- Easter Viol School
- Annual General Meeting
- Consort Workshops
- The Score
- CD Reviews
- Viols on the Web
- Tuning and temperaments
- Instruments for sale by Doug Eaton
- Voices and viols
- Marin Marais Project
- Concert Review - Laura Vaughan at Ballarat Festival 2006
The final workshop of the year was tutored By Danny Yeadon and held in somewhat cramped conditions at the Sydney Con. on November 19. We had 6 particpants: Annabelle McIver, Sue Christie, Ruth Kelly, Richard Milner, Helen Aladjadjian and Di Ford. We worked on 6 part music by Lotti, Dering and Lupo. It was a beautiful day and lunch was shared in the spacious Botanical Gardens next door.
This year (2006), we plan to hold 4 workshops in Sydney and 4 in Melbourne at 3 monthly intervals. To reduce costs and simplify communications, the details of these workshops will only be sent to those members who 'register' their interest. At the moment notices for Sydney or Melbourne will be sent only to those who have previously attended in each city. If you wish to be included on either of these lists then please contact Richard Milner
The number of participants will be limited to 6 per workshop and the fees will be $45 for students, $55 for ordinary members and $65 for non-members. (However at Danny's workshop we had the idea of doing 4 part music and having 2 groups of 4 = 8 participants. In this case the charges would be $35, $45 and $55).
The first Sydney workshop will be on Saturday February 25 and will be tutored by Jenny Eriksson at her Putney Studio. I will be in touch with the registered members shortly with details. In Melbourne, Miriam Morris will hold one on February 19. If you want to go to either of these contact Richard Milner (Sydney) or Laura Vaughan/Miriam Morris (Melbourne).
MUSIQUE POUR LA VIOLE Under review this issue are two older recordings of, Musique pour la Viole (1996) and Chamber Music for the King (1997). Charivari Agréable, founded in 1993, comprises Susanne Heinrich (basse de viole), Kah-Ming Ng (harpsichord & chamber organ) and Lynda Sayce (theorbo & baroque guitar) and seems to have achieved the admirable combination of intellect with passion, especially in this French repertoire. Both CDs were made in the same venue and have a similar good quality of recorded sound.
In Musique pour la Viole, Charivari Agréable (appropriately meaning 'pleasant tumult') has taken 29 of the 33 pieces Marais published as the Suite d'un goût etranger (Suite in a foreign manner) from Piéces de Viole bk IV and arranged them, very successfully into three suites of their own, incorporating a few movements from other Marais books as suits the key and character of the particular suite. A close, clean recording puts us among the players, creating an atmosphere of pleasing intimacy and the three voices are well-balanced. Susanne Heinrich's viol playing is relaxed and sensitive, never exaggerated and encompasses the gamut of expressive effects, although it is very occasionally a little four-square. The character of each intentionally difficult movement shines through and the humour of these quirky pieces is captured with a wide variety of refined articulations and tone colours. Coupled with the trios strong sense for dance rhythms and rousing muzettes this makes for highly varied suites from mini operas to rustic revelries - Heinrich is impressive in the furiously demanding passage work of Le tourbillon and the eponymous ornaments of L'Arabesque, and La Sauterelle's (the grasshopper) pretty triple tune hops light-heartedly through a field.
The accompaniment from Ng and Sayce is sensitive and convincing and the group has the close rapport that comes from working together a great deal. The excellent harpsichordist contributes elegant solo transcriptions of Allemande la Singuliere, Sarabande a l'Espagnole and Suitte effecting a pleasing change of texture and his continuo playing is well considered throughout, ranging from quietly unobtrusive to coruscations of flourishes in just the right places. Sayce often fashions her own elaborate parts, the Plainte with solo theorbo continuo being especially lovely, with a highlight of the CD being her elegiac solo theorbo arrangement of La Reveuse (despite there being no viol in this piece that I really love!). The choice of chamber organ as a continuo instrument in several movements of the e minor/G major suite is unusual but alternately cute in the wheezing Allemande l'Asmatique and very beautiful in the plaintive Rondeau le Bijou. I did at times miss the presence of a continuo viol but a pleasant variety of continuo textures is achieved nonetheless, particularly with some nifty use of baroque guitar. This is a generous 76 minute disc displaying an unusually bucolic side of the viol (despite the CD's banal title!) that I know I will return to.
Chamber Music for the King is another generous offering of 78 minutes presenting some of the chamber music that François Couperin may have written or transcribed from his own work for performance at the courts of the French kings or the exiled English pretenders. Two works are theatrical pieces: the first a set of highly charming variations each representing a character at a masked ball transcribed from a keyboard piece called Les dominos ou Les folies françaises, the second the extensive Huitième Concert dans le goût théatral from Les goûts réünis. Both suites are stylishly played and display Charivari Agréable's flair for arrangement that has become a signature of the ensemble. These arrangements go right to the edge of the range of performance practice possibilities in terms of the instruments used and while the arrangements are a little provocative in this respect the result is an undeniably imaginative and delightfully theatrical performance. The trio performs with equal verve the non-theatrical works that follow, including the first of the huge, late suites for viol (again with chamber organ and theorbo/guitar continuo and particularly beautiful playing from Heinrich in the Sarabande grave), and Couperin's self-portrait, La Couperin. The performers coax a beguiling range of textures from their instruments and every moment of this recording is testament to a composer of great freshness and invention. Couperin did far more than provide a bridge between the arts of Lully and Rameau but he wasn't the only one in France, as proven by three homages to the great man by Louis Caix d'Hervelois, Jean-Baptiste Antoine Forqueray and the nobly graceful Passacaille of Nicholas Siret, a fitting end to a most enjoyable offering from Charivari Agréable.
Two upon a ground. Charivari Agréable.
Signum SIGCD007. Recorded 1998
Smooth, English sounds greet the listener to this CD. Our favourites . Simpson, Jenkins, Locke and Lawes . are interspersed with music by Tomkins, Finger, Ennemond Gaultier, Hume and Purcell. This CD is an exploration of divisions, which Michael Fleming says in his CD liner essay "demonstrate both a virtuosic command of the instrument and an imaginative understanding of the musical possibilities inherent in a short musical phrase".
The performers on the CD are the core group of charivari agréable, which is Susanne Heinrich on bass and treble viols, Kah-Ming Ng on various keyboards (organ, spinet and harpsichord) and Lynda Sayce playing baroque guitar and an English-style theorbo in G. They are joined by Susanna Pell on treble and bass viols. The treble viols are only used for one Finger solo piece and the penultimate track which is Purcell's Two in one upon a Ground; all other divisions are for one or two bass viols. The harpsichord used is a genuine Ruckers from 1623, while the spinet dates from 1680.
Who better to open with than Christopher Simpson. Divisions in a minor and in F major for two bass viols, with both continuo artists are smooth, assured and give the amateur violist a wonderful model of sound and interpretation to aspire to. The first of these divisions teams the baroque guitar discreetly assisting the chamber organ, while the second is solely accompanied by organ, which gives a more transparent texture. This is followed by the first interlude for keyboard: a Voluntary by Thomas Tomkins, played on the organ.
Yet more Simpson follows, again Divisions in F with all four players, but this time with organ and the theorbo, which is retained on the next track, being a Division in C by Godfrey Finger for bass viol, organ and theorbo. Jenkins. Division in C for two bass viols, again with all four players. A slow and stately ground prepares for the virtuosic fireworks of later divisions in this set, which go well into the treble clef. Another interlude follows, featuring Lynda Sayce on theorbo playing Ennemond Gaultier's La pompe funèbre. There seemed to be a slight tracking anomaly here, because no sooner than the last note of the Jenkins sounded, the new piece seemed to start, which was a bit disconcerting.
Two pieces by Matthew Locke come next, an angular, chromatic Fantazia in C minor, followed by its well-known Courant. This is one of the few items where there is no continuo used, and we hear the viols to advantage. Simpson's Divisions in G follow, and the ground gets off to a rollicking start, which for those of us who have attempted this piece, is a mite scary. However, the four players more than carry off the piece. This time the spinet is used.
Another sonata by Finger, for solo treble viol and harpsichord is next. The treble viol used (Attwood, 1993) has an interesting depth of tone, and Susanne Heinrich negotiates this sonata easily. It is quite a different style from the English divisions, and the music is pleasant, but not of the compositional standard of the rest of the CD. Susanna Pell follows this with an excellent performance of a solo piece by Tobias Hume "Love's Farewell" before both viols and organ play Lawes. Suite in G. The Ruckers harpsichord features in three short pieces by Tomkins. Hume's Pavan played by Susanne, the well-known Purcell Two in one upon a Ground, and a final Jenkins Division in A with all of the group finish this CD.
One criticism I have of the track list for this CD is its lack of detail. Perhaps most listeners don't require numbers, but when two tracks are called "Division in F", it is nice to have a way of telling them apart. A way does exist, in the Thematic Index of Music for Viols, there are two numbering systems given for these pieces. Likewise, the two Locke pieces don't even have a key specified, and are just listed as "Fantazia" and "Courant". Any vaguely informed viol player knows that Locke wrote many such movements in various suites. Also, Hume wrote more than one Pavan, but no key or even the publication from which it was taken is given either in the track list or the liner notes.
21 tracks which total almost 80 minutes is excellent value for a CD. The music is terrific, the performances superb and the liner notes are short but informative, appearing in English, German and French. The cover picture is from a painting by Sir Anthony van Dyck, featuring Princes Charles II and James II as children, accompanied by two dogs. The painting hangs in the Queen's collection. There are only two small black & white pictures of the performers: one being the core charivari group, and a tiny one of Susanna Pell next to her biography. Brief details of the instruments used are given, but the pitch is not stated, but we do find that 1/6-comma meantone temperament was used for the keyboard instruments. I can certainly recommend this CD.
Note: to purchase these and other CDs by Chiavari Agreable go to their website (link on ours) or contact Signum records: Signum Records
Monodies. La Romanesca
(Move MD 3044) available from Bywell Classics
This is a new CD, however all but 5 tracks were recorded in 1982 and issued then as an LP as 'Mediaeval Monodies' . Now with a playing time of 70 minutes it represents excellent value. When I first became interested in early msuic one of the most exciting and influencial groups in Australia was La Romanesca with a combination of excellent musicianship, a variety of instruments and the highly express ive voice of Hartley Newnham. However in recent years very little has been heard of this group outside Melbourne which is a pity.
The music on this disc is very old. Mostly from the Martin Codex written in the 13th century and some settings by Marcabru a southern French troubadour active between 1127 and 1150. Unfortunately while some 42 poems of his survive there are only 4 for which music exists and these are all on this CD. How to perform music of this antiquity is anyone's guess. La Romanesca's approach is to use a variety of relevant isntruments such as lute, moorish guitar, recorder, flute, psaltery, rebec, tenor viol and percussion along with the singing of Hartley Newnham. As the title suggests the originals are simple single line melodies and so they add a vast amount of improvisation. These are very impressive, highly polished , performances.
However as a disc I was left unconvinced. Some tracks I think are too long for the musical content. The first track alone lasts almost 9 minutes. Then, while the imaginative use of instruments makes for variety, the tempi are not sufficiently varied for my liking. As a result I find it an excellent CD to dip into, but rather indigestible as a whole. Moreover the new recordings at the start of the CD I thoughtosounded a little dull in comparison with the original ones . not sure if this is the recording or the performances.
Instruments for sale by Doug Eaton
The items for sale are:
- Tenor viol made by me in 1977 and a few years later, had the belly replaced. This instrument has a Qld. Walnut body with spruce belly. I played it for a number of years until moving to Maleny. It seems silly to have an instrument like that in storage whereas it could go into regular use. The bow which accompanies it is an experimental one made of Gidgee which is not entirely satisfactory, but adequate. The viol is in a strong plywood case, there are some spare strings included, and I'm asking $1,900.
- Vihuella made about the same time. Has been on long loan to 2 separate players, each of whom would like to have purchased it, but didn't have the money. It is also in a strong plywood case. It's fitted with nyl-gut strings, is longer scale than a lute, and is tuned to the same pitch as a modern guitar. It has 6 double courses. Over the years the varnish has attained an antique look about it and has a crazed appearance, which I don't feel like fixing up. In view of that, I'm asking $800.
- Mediaeval fiddle and viola. Both of these are recently made and come with a saffronheart bow, fitted with gut strings, namely Pirastro Chorda. The fiddle size will fit a modern violin case (included) but the viola size is difficult to fit in any sort of case. I'm asking $1,200 for the fiddle size with bow and case and $1,300 for the viola size with bow but no case.
- Bowed psalteries. Both standard soprano size and enlarged tenor size which we designed ourselves. Each one comes with bow, rosin, tuning wrench, but no case. The soprano size can be supplied as a student model in Hoop pine plywood at $340 or if we use cabinet timbers ie maple or blackwood & spruce, it is $560. The tenor size is only available in cabinet timbers and is priced at $750. The normal bow supplied with these is a 1/10th size Korean violin bow, but if a more authentic bow is required, these can be made at a cost of $150.
- Baroque violin. Also made back in the 80s and has only just now been refurbished and made available for sale. It doesn't have a good bow (which I'm ashamed to admit). It was originally constructed under the tutelage of Ian Clarke, so traditional European timbers have been used throughout. Price is $2,000.
For more information contact: Doug Eaton 07 5494 4046 (Maleny, Qld)
Laura Vaughan and John O'Donnell at the Organs of the Ballarat Goldfields Festival
This festival has always attracted us greatly with its eclectic selection of music and musicians. Actually to call it an organ festival is abit of a misnomer as many events, like this one, do not involve the organ. When I saw the program for this year ans saw that Laura Vaughan was giving a rare solo recital of French music with Jacqueline Ogeil and that the next day Genevieve Lacey was playing a recorder recital I had to go. Two things had always put me off . its a long way from Canberra and it is held over the hotest week of January. Both these problems proved well founded, however the quality of the music was such that we think we will go for the whole 10 days next year!
Not sure if Saturday 21 January was the hottest day of the year but it was HOT. The tiny church in Clunies is probably freezing in winter but with the doors open and just two small fans and a very large crowd, I have never experienced a hotter venue. Unfortunately Jacqueline was indisposed and was replacedby John O'Donnell. This has happened to me before and as a result I have still never heard Jacqueline play the harpsichord! John as always was very polished though I would have liked the Duphly harpsichord suite to have been played a little more extrovertly. But it was great to hear a suite by that most neglected of composers.
Laura's choice was not for the faint hearted. She started with a long and extremely demanding suite by Forqueray written in 1747 when the viol was fighting a losing battle against the more virtuosic cello and violins. Forqueray's approach was if you can't beat them join them and so wrote some of the most difficult viol music ever. No problem for Laura though even on this hot day. Her flexibility and intonation well above the frets was astonishing and at times she played in very high positions on the lower strings. Never seen that before. But the best feature was the highly expressive and varied bowing giving life to Forqueray's statement that "the bow expresses all the emotions, arouses the soul and gives character to all kinds of music". The final chaconne of this 4 movement Suite no 2 in G major was particularly fine.
I was surprised, talking to some of the audience before the concert, that many knew little of the viola da gamba and even thought they were going to hear a 'viola'. Further confusion was caused by the fact that in the program Laura, who in the preconcert publicity was said to be playing the viol or the viola da gamba, was said to be playing the 'viole'. This strange use of French spelling did not extend to the use of 'clavecin' instead of harpsichord. No program notes or spoken introduction was made to help the audience understand the instruments nor the interesting titles of the pieces.
After the Duphly harpsichord suite, the concert ended with two 'orphaned' movements . a superb Prelude by Saint Colombe and ending with the famous "La Labryinthe" by Marais in which he explores a wide range of keys always coming back to the same theme, 'sung' beautifully with a gracious smile by Laura. John O'Donnell's harpsichord playing was exemplary. For such difficult conditions, the tuning was remarkably good.
The large audience applauded loudly at the end but were not surprised that they did not get an encore. We were all looking for a cold beer in an air-conditioned hotel!
The concert was recorded by ABC FM so keep a lookout for it on the radio.
(with thanks to Albert Comper for the photograph)