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
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
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.