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Virtuosic duets and divisions (variations) for two viols.
Christopher SIMPSON
: Division in A [5:41]
Christopher SIMPSON: Division in F [5:10]
Thomas TOMKINS: Voluntary [1:34]
Christopher SIMPSON: Division in F [2:20]
Godfrey FINGER: Division in C [3:45]
John JENKINS: Division in C [4:44]
Ennemond GAULTIER: La pompe funèbre [4:58]
Matthew LOCKE: Fantazia [1:42]
Matthew LOCKE: Courant [1:25]
Christopher SIMPSON: Division in G [5:46]
Godfrey FINGER: Sonata solo in G [7:02]
Tobias HUME: Loves farewell [4:12]
William LAWES: Suite in g - Pavan [6:36]
William LAWES: - Ayre 1 [1:28]
William LAWES: - Ayre 2 [2:27]
Thomas TOMKINS: Prelude [0:50]
Thomas TOMKINS: What if a Day [1:22]
Thomas TOMKINS: Worster brawls [2:16]
Tobias HUME: Pavan [5:49]
Henry PURCELL: Two in one upon a Ground [3:43]
John JENKINS: Division in A [4:59]

charivari agréable
Susanne Heinrich - Bass & Treble Viol
Susanna Pell - Bass & Treble Viol
Lynda Sayce - Guitar & Theorbo
Kah-Ming Ng - Keyboards
Rec: March 1998.
SIGNUM SIGCD007 [78:28]

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The viol was a very popular instrument in 17th and 18th century England. Solo, in duos, in groups called consorts, and in a variety of combinations with other instruments. A great deal of music was written for the viol. Unlike other countries, such as France, a repertory very specific to its unique characteristics was developed. (In France, for example, a great deal of viol music was written, but it generally followed the standard forms used for other instruments.)

This delightful recording by charivari agréable presents a panorama of divisions, grounds and other pieces of music for viol. These works are for a small ensemble containing up to two viols with guitar or theorbo and chamber organ, spinet or harpsichord (as well as a few solo works for each of the instruments). The most important English composers of the period are featured here: Christopher Simpson, John Jenkins, Henry Purcell, Tobias Hume, William Lawes, Matthew Locke, and Thomas Tomkins, as well as one French composer, Ennemond Gaultier.

Divisions were a type of variation, where violists could show off their virtuosity. Several wonderful divisions are included on this disc, especially Jenkins' Division in C, with its unforgettable melody that recalls Pachelbel's famous canon. The two divisions by Christopher Simpson are lovely, lush works, with the characteristic lush viol sound, and the typical compositional style of this type of work - the melody is like a short verse of a song, and is played many times, in as many various ways as possible, its joyous air returning again and again, each time embellished differently.

The Sonata solo in G, by Godfrey Finger, is much closer to the French style of viol music. It is a sonata for solo treble viol and harpsichord, structurally similar to a sonata for violin and harpsichord. But it has that typical English sound, far removed from such French works as the suites by Marin Marais, and is played beautifully.

Both violists, Susanne Heinrich and Susanna Pell, get occasions to show off their solo playing. They each chose a work by Tobias Hume, one of the most original composers of the period, whose music has a unique sound, sometimes melancholy, as here, sometimes lively and energetic. The two Hume works are admirably played; these are pieces that all violists love to play, because of their inventiveness and expressiveness, and both pieces sound excellent here.

Lynda Sayce plays a solo piece on the English theorbo, a work by Ennemond Gaultier, which is very introspective. Harpsichordist Kah-Ming Ng gets his solo as well, playing three short pieces by Thomas Tomkins. This is a delight, as much for the music, his playing, and the beautiful-sounding Ruckers harpsichord used for the recording.

This is a beautiful program, showing a wide variety of works from this period, featuring viol music, but also with a few "extra" pieces to allow each musician to express themselves alone. Musically satisfying, performed excellently and recorded perfectly, this disc deserves the highest recommendation.

Kirk McElhearn

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