- Easter Viol School 2006
- State Reports
- Treasurers Report
- Reports on Workshops
- The Score
- CD Reviews
- Chelys up-date
- A NewChinese Viol
- Review - Six Easy Sonattas by Carl Freidrich Abel
- Stringing Your Viol - Part 2.
- Technical tip -A Luddite's Guide to Tuning
- Responses to Discussion Paper
- The development fund.
The Sultan and the Phoenix. Charivari Agréable.
Signum SIGCD032. Recorded 2000
This CD is a pleasure to listen to. The ensemble charivari agréable which was started by harpsichordist Kah-Ming Ng and gamba player Susanne Heinrich, is here joined by Linda Sayce on theorbo and lute, with viol players Reiko Ichise, Sarah Groser, Susanna Pell (of Fretwork fame) and Asako Morikawa. On this CD, they present a graceful compilation of French music. Kah-Ming Ng writes that this "programme is loosely based on a cursory overview of the ensemble use of the viol in its various manifestations and stages of evolution in France." I could neither argue with the concept nor the outcome.
We begin with Louis Couperin's La Piémontoise, arranged for the ensemble by Kah-Ming Ng. This ensemble produces a most elegant sound, stylish and sweet. Three more pieces by this composer follow, including two fantasies for consort, and a pavanne. The treble playing is particularly sweet.
Then the style changes to Michel Corrette's rather amusing concerto Le Phénix for four bass viols and continuo. This is the piece from which the second part of the CD title is taken, and Lucy Robinson's admirable essay in the booklet notes that Vivaldi's Four Seasons had only a few years before taken Paris by storm, and its influence is clearly heard in this work.
François Couperin follows with a total change of mood in Les baricades mistérieuses, tastefully arranged for theorbo, and on this recording, Linda Sayce is performing on a French theorbo in A. A Récit by Dumage follows, which comes from his sixth book of his Livre d'Orgue, and for the first time we hear the chamber organ along with Susanne playing treble viol and Linda's theorbo. This is another meditative piece, beautifully elegant in composition and execution.
Following this is the first part of the CD title: Couperin's La Sultane, and the first time the quinton makes its appearance on this CD. The blend of quinton, treble viol, two bass viols, theorbo and organ is wonderful. A contrast of texture is next, with a solo harpsichord rendering of Armand-Louis Couperin's La Chéron. André Chéron was a contemporary of A-L Couperin, and a respected keyboard player and also batteur de mesure at the opera. This is a slow piece, somewhat meditative and containing some delightful harmonic twists.
The two pieces by Duphly for quinton, treble viol and harpsichord change the mood with their high tessitura, and the first, La Madin is lively and reminds me of some of the movements from Rameau Pieces de Clavecin en Concert. From Duphly's Troisième Livre de Pieces de Claveçin, they have been arranged for this programme.
A Sonate en quatuor in b minor by Dornel is the penultimate track, with the quinton and two treble viols, bass viol, theorbo and harpsichord. This multi-movement work changes mood frequently and is well worth hearing.
For viol players, the final track by Marin Marais should justify buying this CD if nothing so far has. The Chaconne from the final act of Alcione (1706) features all of the players, and is a happy work, though it has its wonderful dark minor section. Who can resist a good Marais chaconne?
Summing up, the booklet notes are excellent, and are in English, German and French. Lucy Robinson has written the essay about the music, while Kah-Ming Ng penned some performance notes. Performers and instruments are detailed, and I note that the pitch was set at A=392 Hz. While it would have been nice to have a larger picture of the performers than the tiny black and white photo on page 16, that's a tiny quibble. Another minor glitch is that the booklet and back of the CD show 15 tracks, but there are actually 18, because the Dornel is just given as track 14, and not 14-17, which is strange because they did manage to note that Le Phénix is tracks 5-7. At the back there is a certain amount of advertising of other recordings by this ensemble, which given the quality of this one, is understandable and useful. All up, the timing is just under 70 minutes, which makes this excellent value. Rush out and buy it before it disappears.
Modus phantasticus and The Queen's Goodnight/Charivari Agréable
Signum Records SIGCD041 and SIGCD020
The two CDs under review are 2002 (The Queen's Goodnight) and 2003 (Modus phantasticus) recordings by the Oxford University based ensemble Charivari Agréable. With a core membership comprising violist Suzanne Heinrich, keyboardist Kah-Ming Ng and lutenist Linda Sayce, this group is regularly expanded to include other instrumentalists including, in Modus phantasticus, the violists Reiko Ichise, Asako Morikawa and Susanna Pell. This is a group I knew from the recording Sacred songs of sorrow (with Rodrigo del Pozo), and I am pleased to say that the agreeable impression I formed from that CD was absolutely confirmed here.
Both CDs explore programmes that lean heavily on arrangements; this reliance on arrangements seems to be a feature of Charivari Agréable's recordings, but when the arrangements are a skilful as this, who can complain? Modus phantasticus "invents" a repertoire for the German viol through four Bach arrangements (of chorale preludes) and an arrangement of Feritevi from Schütz's little-known first book of madrigals. The authentic viol repertoire is probed through works by Funck (a suite for four bass viols), Baudringer (a solo sonata for bass), and a sonata from each of Schenck and Kühnel's Op. 2 collections. The Queen's Goodnight, devoted to music from the Elizabethan court, is on more "solid" ground, and includes original works by John Johnson (A Dump or The Queenes Treble), Thomas Robinson (The Queenes good Night), Hume's Deth and Life, as well as arrangements of music by Dowland (A Pavion Solus cum sola), Richard Allison (Allison's Knell), and others. Both CDs also include a small selection of keyboard pieces, given engaging performances by Kah-Ming Ng, whose solo playing is every bit as accomplished as his continuo work.
As you can tell from some of the names above, Charivari does its homework, and is not afraid to place relatively well-known works in the same programme as unknown works (the music of Baudringer and Funck was unknown to me prior to this CD) or little-known works by well-known composers (e.g. the Schütz madrigal). These recordings have real narrative interest; this is particularly true of Modus phantasticus, which originated as a concert programme and must have been tested in the crucible of live performance many times before being committed to disc. A testament to the excitement that the CD-as-concert performance can generate, this programme is sure-footed and never loses its drive and tension.
While repertoire is a real strength of this group, the sensitive attention to instrumental colour makes listening to this group's work a joy. The four viol players in Modus phantasticus share eight viols between them, including a pardessus and five basses, and Kah-Ming Ng's palette is also varied with three keyboards in The Queen's Goodnight. The truly muscular treble viol playing on both CDs is a highlight. The playing consistently presents a model of shapely ensemble musicianship.
These discs rank as two of my favourites for this year. Only problem is, I'm not sure if I've worn them out already in my CD player?
The next issue of Chelys is in an advanced stage of preparation and will contain the following articles:
- An interview with Shaun Ng complete with excellent photos.
- An article on the Society by Patrice Conelly which is most interesting.
- A review of a new publication of a CPE Bach sonata by Jenny Eriksson and John Weretka.
- A informative article by Jenny Eriksson on the Marais project which is now after about 6 years a third of the way through this large collection of music.
- An interview with Ken Hunt about a jazz musician's experiences of writing for three gambas.
- John Weretka writes about Rousseau and Danoville treatises.
- A review by John Weretka on two new Fuzeau publications of the music of Caix de Hervelois and French consort music pre-Marais (Moulinié, etc).
Hopefully the volume with be complete and ready for printing before the end of 2005.
Review - Six Easy Sonattas by Carl Freidrich Abel
edited by Michael O'Loghlin published by Edition Guntersberg G062 and G063 (Available from Orpheus Music)
Carl Freiderich Abel was born in Cothen, Germany, in 1725 and attended St Thomas School in Leipzig, made famous by JS Bach. He visited London in 1759, remaining there until his death in 1787, having shared a house there with his friend JC Bach. A master of many instruments, he confined himself to the viola da gamba from the year 1765, writing a large number of sonatas for the instrument. His playing was widely admired, as shown for example in The European of 1784 which says "he is truly excellent, and no modern has been heard to play an Adagio with greater taste and freedom." Speaking as the last of the great viola da gamba players he described the instrument as being "the king of instruments" and himself as "one God and one Abel".
These 6 "easy" sonattas (sic) were published in 1771 and Michael O'Loghlin has used the print in the Dresden library as the basis for this new edition. The original has an upper part in treble clef with a figured bass set out in score. Edition Gunterburg has reproduced the facsimile and published this edition in treble as well as alto clef, with a sensitively realised figured bass supplied by Angela Koppenwallner. The 6 sonatas are very clearly set out on high quality paper spreading over 2 volumes, making them a pleasure to handle and to play.
In 3 movement form with an initial fast movement marked Vivace, Moderato or Allegro, the middle slow movement marked Adagio or Siciliano, and a final movement which is usually a minuetto, the style is elegant and polished with occasional double stopping. On the whole the technical demands are relatively modest but richly rewarding for someone beginning to explore this solo repertoire. The sonatas occasionally sound rather similar with certain motives repeated in different sonatas, all of which feature appogiaturas and other ornaments written out in actual note lengths.
On publication these sonatas were said to be for solo harpsichord, viola da gamba, violin, or German flute. Indeed, they sound extremely well played solo as harpsichord sonatas but of course can also be played on treble, tenor or bass viols. Moreover a flute edition is also being published which could be played on a tenor recorder in D, known as a voice flute. (The first sonata in particular sits very well on a normal tenor recorder.) As a further variation the bass part can be played as a single bass line on a viola da gamba, making these sonatas excellent bass/bass or bass/tenor viol duets or indeed viol/recorder duets.
Michael O'Loghlin and Edition Guntersberg are to be congratulated on this most valuable and versatile addition to the library of viola da gamba sonatas for amateur players in modern editions.
Richard and Joan Milner