- Easter Viol School 2006
- Easter Viol School 2007
- Consort Workshops
- Pan Pacific Viola da Gamba Meeting
- Chelys Australis
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- CD Reviews
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- Marais Project/Sounds Baroque
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Easter Viol School 2007
The school is being planned as being under the joint auspices of the Early Music Society of Victoria and the Australian Viola da Gamba Society, however the details need endorsement by the committees of the two Societies.
Despite this, planning is well underway for the next Easter Viol School to be held at the Canterbury Girls School in Melbourne over the 4 days of Easter - 6 - 9 April 2007. The local organising committee under the chairmanship of Victoria Watts has been convened and has already taken a number of decisions. Asako Mirakawa, a member of the internationally acclaimed Fretwork Viol Consort will be the overseas tutor and a brief biography is given below. Local tutors are still to be finalised. The Society AGM will be held on the Saturday - April 7.
If you have suggestions/requests/comments then please contact me
or Victoria Watts
Sydney Consort Workshop - June 3 2006
Jenny Eriksson's home in Putney would have to come pretty close to being the perfect venue for a day of consort playing. Where other people might have a pool behind their homes, Jenny has had built the most magnificent music studio - apparently dubbed by friends and family as "The Putney Opera House"! The studio has been architect-designed with the interior surfaces especially designed to enhance the sound of the viol. On the practical side, it is very well lit without being glary and can more than comfortably accommodate six viol players along with their equipment. Apart from the music studio and the serious business of the day, Jenny and her family are wonderful hosts with lunch around their big kitchen table feeling like a family meal for viol players.
Jenny led the six of us through four pieces, of varying styles and difficulty, on the day. Firstly to warm up an Intrada 1 "Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns halt" by Michael Altenburg (1584-1640), who was unkown to me, but was Kantor and a pastor at Erfurt and Sommerda, popularised the Protestant music of his time, and was known in his day as the "Lassus of Thuringia". The second piece was the madrigal "Poor is the Life" by Michael East in which the challenge was to play with dynamics and articulation which matched the text of the madrigal.
After lunch we moved on to John Ward's Six Part Fantasia I. Somewhat underappreciated by viol players, Ward's music is amongst the finest consort music. Distinctly episodic, his fantasias almost have individual "movements", and almost always end with very appealing, and fun to play, syncopated dotted note figures. This fantasia is no exception and was indeed a very rewarding piece to play. With some time left before the end of the day, we also had a quick look at one of Jenkins' pavans, as a foretaste of the next consort workshop.
An enjoyable and rewarding time was had by all, with some good playing and a good chance to catch up with other viol players. The "take home message" that I took home with me, was Jenny's suggestion that for events like this with fairly limited time, and where the music is distributed before hand (and a big thanks to Richard Milner for doing this) it's a good idea to work through the music and mark in bowings and possibly interpretational notes. Even if players come to the day with different bowings and interpretations, at least some thought has been given to it. Furthermore, it is not unusual for there to be a range of abilities at these events, so the more preparation that is put into the music beforehand it is possible that any difficulties arising from this range of abilities can be minimised.
The next Sydney Consort Day will be held on Saturday August 5 at the same venue while the final day will be tutored by Danny Yeadon at a venue to be advised. The date, for your diary is Saturday November 4.
John Jenkins Six-Part Consorts
Phantasm - Avie AV 2099 Available online through www.magnatune.com (both as a download and a complete CD in a case with liner notes) and iTunes.
Over the past few years Phantasm have produced a series of recordings of viol consort music that have been received with great critical acclaim, and have won many prestigious recording awards, including two Gramophone awards . Having recorded the consort music of Purcell, Byrd and Gibbons, amongst others, they have now turned their attention to the music of John Jenkins. A recording of Jenkins' music, in particular his viol consort music, is something of a rarity and is therefore a very welcome addition to the catalogue.
Rather than recording a survey of his music for different viol consort combinations, Phantasm have recorded the complete music for six part consort; twelve Fantasies, two In Nomines and two Pavans including the Bell Pavan. Usually a four part ensemble with Laurence Dreyfus, Wendy Gillespie, Jonathan Manson and Marrki Luolajan-Mikkola, Phantasm is joined here by Emilia Benjamin and Mikko Perkola.
As in their previous recordings, Phantasm play this music technically flawlessly. The recording, made in the chapel of Merton College, Oxford, captures a consort sound which is both rich and warm, but at the same time crystal clear, with none of the parts getting lost in muddiness.
On their website Phantasm state that they are inspired by the great twentieth-century string quartets and have championed a bold and passionate style of consort playing. This approach is very much apparent in this recording, which is, very regrettably, to the detriment of Jenkins' music. What makes this music appealing to viol consort players is its charm, its quiet wit and its understatement; Jenkins is one of the most English of composers. In this recording, the music is driven too hard and becomes rather relentless. This is further accentuated by the overuse of vibrato, particularly in the top treble line.
I'm sure that this recording will receive very positive reviews in other music publications and, indeed, the approach Phantasm take may appeal to many listeners as bringing passion and excitement to this repertoire. However, I feel that Jenkins is better represented by two of the other recordings of his viol consort music currently available; that by Fretwork, "The Mirrour and Wonder of his Age", on Virgin Classics, and that by the Rose Consort of Viols, "All in a Garden Green", on Naxos.
Esperar, Sentir, Morir - Songs and Dances from the Hispanic Baroque
Charivari Agreable Signum Classics - SIGCD069 Obtainable from Signum Records
This CD was recorded at St Andrews Church, Toddington, Gloucestershire, England in 2004 and released in 2005. The core members of Charivari Agreable, Suzanne Heinrich on viols and Kah-Ming Ng on organ and harpsichord are joined by a range of plucked strings - Constance Allanic on harp, Richard Sweeney on lute, theorbo and guitar together with soprano voice of Clara Sanabras (recently here with the Harp Consort) and the tenor, Rodrigo del Pozo. The music of 16 and 17 the century Spain is by anonymous composers or composers rarely heard - Hildago, Ruiz de Ribayaz, Duron, Escalada, Imana, Barter, Santiago and Valls. There are 16 tracks in all making a remarkably generous 78 minutes of music!
I found the singing particularly ingratiating. Light, subtle, relaxed voices free of vibrato which suit this music splendidly. As you might expect from Spain there are lots of interesting rhythmic features in the music which are well brought out by the varied and usually transparent arrangements. A feature of discs by this group, besides their highly polished performances, are the interesting and detailed liner notes provided by Kah-Ming Ng. The texts and translations of the 10 songs are given in full. Highly recommended.