- National Easter Viol School, 2004
- My trip to Prague - Polly Sussex
- State Reports
- Salut! Concerts in July
- Music review: Viole de Gambe facsimiles
- Gambello 2004
- Music review: Dietrich Buxtehude: Trios, op. 2
- Music review: Charles Colman: Suites a3
- The Score
- CD update from Johannes Boer
- Easter Viol School 2005
- AVdGS Members Shop
My trip to Prague
In January, I went to Prague to collect a viol I ordered several years ago from the little-known maker Petr Vavrouš. He had been highly recommended to me by Marc Strümper, who plays one of his trebles and a bass. Petr and I exchanged amusing emails about what size and model of instrument I wanted, eventually settling on a 7-string Bertrand copy with a head of "Bacchus' girlfriend" (the original has a puffy-cheeked Bacchus and I wanted something more elegant). Petr works with Jan Stejskal who carves the heads whilst Petr makes the bodies of the instruments.
The workshop is not large but is conveniently housed on the ground floor of Petr's house, a large home, built by his grandfather, later confiscated under the Soviet regime and returned to the family in recent years. Marc Strümper drove me there from Vienna and we stayed in the house with the family. (Petr's wife Alena is a professional seamstress. They have two teenage sons who went off to see the premier of "The Lord of the Rings" during my visit; a proud moment for the Kiwi visitor).
I was immensely impressed with the quality of Petr's work as well as his generous hospitality. The viol was exactly the right size, light in weight with a lovely resonant tone that continues to grow. I was pleased with the warm colour and Petr had polished it with propolis so that it even smelt good! The carved head is a delight and a credit to Jan's work as a graduate of the Prague School of Woodcarving. It looks to me like a portrait of Jan himself adorned with vine leaves and grapes and I am pleased that it isn't the feminine head that I had thought I wanted. I saw other examples of his work, all equally fine. Petr has made about 80 viols, and he was working on a lirone at the time I left.
No viol is complete without a bow and Petr summoned another friend, Jan Dehmal, a craftsman who makes furniture to pay the bills and spends his free time making gorgeous viol bows. Although he did not have exactly what I was looking for, I could see that his work was of exceptional quality too.
To make the visit complete, Petr arranged for his friend David Freeman (ex-patriot British) and his musicologist wife, Michela, to call in a third viol player so that Marc and I could join them for a consort evening. We had a marvellous evening with a huge Alsatian dog that lay down and listened to the music.
Although the Czech Republic has joined the EU, it is still a country whose inhabitants are disadvantaged by aspects of the recent past and links with the West are still tenuous. Petr had never been in an aeroplane and Jan was keen to have access to more examples of baroque bows to copy (a cry I have heard in NZ but did not expect to hear in Europe).
There is a strong ancient tradition of musical instrument making in the Czech Republic and for those who have only NZ dollars, their prices are much more affordable than those in other parts of Europe. They need support from those in the West and I can heartily recommend these warm and genuine people to you. They made my stay memorable in many ways and went to great trouble to do so.
Dietrich Buxtehude: VII Suonate à due, Violino et Viola da Gamba con Cembalo, Opera secunda, 1696. Ed. Marie-Françoise Bloch
J.M. Fuzeau, 2003 ISMN M2306 5876 8
This set of part-books joins Fuzeau's facsimile of Op. 1 of Buxtehude's trios which was published a few years ago. This is really fine music, and a facsimile is a welcome addition to any serious player's library. STIMU published both sets several years ago, but their edition was marred by the parts being bound into one book, and their edition is now out of print. This new facsimile is much more useful. The title page describes the composer as "Direttore dell'organo del glorioso Tempio Santa Maria in Lubeca", though this music was originally published in Hamburg.
The three part books come in a handy folder. They're printed on good cream paper, and include two original errata pages in German (in contrast to the Italian used elsewhere). The music is printed in movable type, though stems are beamed (in contrast to many other movable type publications) making it much easier to read. With some practice, this facsimile could easily be used in performance, though marking in bar numbers would have to be essential. It has also been blown up a little in size.
While the violin parts uses only treble clef, the viola da gamba part employs four clefs that I could see: bass, alto, tenor and the odd few notes in soprano clef. The cembalo part is figured, and is mostly in bass clef, with the occasional alto bit. This last partbook also contains the prefatory notes which appear in all Fuzeau facsimile, and this translates the corrections noted in German above.
I would have to say that these trios are some of my favourite gamba ensemble music. They are technically quite difficult, but most rewarding, and come highly recommended for serious performers.
Charles Colman: Three-part Suites for two trebles and a bass. Book 1. Edited by David Pinto.
Corda Music, 2003. CMP490
Charles Coleman (or Colman) seems to be getting noticed these days. Last year PRB Productions brought out Julie Jeffrey's edition of the 6 part music. Now Corda is issuing the three part, and since Book 1 appears on the cover, one assumes that more is to come. The introduction states "This edition completes the availability of his suites in 3-4 parts by supplying those extant only in 3-part form." Will Book 2 give us the four part I wonder?
This score and parts is, as is usual for Corda, clear and easy to read and use. He also offers a continuo part, fully figured, for use with keyboard or theorbo. There is a useful scholarly introduction, placing Coleman and the music in context as well as discussing and listing the eight sources (mostly Oxford and London, but one from Edinburgh appears). There's also a critical commentary.
Pinto explains some omissions from the book for various reasons - an alto-range second line, an incomplete piece, etc. - and the inclusions as Series One with early dance patterns at the court of Charles I, and Series Two, being regular Almaine-Coranto-Saraband chains.
This is plainly good consort music, and the interplay between the two treble lines suggests performance with the trebles opposite each other, as there is plainly dialogue between them. Odd passages from Jenkins spring to mind and hints of Lawes, although the music is not quite so harmonically wayward. The treble players need to be good above the frets, and use of violins instead of treble viols should be quite suitable. Not all the dances are the usual pavan, almaine etc.; interspersed we find a few called Morris, or Country Dance.
This comes highly recommended for intermediate standard consorts and higher.