola da Gamba News June 2004)
In my area, most amateur viol playing seems to lack focus in that we mostly get together in varied combinations and sightread a lot of music but never work on anything. I find this frustrating since we never seem to get any better. What can I do to encourage my viol friends to actually work on a smaller set of pieces, learn and improve?
From: Mai-Lan Broekman, Wayland MA
Working with the music:
When something is just not working:
and a couple more hints this time from Sarah Manthey, Molln, Germany:
When working on a piece, agree on a tempo but resist the temptation to count out a measure before starting to play. If done habitually it will prevent players from ever hearing the beginning because their attention will be focused on the counting and not on the music. The same goes for "conducting" entrances for other players. Once or twice can be helpful but as a habit it's deadly!
More of the obvious: playing requires listening. We all tend to hear what we want to hear rather than what we actually do. Try taking turns sitting out for a time in order to listen more. Never think this is "baby stuff'! You've probably noticed how teachers would rather not play along with groups they are coaching, so they can concentrate on listening.
Josie and the Emeralds - WHERE WERE YOU?Ruth Kelly
During the Glebe Music Festival last November, "Josie and the Emeralds" performed 'cryes' and complaints from the 16th and 21st centuries at St Scholastica's Chapel. I wish you had been there, because Jenny Ericsson and I were the only viol players in the audience. You missed a stunning performance by Josie Ryan, singing with a professional viol consort, Brooke Green (treble viol and Director), Fiona Ziegler (tenor viol), Catherine Upex (bass viol) and Elizabeth Rumsey (bass viol), with Claire Edwardes (percussion).
The programme consisted of pieces by several of our well-known early English composers of Fantasias, but it was a special treat to hear some of their songs instead. Even the "In Nomine" by Robert Parsons and the In Nomine part of "Crye" by Christopher Tye were sung to the original words of "Gloria tibi Trinitas", which was from the Mass by John Taverner. This is a modern way of performing an In Nomine. It was originally an instrumental form of chamber music developed in England in the 16th Century, and the words were lost for centuries until modern research rediscovered them in 1949. So it was exciting to hear the cantus firmus actually sung, and Josie's lovely soprano voice gave new life to the ancient form of music. Clare Edwardes provided percussion for some of the pieces that had a Spanish flavour, but which were intriguingly sourced from a manuscript in Sweden.
As a special treat, you can have access to some of the concert if you follow this link: http://www.myspace.com/video/rid/110870820
The Marais Project
Ossenbrunner Twins - Sydney Conservatorium of Music – 23 October 2011
Neville Olliffe (reproduced with approval from Early Music News vol. 11 no 6)
The Ossenbrunner Twins; Marais Project (Jennifer Eriksson & Daniel Yeadoru violas da gamba; Tommie Andersson, theorbo; Belinda Montgomery, Narelle Evans & Mara Kiek, vocals); Recital Hall East. Sydney Conservatorium of music: 23/10/11
Twins usually look alike and sometimes behave alike, but they can also be as different as cat and dog. In this concert's union of the two violas da gamba made by Reinhard Ossenbrunner, we saw and heard an amazing pairing and co-operation. Daniel's instrument spoke with lovely resonance in its lower range, and Jennifer's revelled in the mid region, but the blend and clarity of tone could well have suggested a single instrument. I really wasn't expecting it to be quite this remarkable - a tribute to Ossenbrunner's craft and also, the performers.
The opening Adagio, and later, the Sarabanda. of the first performance - Sonata EX from "Le Nymphe di Rheno". by Johann Schenk - perfectly indicated the lilting, melancholy abilities of these Ossenbrunners. A flavoursome Aria and bright, skipping Giga then displayed their dexterity and clarity.
Belinda Montgomery proved an excellent vocal choice to combine with the weaving viols in two verses of the carol, Une jeune fillette. For the concert's conclusion, at the request of Ossenbrunner, the vocal trio - to viol and theorbo accompaniment - took us for a short, chugging ride on their Ossenbrunner Express - more recognizable as The Chattanooga Choo Choo. I suspect it isn't easy delivering those rhythms via underhand bowing. Slick and entertaining!
Good Friday, 6 April 2012 at 7pm, in St John's Cathedral, Brisbane
First performed in Berlin on 26 March 1755, German Baroque composer Cart Heinrich Graun's iconic Passion oratorio was once one of the two or three most significant and most performed sacred music works in Europe. This will be its first full performance in Australia, although it was given with organ only in Melbourne in 1893. Using the best artists available and performed in a historically informed style, this premiere will convey the vibrancy and excitement of this great work to the audience.
Saturday 24 March, 7pm, James O. Fairfax Theatre, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (with projected images from the Renaissance exhibition.)
Josie And The Emeralds - The Italian Renaissance: music associated with the NGA's Renaissance Exhibition. Dufay, Josquin, Ruffo, Palestrina, Cabeçon, Bouzignac, Monteverdi
Mar 4 Sunday 5:00 pm Love in Venice
The Song Company and guest artists Tommie Anderson (lute/theorbo/guitar) and Laura Vaughan (lirone/gamba)
Prepare to laugh and fall in love: A boat from Venice bound for Padua by Banchieri (1568–1634), a hilarious musical comedy set in Venice, which tells the story of an unlikely encounter in a small boat. The comedy is complemented by nine beautiful madrigals by Monteverdi (1567–1643).
Bookings essential$40, $35 members/concession, $32 under 30, $15 student
Mar 31 Saturday 7:00 pm La Bergamasca
Experience the music of Late Renaissance northern Italy with Aria award-nominated baroque trio Latitude 37 with Julia Federsdorf - baroque violin, Laura Vaughan - viol and Donald Nicholson - harspichord. From the austere yet passionate beauty of Rognoni and Castello to the cascading notes of Merulo and rowdy country dances. Buy tickets to both Josie and The Emeralds (24 March) and La Bergamasca (31 March) for only $60 (no concessions)
Venue: James O Fairfax Theatre
Sun Feb 19th 5 pm Violinists Catherine Mackintosh and Catherine Weiss (members of the Purcell Quartet and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in London) present a programme of baroque music together with Ruth Wilkinson (viola da gamba) and Priscilla Taylor (harpsichord)
Music by Purcell, Vitali, Corelli, Leclair. Wyselaskie Auditorium, Centre for Theology and Ministry. 29 College Crescent, Parkville
You are invited to join the performers for a glass of wine after the concert.
Tickets $35, concession $25 Enquiries 93875517
Mon 12th Mar 8.00 pm The Song Company with Tommie Anderson - lute, theorbo, guitar, Laura Vaughan - lirone, gamba. At the Salon, Melb Recital Centre, cnr of Southbank Bvd & Sturt St Southbank
For this all-Venetian extravaganza, Roland Peelman has selected nine beautiful madrigals by Monteverdi as counterpart to Banchieri's 1623 'Boat from Venice to Padua'. This hilarious and early musical comedy sees the Song Company expertly flit between a set of dubious commedia characters who share an encounter on a small boat. Tickets $54, $59.
Bookings 9699 3333 or http://www.melbournerecital.com.au/
Monday 30 January, 8pm, Killara Music Club, Ravenswood School Auditorium
Josie And The Emeralds - The Italian Renaissance: music associated with the NGA's Renaissance Exhibition. Dufay, Josquin, Ruffo, Palestrina, Cabeçon, Bouzignac, Monteverdi
THE MARAIS PROJECT
Sunday 29th April. 3.00pm Recital Hall West, Sydney Conservatorium, Macquarie St, Sydney. Concert 1 – "Mara! meets Marais" CD launch Directed by Jennifer Eriksson & Mara Kiek.
Be prepared for an afternoon of free-wheeling virtuosity as three members of Australia's globe-trotting world music ambassadors, Mara!, collaborate once more with The Marais Project to launch our joint CD. Hear the haunting voice of Mara Kiek in her unique arrangement of the 13th century troubadour song cycle, "Cantigas de Amigo" along with a wonderful pot pourri of amazing music from down the centuries.
Mara Kiek & Belinda Montgomery – voice & percussion, Llew Kiek -bouzouki & gittern, Jennifer Eriksson & Catherine Upex – viola da gamba, Tommie Andersson - renaissance lute & theorbo
Tickets - $30/20 at door; family ticket $80 (2 adults + 2 children); bookings ph: (02) 9809 5185; on-line at: http://www.maraisproject.com.au
Sunday 26th August. 3.00pm Recital Hall West, Sydney Conservatorium, Macquarie St, Sydney
The Marais Project is proud to present the recently formed professional viol consort, "Seaven Teares" - "Seaven Teares" being the alternate title for John Dowland's famous viol consort piece, "Lachrimae". Joined by well known soprano, Nicole Thomson, "Seaven Teares" will present music by Bull, Dowland & Morales along with a selection of beautiful songs that highlight the unique sound of the viol consort.
Nicole Thomson – soprano, Catherine Upex- treble viol, Shaun Ng – tenor viol, Imogen Granwal & Jennifer Eriksson – bass viol.
Tickets - $30/20 at door; family ticket $80 (2 adults + 2 children); bookings ph: (02) 9809 5185; on-line at: http://www.maraisproject.com.au
Sunday 11th November. 3.00pm Recital Hall West, Sydney Conservatorium, Macquarie St, Sydney.
Concert 3 – Swedish Roots Directed by Jennifer Eriksson & Tommie Andersson
Jennifer Eriksson and renowned Marais Project lutenist Tommie Andersson both share a Swedish heritage. Tommie was born in Sweden and Jennifer's Swedish grandfather migrated to Australia in the 1920s. For years, they have dreamt of presenting a concert of Swedish baroque and folk music. Works by "The father of Swedish music" Johan Helmich Roman, songs by the poet Carl Michael Bellman and a trio sonata by Marais.
To be confirmed – Voice, Melissa Farrow – baroque flute, Fiona Ziegler – baroque violin, Jennifer Eriksson – viola da gamba, Tommie Andersson – lute, 1820s classical guitar & theorbo.
Tickets - $30/20 at door; family ticket $80 (2 adults + 2 children); bookings ph: (02) 9809 5185; on-line at: http://www.maraisproject.com.au
News from Saraband Music
Viols had a presence at the Woodford Folk Festival recently. I did two sessions giving any comers a free try at treble, tenor and bass viols. There was certainly some interest and enjoyment, so I hope some of the participants do eventually find a viol and join us. I also gave a try-out at the Maleny recorder workshop last October. A small group, but one person was planning to give viols a go. The most impressive was a 3 year old who was almost as big as the treble. While grappling with the instrument, he told me he wanted to be a lutenist when he grows up!
I have a recently formed an ensemble, myself on bass viol with Wendy Russell on recorder and Naomi Craddock on harpsichord. We hope to be performing this year under the name Zarabanda. I used to have a lovely viol group with that name back in the 90s, and the group seized on the name when I mentioned it. I'm enjoying getting back to some wonderful baroque and earlier repertoire, including the Sonnerie.
A new Saraband publication which will be forthcoming very shortly is a companion book to the Hortus Musicus edition of the 9 Fantasias for 2 viols by Thomas Morley. In Nathalie Dolmetsch's edition which is still available, the instrumentation is the original two trebles or treble and tenor viols. I've taken those pieces and transposed them for tenor and bass viols or viola and cello. The music is too wonderful and I felt everyone should be playing these pieces. Each piece will occur in the book at least twice in different transpositions to suit differing needs. Look out for it!
I will be in Melbourne for the first day and a half of the Easter Viol School, selling music, strings, CDs, cards and anything else. Advance notice of your viol needs is appreciated so that I can make sure it's ordered and there when you need it. Maleny maker Chris Twidle is also planning to drive down with some of his viols for sale.
For many years, my 7 string bass viol had a string crossing problem. I took it to a variety of well-known luthiers, who succeeded in making the problem worse by fiddling with the bridge and nut, and rendering the viol unplayable. Chris solved the problem, which turned out to be a rather large dish in the middle of the fingerboard. Marais - coming ready or not!!
Saraband Music, 07 5496 3439
Alice Chance – an Interview
Sydney based viola da gamba player Alice Chance completed her HSC last year. She learns from Jennifer Erikson and will perform one of her own compositions with Jenny in this year's HSC ENCORE performances at the Sydney Opera House in March. Victoria Watts asked her a few questions about how she ended up playing the viol for her HSC and what her plans are for the future.
How did your musical life begin and what was the first instrument you played?
My musical life began one morning in kindergarten, when I witnessed a Musica Viva performance, featuring a baroque ensemble with Jenny playing the Viola da Gamba. That afternoon, as Mum and I travelled home in the car, I sat there, wide-eyed and speechless. She cautiously began to ask me if anything interesting had happened that day, but the only response she could get was, "Mum... I want to play the Lopity Gamba..."
Due to the lack of "Lopity Gambas" for sale at the time, I was started on the violin and continued, half-heartedly, for 10 years.
When did you decide to play the viol and what influenced you?
I suppose you could say I made the decision when I was five. However, when the opportunity actually arose, around 4 years ago, it was a very intuitive decision. I was intrigued by the subtle, melancholic tones of the Gamba. and mystified by its historic repertoire. I loved how you could achieve so many different qualities of sound on the one instrument, and I wondered if there were any I didn't know about yet. I felt so attracted to it, that factors such as the lack of opportunity in an orchestral role, or as a member of a standard ensemble, were not really relevant to me at the time.
Were you supported to play viol at school or was it difficult not playing an orchestral instrument?
I was incredibly lucky to be at MLC School, with the guidance and everlasting support of Karen Carey, who is a viol player herself. Were it not for her, and the entire music staff's, understanding and enthusiasm for both early music, and the possibility of early instruments in a contemporary context. I would not have had any of the performance opportunities I so fortunately received. There was difficulty, however, in the HSC course. Every Music 2 student was required to perform a 'core' piece, written in the last 25 years. Whilst I strongly encourage the performance of new music, it presented difficulties for me, as there really wasn't much available. We settled on a Stephen Yates piece, "Le Tombeau pour Marin Marais", written in 2001, and Stephen kindly allowed us to make some changes, so it was more "HSC-friendly".
What ensembles were you part of both at school and as an extra curricular activity?
I'm a very passionate chorister. (Indeed, part of my attraction to the Gamba was it's similarity to the human voice), and so I was involved in the School Choir, Chamber Choir, and the Choir for MLC's tour to Spain in 2010. I'm planning to continue this by joining the Choir at the Sydney Conservatorium, and a separate female A Capella vocal group, "Aurora Australis",for leisure. I am also really looking forward to being a part of the Con's renowned Early Music Ensemble. It will be an honour to play with such talented and passionate musicians, and it will be my first time playing the Gamba in a regular ensemble. I am looking forward to joining (or even starting!) more ensembles with the Gamba, in the near future, should the opportunity arise.
What difference do you think it has made to specialize in viol so early in your career?
This question is best answered with a metaphor! I suppose parallels can be drawn with human friendship. Whilst we're able to form incredibly strong bonds with other people at any stage of our lives, nothing is more special than a friendship formed from childhood. There is something about having grown and developed together, whilst always finding new ways to connect, which I think is very powerful. I guess the Gamba has grown up with me, and I feel that I know the instrument more intimately because of that. However, in the hope I'm not contradicting myself, I also feel that you can start something at any stage of life and still become an expert. Starting from a young age is no advantage if you're not disciplined and willing to work hard. So if you are disciplined and willing to work hard, age is irrelevant.
What repertoire did you play for your HSC and why did you compose a new work to perform?
I chose to specialise in composition, and so I only had to perform one piece for the HSC. As I said, it was a miracle we found, and had permission to alter the Yates piece, and I have no idea what we would have done otherwise. After the painstaking process of searching for contemporary Gamba repertoire, and the disappointing results, I felt inspired to create some of my own. But I wanted to respect the instrument and its origins. When chatting to an elderly relative, there should be a balance of topics which are relevant to you, and to them - the conversation can't be entirely about the joys of social networking, nor can it be entirely about how licorice used to cost a penny, 'back in my day'. In the same way, an instrument as historic as the Gamba doesn't sound comfortable in a contemporary context, without some links to its past. That's why I based my piece, 'O Pastor Animarum', on a 12th century plain chant (of the same name) by Hildegard of Bingen.
When has, and will, your new work be performed?
I've been very lucky to have my work performed by two virtuosi, Jenny Eriksson and Daniel Yeadon, at the Marais Project's "Ossenbrunner Twins" concert in October last year. I also feel honoured to have been selected for the HSC ENCORE performances in March this year, where Jenny and I will perform my piece in the Concert Hall at the Sydney Opera House.
Where to now? What are your plans for the future?
My ambition is to be a composer, and I would consider it huge privilege to make a living out of doing something I love so much. I'm about to start a Composition degree at the Sydney Conservatorium, whilst also doing an Arts degree at the University of Sydney, majoring in Linguistics. My long-term goal with the Gamba is to enlighten others about the beautiful sound world it has, the majestic repertoire that already exists for it, and the endless possibilities of its use in contemporary music. When the next Gambist sits the HSC, and begins to search for a 'core' piece, it's a lovely thought that he or she might be utterly overwhelmed by all the choice.
( PS. Jenny writes - " I don't know if you heard that Alice's piece Danny and I played at the last concert was chosen to be played at ENCORE which is a huge honour for Alice. (Encore is a concert that represents 20 of the best performances by HSC students) SO Alice and I will be playing together,19 March, on the stage of the concert hall at the Sydney opera house. This is also great news for the gamba! (and yes I am VERY proud of Alice who also received a scholarship from Sydney con last week)."
Voices and Viols in Sydney
The Voices & Viols Project had another successful year in 2011. As in 2010 we got off to a slow start due to the minister of the church taking a long Xmas holiday and being incommunicado for even longer. For 2012 we booked 18th of Feb and 24th of March some time ago so that we will begin the year running. There were six sessions in 2011 with attendance averaging 12½ usually comprising 8 viols, 3½ singers & a lute/theorbo. More singers are welcome! In the latter part of the year we enjoyed the participation of a professional countertenor, Timothy Chung. This enabled us to do the decapitation scene from Vivaldi's oratorio Juditha Triumphans, actually written for 5 viols, the Laudate Pueri of Buxtehude, accompanied by 6 viols and other works such as Byrd's Ye Sacred Muses and some continental sacred concerti.
We continue to explore a wide range of genres and periods of music in which voices & viols participated. In 2006, 2007 & 2009 we explored several pieces written for the Holy Roman Emperors. In 2011 we looked at several movements written by the Austrian Hapsburg emperors, notably some Sepolcri. This form is mentioned by John Weretka in his paper in Chelys Australis Vol. 9 and also in his illustrated lecture at the Bermagui school. The works sampled were: Il Lutto dell' Universo and La Vertu della Cruce of Leopold I and Il Terremoto of Draghi. The two Leopold works dated 1668 and 1697 respectively are contrasted: the former with a prima prattica feel; the latter with a bass line moving entirely in quavers, with frequent octave leaps supporting dangerously modern baroque harmonies. Classified into genres, in 2011 we performed:
In previous years we have included several Hispanic and French items on the program; in 2011 there was only one of each. In 2012 the French balance will be redressed with works by Charpentier & Maillard.
Unfamiliar composers whose works were aired in 2011 include Giles, Nicholson, Patrick Mando (after 400 years still hasn't made it into Grove) Shephard, Parsley, Danyel, Heredia & Tejeda.
Settling the group at the beginning of each session has been a challenge. Over the previous three or so years I had programmed simple 3 part things to start. While it seemed to be effective for a time, it now seems not such a good idea, perhaps we have outgrown it. In 2011 we have called the viols a quarter hour earlier than the singers and rehearsed a related viols-only number. For example Latral part II by Mico to go with Latral I by Monteverdi. Some sinfonias and sonatinas from the sacred concerti. Bull's Dorick Fancy to go with the vocal version "Fragile men despise the treasures of this life", and the six part fantaisie on Je suis déshéritée by Caurroy. Thus the viols are well tuned and settled by the time the singers join them.
The manner of performance at V&V is for the whole group to form into a circle. Singers who are not confident readers are invited to position themselves near a viol on a similar part. Organizing parts for seven or so items six or seven times per year is quite a task. Fortunately, some suitable material is available commercially and on the internet, and as well Graeme Stentiford, Ruth Kelly and Clive Lane have provided us with computer engraved parts. In 2012 Rod Byatt will join them. Graeme has also added colour with the occasional cornetto part, he has coached us through the Sonetto by Heredia and even played keyboard, thanks very much Graeme.
In 2012 we will continue our exploration of Je suis déshéritée settings (as we had done with Suzanne un jour in 2006 and 2008) and we will continue to air works from the courts of the Barberini Pope and Cardinals. We will sample sacred concerti from Bohemia (Czech) eg Pfleger. As well as a new selection of consort songs and anthems, we will continue to uncover the small corpus of V&V works by Bull. As we had done with Porter's Orpheus' strings in 2009 we will look at Matthew Peerson's Private Musicke of 1620 where he is struggling with the latest Italian trends.
The Earle His Viols
John Cunningham recently introduced me to this interesting group by telling me about their CD - La Tavola Cromatica. Un'accademia musicale dal Cardinale Barberini. Roma intorno al 1635. This is a wonderful CD of very early Italian consort music played beautifully on instruments close to those of the time. The music is mostly unfamiliar by composers such as Nenna, Rossi, Gesualdo, Waesich, Mazzochi and Eradia.
More about this group comes from their web page: "The foundation of the Earle his Viols (Irene Klein, Jessica Marshall, Brigitte Gasser, Randall Cook) took place in 1999 following a stimulating ensemble project at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis combining the Renaissance viol class of Randall Cook with the inspirational leadership of Anthony Rooley. The experience of this project excited the desire to continue and intensify the work.
All four members of the consort studied at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis and bring many years of musical experience amongst different ensembles and styles to the group. Their common enthusiasms are consort playing and the search for new and exciting repertoire. The Earle his Viols values in particular a homogenous sound, reflecting the particular repertoire and style. This ensures not only an intensive interest in the music itself, but is also reflected in a keen interest in the instruments and bows themselves. Formerly ignored historical models, strings and bows, together with various tuning systems are explored by the group. The name of the group is a tribute to Richard Earle, the maker of the viols used by the consort. His model of a Renaissance viol was developped following a commission from the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, and the design of the instruments is based on instruments represented in a painting by Tintoretto (Concert of the Nymphs, 1580). In form and construction the instruments differ substantially from the few surviving, usually heavily altered, instruments of the 16th century and are even further removed from the later English and French models. The instruments are strung with gut, even lower strings. The bows (by Arno Jochem and Konstantin Krutzsch) also follow iconographical models of the 16th century."
I have also found a second CD by this group:
Rossi, Luigi: Canzon Del Principe - Andrea Marcon, Paolo Pandolfo & Evelyn Tubb, The Earle His Viols, Anthony Rooley (director)
With its new release, Divox is proud to present the artists of the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis (SCB) under the artistic direction of the connaisseur of Ancient Music, Anthony Rooley, together with the wonderful singer Evelyn Tubb, Andrea Marcon, Paolo Pandolfo and the exceptional Earle his Viols. This disc is the completion of Anthony Rooley's dream of recording of the essential oeuvres of the extraordinary manuscript by Luigi Rossi in the British Library, catalogued as MS Add.30491 that he had discovered in 1973. Divox – CDX79907 (CD). (download available from the Divox web pages).
Fretwork – Bach Goldberg variations Harmonia Mundi HMU 907560
(Charles Downey, The Classical Review)
The sheer ingenuity of J. S. Bach's Goldberg Variations has led to an incalculable number of adaptations of the work for other instruments. Music this good can certainly withstand the pulling and bending. This new recording by the viol consort Fretwork, an ensemble of six viola da gamba players, does the reverse by arranging the piece for instruments that antedate the score. Bach was, of course, familiar with the viola da gamba - he wrote three sonatas for the instrument with harpsichord accompaniment (BVW 1027-1029) - but his treatment of it in the Sixth Brandenburg Concerto shows that he regarded it as an antique curiosity, one primarily included for the enjoyment of his princely employer in Kothen, who played it.
The seemingly anachronistic choice to transcribe Bach for viola da gamba is not unprecedented. Paolo Pandolfo has made a beautiful recording of the cello suites on the instrument (Glossa), and like that version, while Fretwork's transcription of the Goldberg Variations is not convincing at all times, there is still much to enjoy.
The best parts of this recording are strangely compelling because of the appealing qualities of the instrument: its round, sweet tone; eerily human cantabile quality; dance-like agility; and range of dynamic possibilities. That last quality makes for a moody, almost whispered 'Variation 25', that most enigmatic slow movement cast by Bach in a heavily chromatic minor mode. The advantage of having multiple instruments is not only the independence that can be attained with contrapuntal textures, allowing the listener to unravel the score's imitative complexities - one of the failings of the virtuosic but ultimately monochromatic transcription for harp by Catrin Finch (Deutsche Grammophon) - but the variations that are possible on repetitions.
The beautiful 'Aria' that opens the piece is set at a very slow tempo, not quite as glacial as that taken by Glenn Gould in his second recording of the work, with the melody given to one dulcet treble viol (occasionally a second treble viol takes up Bach's intermittent alto part). The first time the group plays the 'Aria', the accompaniment is all set in pizzicato on lower instruments, and it is a nice touch to alter the arrangement in its reprise at the end with a mixture of arco and pizzicato accompaniment.
The tempos are not always as fast as they could be, as in the leisurely first variation with two viols splitting the texture. The most virtuosic variations required some clever rewriting, pushing the players and their instruments (tuned to A=392) to the edge, as with the pulsating triplets of Variation 26, producing some unpleasant results. Richard Boothby's arrangement shares the wealth among his three pairs of different-sized viols, giving some of the variations, like the somber Variation 3, to the lower instruments. In the most successful variations, the contrast of timbre and articulation, such as the short accompaniment notes of Variation 5 being played pizzicato, is especially pleasing. While probably not a 'must-have' recording, fans of the Goldberg Variations or of the sound of the viola da gamba will likely be tickled.
Mara meets Marais (MMMP001) Directed by Mara Kiek and Jennifer Eriksson. Dur.53'29"
This is an unexpected mix of instruments, styles and eras, brought together by the personal chemistry of the performers, and their sense of the common factors in the music of a remarkably diverse programme. It combines medieval, renaissance and baroque music from England, France and Spain. The instruments are from the same eras: baroque (bass viol, theorbo) renaissance (lute) medieval (gittern) and modern (double bass) together with some percussion. The two singers, Mara Kiek with her well-known and very compelling chesty declamation of the medieval songs, is joined by soprano Belinda Montgomery, who has a more conventional technique, with a clear, true sound, beautifully in tune, with a light vibrato. Anachronisms abound, and are embraced with glee by the performers. As the booklet notes put it, they aim to share the music they love rather than seek authenticity. In recent times, this word has become almost a derogatory term, implying a lack of sincerity, yet why else would one play a lute, viol, or seek a different vocal timbre unless one was seeking authenticity. Perhaps a better way of expressing it is that these are all performers with a long history of experience and passion for the music of these eras, and are using this experience to set themselves free in their expression of the music.
All are very accomplished performers, and bring an easy assurance to each item in the programme. Dowland's 'Now o now' uses the 4-part vocal tenor and bass to add to the lute accompaniment for some verses. The Marais F major suite from the fifth book has a double bass added to the accompaniment. There is a lovely elevation motet by Pierre Bouteiller, a contemporary of Couperin, in which the very stylish soprano of Belinda Montgomery is accompanied by theorbo and two bass viols. Completely new to me, and I'm supposed to know about French music of that period. The songs of the 13th century Portuguese Martin Codax take up the latter half of the recording, and are the most satisfying unity. Here the players are free to improvise – with the lute, viol and double bass introducing ideas which are sometimes medieval, sometimes almost jazzy, but with a unified approach which supports Mara Kiek's compelling declamation. Every now and then, in a refrain, she and Belinda Montgomery sing in octaves, beautifully tuned, and a lovely contrast in sound. Authentic? Who cares. Does it hold together? Not for me, but an enjoyable recording.
Latitude 37 (Cat no. ABC Classics 4764525) Music of 17th Century Italy and Spain dur: 72'05"
This is a repertoire for the thrill-seeker. Early 17th century Italy and Spain, with the emphasis on improvisation and flair, exciting new instruments coming to the fore, the new singing techniques pioneered by Caccini, and the birth of opera and the dramatic genius. A literal approach to the notes as they appear on printed and manuscript sources is no longer adequate. The recording opens with a piece very well-known to many readers as one of the earliest pieces written for the bass viol – an example of how one might improvise on the passamezzo antico from the book published mid-16th century by Diego Ortiz. The first sound we hear is a deep, slow drum beat, then a chord on the theorbo, then the racket comes in with a lovely squelchy G and the violin takes the tune away, followed by the lute and the harpsichord. It's still Ortiz, but carrying his ideas further, using them as a cue for development. A lute piece by Piccinni tunes into an improvisation on the Folia bass, played by the various instrument in turn. This is followed by Salaverde, Fontana, Marini. Merulo, Caccini, Frescobaldi, Castello and Kapsberger. Julia Fredersdorff's violin playing stands out for its lovely sweet sound, perfect tuning, all the considerable agility this music demands, together with an intuitive understanding of the music. The toccata by Merulo is played with great freedom by Donald Nicolson, with Laura Vaughan's lirone playing chords – a lovely effect. New light is given to Caccini's most famous song, Amarilli. The track begins with the violin playing a version from an early 17th Century English manuscript transcription of the song. She plays quite literally the highly ornamented version, accompanied by the lute. The singer then sings the first half of the song as written, and the English MS version is then taken up by the viol, also quite literally. In fact, in the manuscript, the transcription is incomplete. It is of course for a singer, with the words under-laid, and the tablature accompaniment for bass viol in standard tuning. The song then continues with the violin and the bass viol joining the singer in improvised additional parts, very much in style, and creating a beautiful effect. Soprano Siobhán Stagg sings the song beautifully, literal and with a pure well-tuned agility. Violin and viol, followed by guitar then have a great time with another Caccini song which happens to be the Spagnoletta tune. Palestrina's madrigal 'Io son ferito' is sung with organ, and violin and viol playing bastarda versions at the same time. The effect is magical with the singer's lovely pure sound wonderfully surrounded by the roulades and diminutions of the instruments. It's my favourite track on a wonderful recording.
Jenkins 4 part fantasies played by Spirit of the Gambo (Cat. No. MF8011)
Ask viol players which composer they most like to play and the answer is often Jenkins. He left us a considerable legacy of viol consort music but also wrote organ and vocal music. The early part of his life coincided with the dark days of the commonwealth and it is thought that much of his music, written during this time, has been lost. None of his fantasies were published in his lifetime but now they can all be downloaded in excellently edited by Martha Bishop from the vdgsa web site.
The 17 four part fantasies are less frequently played than his 5 and 6 part music, so a new recording of them is particularly welcome. The Dutch ensemble "Spirit of the Gambo" have released a recording of 13 of the 17 fantasies plus the first of the two pavanes. A total of only 61 mins. so there would be room for the other 4 fantasies (nos. 1, 4, 10 and 17) as well as the other pavane. This is my main concern with this new recording. The playing is elegant and refined with the different moods of each fantasy being well brought out. The order appears random but may in fact be to make for variety and therefore it is a good listening experience to listen to the whole CD at one time. Perhaps they felt that an hour of the Jenkins 4 part fantasies was about as much as anyone could take at one listening! However the Cologne Viol Consort in their 1993 recording did give us all 17 in numerical order (1 and 2 though are reversed). "Spirit of Gambo" play on renaissance-style instruments made by Gesina Liedmeier and they are strung in all gut. The bows are made by Gerhardt Landwehr. The sound they say is "bewitching, dynamic, transparent and more human". I am not sure what that all means! However the treble sound is particularly sweet and appealing. The other lines are harder to hear and I would have liked a bit more clarity in that regard. With moderate tempi, no dramatic variations in articulation and little or no ornamentation make these performances sound quite refined and mature. In comparison, the Cologne consort generally adopt faster tempi and a more out going style of playing. The recording quality of the new recording is, I think, superior.
The label, Musica Ficta, is a tiny (12 releases) Dutch label specialising in baroque music. I bought my copy from MDT in the UK (http://www.mdt.co.uk). The Cologne Viol Consort CD can be downloaded from itunes or classicsonline.
|Last Updated on Sunday, 29 April 2012 12:29|