Wednesday 28 November 2018

Viol music

Violone or great bass viol. Painting by Sir Peter Lely, c. 1640,
Byrd, Purcell, Ferrabosco, Parsons, Gibbons, and Lawes; students from the Royal College of Music and the Salzburg Mozarteum; Royal College of Music Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 27 November 2018
Mainly English consorts and fantasies for viols in the culmination of the Royal College of Music's Viol Festival

The Royal College of Music has been holding the RCM International Festival of Viols and for the grand finale in the college's Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall on Tuesday 27 November 2018, 10 young players came together to perform a programme of fantasies and consort works by Byrd, Purcell, Ferrabosco, Parsons, Gibbons, and Lawes.

The players were from the RCM and from the Salzburg Mozarteum, nine viol players in all coming together in a variety of configurations, Isabel Esain, Yusuf Lahham, Luke Challinor, Salome Gasselin, Hannah Kilian, Corinna Metz, Vittorio Ghielmi, Christoph Urbanetz, and Sarah Small, with Claire Williams on organ for the final two works by William Lawes. We heard works for a variety of combinations of instruments, from two bass viols and organ, through four-part and six-part to seven-part works, including a remarkable work by Ferrabosco for six bass viols.

We started with a Pavan & Galliard by William Byrd for a consort of six viols. The sound world is very different from the more modern string sound, and particularly when heard live you notice the extreme feeling of texture that the viols bring with a remarkable unity of timbre from top to bottom. The consort made a light but meaty sound, enlivening the texture with rhythmic motifs.

Next came two Fantasies in Four Parts by Henry Purcell, with the players giving the music a really haunted quality, playing daringly quietly at times. Ferrabosco's Di sei bassi for six bass viols created a really rich and sonorous sound. Parsons two In Nomines in Seven Parts used the intertwining parts to create sound-world which was remarkably even.

Orlando Gibbons' Fantasy in Four Parts 'to the great double bass' No. 1 and No. 2 included the double bass viol but rather than exploring the darkly sonorous, Gibbons gave us remarkably perky tunes and lively rhythms. In all this music the sense of counterpoint was foremost, with the feeling of a consort of equal parts weaving in and out of each other.

William Lawes Divisions for Two bass viols brought a real change of style, as the two bass viols vied with each other to develop rather sedate beginnings into some very busy fingerwork, all supported by Claire Williams on the organ. Finally we heard Lawes' Consort set in Six Parts in C minor, a multi-part work for a consort of six viols with organ. This was the longest and perhaps most developed work in the programme and made a fine end, though I thought it a shame that a work could not be found for all the players, perhaps one should have been commissioned.

The viol festival was dedicated to the memory of a long time supporter of the college who had donated four 17th century English viols to the college's collection, viols which featured in the concert finale of the festival.

Elsewhere on this blog:
  • Naturalism and realism: Puccini's La Boheme with Natalya Romaniw and Jonathan Tetelman (★★★★) - opera review
  • A 20th century monument: Hindemith's five brass sonatas  (★★★★) - CD review
  • Old Bones: Nico Muhly, Iestyn Davies and the Aurora Orchestra at Kings Place (★★★½) - concert review
  • Storytelling in music: Kevin Puts and his opera Silent Night - interview
  • Puccini premiere:  Opera Rara gives the original version of Le Willis a rare outing (★★★★) -  Opera review
  • Long time ago: Samling showcase at the Wigmore Hall (★★★★) - concert review
  • A series of concentric circles: Aaron Holloway-Nahum and the Riot Ensemble  - interview
  • Auf Flügeln des Gesanges: Romantic songs and piano transcriptions from Christoph Prégardien & Cyprien Katsaris (★★★★★) - CD review
  • The English Concert in Baroque concertos  - (★★★★) CD review
  • Widening the audience: I chat to Christopher Glynn about his Schubert in English project - interview
  • Staging the unstageable: Britten's War Requiem at English National Opera (★★★★) - opera review
  • Rare Tchaikovsky and Smyth: an earlier version of the piano concerto and Smyth's large-scale mass at the Barbican  (★★★★) - concert review
  • Elgar, Finzi, Parry, Walton from a different angle: arrangements for brass septet  (★★★★) - CD review
  • Love & Prayer: Nadine Benjamin debut solo album (★★★★) - CD review
  •  Home

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