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Consort Workshops in Melbourne and Sydney
Report on Workshop held Sydney 25 February, 2006 at Jenny Eriksson's Studio
We had a good line up of 6 people for this workshop - Annabelle McIver and Richard Milner on trebles, Ian Georgesson on tenor, Joan Milner, Di Ford and Helen Alajdajian on basses. We started with a challenging Byrd canon O Salutaris Hostia which is "a canon 3 in 1 at a fifth above and fourth below between the 3 marked parts". Then we went on to play a piece by Robert Parsons "A song called Trumpets" which proved to be enormous fun. Finally we had a go at an In Nomine In All Parts, an interesting piece by Ferrabosco.
We are looking forward to the next one on June 10 when the music will include a Ward 6 part fantasy. We have 6 peole for this workshop but if you are interested in ones later in the year please let me know. I expect we will have another about August and one with Danny Yeadon on November 4.
Report on workshop held Melbourne, February 19, 2006 at the Early Music Studio
For this workshop, four Melbourne viol players came together for a pleasant and productive Sunday consort day with Miriam Morris and Laura Vaughan. In the morning, French fantasies by Etienne MouliniÃ© provided something new and different to play. John Weretka provided the transcriptions, and will be bringing his copies to the Canberra viol school (and will be reviewing the music in the next issue of Chelys.) We next tackled the four part "Paris" fantasies of John Ward, and abandoned them after lunch, with some relief, for the delightful five part pavans and fantasies of Mico. We finished with the mandatory Jenkins fantasia. Thanks to Miriam's instruction, we gained many invaluable tips on interpretation and bowing. The idea of regular consort workshops is a good one for reinforcing this knowledge, and the Melbourne organizer, Laura Vaughan, is doing a terrific job both in organizing and participating. On March 2, Miriam will be launching her first art exhibition of recent times - perhaps one day we'll be getting a combined art-viol workshop. At the end of the day, an additional treat was provided by Alan Loney when he showed us his Albion printing press in action. All in all, a jolly Renassaince day was had by all.
Gottfried Finger - Petr Wagner
Arta Record F10137 Available from Musica Bona - Petr Wagner Viola da Gamba with Ensemble Tourbillon
It is always exciting to discover a substantial unknown body of work, hitherto unrecorded, for the viola da gamba. The Czechoslovakian gamba player Petr Wagner, ably supported by Ensemble Tourbillon, has issued a superb CD of the Moravian-born composer Gottfried Finger (c.1655 - 1730) producing a disc of high quality, both in its recorded sound and consistently high standard of playing.
Wagner is a fine player with a sound and style reminiscent of his teacher Wieland Kuijken with whom he did his final studies in The Hague. His tone production is rich and focused, always articulate and unfailingly expressive. There is an infectious vitality pervading the whole CD that makes me want to get up and play immediately! The players collaborate to produce a distinctively virtuosic style with highly refined tone colours. The continuo team, consisting of harpsichord, organ, theorbo, baroque guitar, archlute and gamba lends a varied and appropriate accompaniment to the well-placed order of the repertoire.
The total playing time of the disc is 54.03, not long in comparison to some, but quite sufficient for this rich oeuvre. The Sonatae, Balleti scordati and Aria and variations are often typical of the Austro-Bohemian Style of the violin virtuoso Heinrich Biber and Johann Heinrich Schmelzer, with some English influences of Simpson and Young showing in the E minor Prelude, the latest work on this CD. Italian traits in terms of form, and an awareness of French dance characteristics can also be seen in these truly varied works. Finger was almost certainly a viol player, given the historical evidence and the idiomatic and often virtuosic quality of his writing for the instrument. It is interesting to read in the informative CD booklet that three of the recorded sonatas have reconstructed continuo parts, and that as early as the 1960s, the pioneering work of Arthur Marshall identified six otherwise anonymous sonatas as being written by Finger.
Finger was widely traveled and boasted a prolific output of operas, masques, instrumental and all manner of other works of varying permutations. He lived in England from the mid-1680s until he left in 1701, having suffered the ignominity of coming fourth in a competition to judge the best opera composer in London. Following this he lived in Europe until his death, traveling to all the major centers and mixing with a variety of major contemporary composers. Court records show that he died in Mannheim where his expertise in scoring helped lay the foundations of the Mannheim School.
Judging on the music contained in this recording, Gottfried Finger can be surely placed in the category of the much more familiar composer/virtuosi such as Marais, Forqueray and Schenk. Speaking as one who has only sampled Finger's viol music through the D major and E minor duos for two bass viols, Petr Wagner and Ensemble Tourbillon must be congratulated for bringing infinitely superior music of the same composer into the public domain. Better late than never I say.
The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book - Charivari Agreeable
Signum Records SIGCD009. Available from Signum Records
Over 100 years ago the distinguished music critic of The London Times John Maitland and his brother in law William Squire, music librarian of the British Museum, published their transcription of The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book. They did this with great skill and accuracy.a marvellous accomplishment for the time. Part of the enthusiasm for their project came from the gifted Swiss musician and researcher Arnold Dolmetsch, then living in London. John Maitland had also become an enthusiastic supporter of, and performer on, the harpsichord, perhaps inspired by his first acquaintances with the great body of virginal music in the Fitzwilliam Museum. This music was discovered during the process of cataloguing that institution's antique music. This was completed in 1887. The resulting Fitzwilliam Virginal Book has become recognised as a treasure house of most sophisticated keyboard music. This collection also serves as an important historical document reflecting the musical life of the time ..highly developed and idiosyncratic in style. It is from this source a large part of English music, in its many diverse forms from 1560-1620 could be reconstructed.
This CD contains transcriptions of 18 of the nearly 300 diverse harpsichord pieces in the book, and represents an excellent cross section of the total work. The CD is superbly engineered, and each track is a pleasure to listen to. A mixed consort refers to the variety of instruments which are used to great effect on this disc. The consort in its pure form consists of viols in various registers, but here the instrumentation is augmented with Chamber Organ, Flute, Theorbo, Guitar, Cittern, and Harpsichord to make a 'mixed Consort'.
The first track, with its hauntingly sweet melody played by viols , leads to a delightful tangle of rhythms and harmonies so typical of the inventive style of William Byrd. The harpsichord provides a solid background. In the second track two evenly matched lutes in delicate conversation execute the Giles Farnaby love song to perfection.
The tenor in Mistress Myne is a trifle mannered and frilly in style for my taste. Having said that, I must complement him on his perfect diction; a feature which seems to be lacking in so many modern performances. Thomas Morley's understanding of harmony is most apparent in this song, which is a most sophisticated piece of music, beautifully transcribed for five instruments and voice. A straightforward presentation of Lord Zouche's Maske follows; rhythmically enticing, and with some brilliant treble playing.
John Bulls Ut, Re, Me, to me is the most "technical" sounding piece on this disc. To some it may be a tedious few minutes, but play it again..and again, and, like one of those infuriatingly detailed and complicated pictures, there is more and more to be found within its harmonies. This sort of viol playing, for those of us who have tried it, is the most difficult to make sound acceptable.These four musicians make it appear so easy!
Now there are two stately dances by the great William Byrd with the treble viol treading lightly over a carpet of lower viols, which weave the type of often dissonant harmonies so typical of Byrd. Beautifully and tastefully transcribed from the original harpsichord score.
Daphne, again from the well represented Giles Farnaby (possibly the John Lennon of his day) is richly and gracefully treated here. Some intricate lute work works well with the haunting treble Viol.
Take your partners for Up Tails All! And listen to the superb playing of these three instrumentalists .We then continue with Leaves Be Greene, an excellent foil for the previous piece. The haunting melody works well over the plodding bass, and the golden mid range of the tenor viol is a sensitive choice of instruments with the breathy Chamber Organ. The Chamber Organ features again in Fall of Leafe. This gave me quite a start when this delicate, descriptive harpsichord music thundered from my Tannoy speakers. My jury is still out on this one. Personal opinions aside, it was flawlessly played by Kah Ling Ng. The Kings Hunt presents a colourful mixtur as hunts were. Here a very bucolic atmosphere is created, mainly by the use of the flute. The dynamics are pleasing and the full instrumentation gives an overall feeling of excitement and grandeur. The next track by Orlando Gibbons is a real treat. The thoughtful melody line is never lost to the almost modern harmonies. Lynda Sayce shows great understanding and musical sensitivity here. Rowland..a beautifully executed bass viol duet with viols playing "Lyra way" ie. the basses use chords to give depth and harmonic interest to both this and the Anonymous' Alman' which follows. A change of country follows now to the Dutch Sweelink. Here, in a marvellously original combination, the bass viol is accompanied by the mysterious Theorbo, to give us a moody and rather intellectual interlude. Listen for the wide range of pitch in the viol, and the intricate "Dutch Lace' playing. Amarili presents a pleasing balance of instruments and voice in this famous Italianate song, followed by a final 'feel good' romp with violin in 'Hoedown' mode. A colourful and brilliant way to end a remarkable 70 minutes.
The cover is a fitting one for a large assemblage of musicians, and the programme notes interesting and informative in three languages. The combinations of instruments are creative and used skilfully to complement the original scoring for harpsichord.
I can highly recommend this disc, which graces my iPod already! There is not one track I have deleted nor one which I hope will hurry up and finish.
The Marais Project - Concert 13
Independent Theatre, North Sydney, Sunday October 14 at 3.00 pm
This special "The 350th Birthday Bash" (Marais was born in Paris 31 May 1656, died in Paris in 1728) brought together the John Barnard as narrator, Jennifer Eriksson and Cathy Tabrett playing viols, and Tommy Andersen and Marshall McGuire on thorbo/guitar and harp.
This was a most enjoyable concert, followed by drinks and birthday cake in the Foyer, a fitting celebration and a really wonderful afternoon. John Barnard, superbly dressed in French finery complete with red healed court shoes, provided some readings between the musical items and also provided the commentary for the highlight of the afternoon - Marais's celebrated musical and verbaldescription of a gall bladder operation (without anaesthetic!). The concert opened with a sparkling performance of a rondo from Book IV, and a scene setting reading (presumably from Titon du Tilet's book "Le Parnasse francois") though the readings were not identified in the programme. Then we had a wonderfully evocative sarabande and gavotte by Sainte Colombe giving plenty of opportunities for both viol players to show their skills. Marshall McGuire added variety by playing two of the rarely heard de Visee suites for the theorbo transcribed for harp, while Tomy Anderson also played a de Visee piece on the theorbo.
Tommy Anderson, Jenny Eriksson, Cathy Tabrett and Marshall McGuire.
The gall bladder operation was the highlight, from the quivering opening on 'seeing the apparatus' the performers brought a theatrical approach to the music. The dramatic rising phrase which reaches a note beyond even the fingerboard of the bass viol evoking the agony of the incision being made. A pleasant releif for the audience was provided by a second de Visee suite on the heavenly harp followed by finally 3 more Marais pieces from Book IV. These and the encore, a musette, were beautifully played by Jenny and Cathy with support from the plucked strings. The combination of theorbo/guitar and harp gave a delicate and varied sound to the continuo section which I perfectly suited the music.
Don't forget to listen to the previous concert when it is broadcast on ABC FM at 8.00 pm on Tuesday 30 May. The great sound of 3 bass viols!
The next concert is at 3.00 pm on October 22 and features the voice of Belinda Montgomery in a concert entitled "Viol Dreaming" (obviously recovering from the operation).
Bass viol bow (new)
by David van Edwards. Straight pernambuco stick, white hair, approx 62g. $750. Contact Patrice on 02 9419 7473.
A student bass viol
It is a 6 string Kempster (student) bass gamba, and comes with a bow and full set of strings. There are two cases, the hard "Coffin" case, and a soft case for easy transport. Has a string length of about 68cm, is easy to play, and in excellent Asking price is $1,200. Contact Julie Norman -
or phone us on (08) 8332 3040
Treble viol by Kevin Mercer
complete with Doug Eaton bow, case and tuner - $1500 ono. Contact Fay D'Elmaine at
or 02 48427251.
Bass viol bow by Doug Eaton
recently rehaired in snakewood $1000 ono . Joan Milner 02 62369212 or
Bass viol by Geof Wills
in good playing condition $3000 ono Judy Clingan 0410617427,