Music for the King’s Pleasure

 

Houston Early Music

Presents

Music for the King’s Pleasure

Phantasm

Laurence Dreyfus, treble viol
Wendy Gillespie, tenor viol
Jonathan Manson, tenor viol
Markku Luolajan-Mikkola, bass viol

Friday, April 9, 1999

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church

5501 Main Street

 

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This program is funded in part by grants from the City of Houston and the Texas Commission on the Arts

through the Cultural Arts Council of Houston/Harris County

 


Program

Music for the King’s Pleasure

 


Italian Feasts
Dances in A minor -- Carlo Farina
Pavana 1
Gagliarda 6
Corenta 18
Two Canzonas a4 (1615) -- Tarquinio Merula (b. ca. 1600)
The Swallow
The Nightingale
Two Canzonas a4 -- Cima
Canzona la Doppia
Canzona 13

A Renaissance Hit tune and its 'Covers'

De tous bien playne -- Hayne von Ghizeghem
The ‘original’ song - - (Full of every goodness is my mistress)
De tous bien playne a3 -- Josquin des Prez
De tous bien playne a2 -- Rollerin
De tous bien playne a4 -- Josquin des Prez
(Canon: Peter and John race at a quarter note)


Elizabeth and Jacobean Fancies

Fantasy a4 -- William Byrd ( (c1543-1623)
Fantasy No. 9 a4 -- John Jenkins (1592-1678)


INTERMISSION

In the Country Homes of the Great and the Good

Four-Part Consorts --Richard Mico (c1590-1661)
Pavan No. 2
Fancy No. 18
Fancy No. 10 (Ut re mi fa sol la)

Whilst the King's Away

Sett No. 5 in G minor -- Matthew Locke (1622-1677)
from Consorts of Fower Parts (ca. 1655)
Fantasy
Courante
Ayre
Sarabande


Restoration Fancies

Three Fantasies for 3 viols (1680) -- Henry Purcell
Two Fantasias for 4 viols [Nos. 6,5] (1659-1695)

 


PROGRAM NOTES

The Viol and the Viol Consort
The practice of playing on choirs of instruments belonging to the same family dates back

to the Renaissance, where one distinguished between more elevated "softer" musical instruments such as viols and ruder and more "outdoor" instruments as such sackbutts and crumhorns. The viol family, as opposed to the violin family, developed out of various medieval bowed stringed instruments. Viols are characterized by six strings, flat backs, C-holes rather than F-holes, sloping necks, moveable frets on the neck of the instrument, and a bow held underhand a finger resting on the hair with the main stroke pushing from the tip of the bow rather than from the frog, as on a violin or cello. Viols were always held between the legs, even the smallest treble viol, which is why the family was referred to in Italy as leg-viols (viole da gamba) rather than arm-viols (viole da braccio), the latter name referring to the violin-type instruments. In our performance this evening we play on one treble viol, two tenor viols and a bass viol.

Although found in every European country with a courtly culture, viols played a special role in England. During his reign, Henry VIII invited several leading Italian-Jewish players to his court. A number of these players established themselves as successful musicians who passed down their craft to their children for several generations. The practice of writing music in equal parts for three to six viols—later called the viol consort —became established by the end of the 16th century, especially at court and at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. This practice spread during the 17th century to the country houses of many wealthy landowners and aristocrats. By the time of the Restoration and Henry Purcell, there were apparently only a few pockets of serious viol players left. The instrument survived mostly in the form of a bass which became a solo instrument in France and Germany until its demise toward the end of the 18th century. The modern double bass is commonly in the shape of a viol, and is the one remnant of the viol family found in the contemporary symphony orchestra.

Though viols are not loud instruments, their sound blends together in a unique way, especially when one takes care to tune them carefully. Even in complicated polyphonic (many-voiced) music in which each instrument is given an independent part to play, each line emerges with startling clarity at the same time that the ensemble comes together to form a homogeneous whole.

The Program
Carlo Farina's dances are found in a printed collection published in 1627 whose title page specifically mentions their suitability for viols. Little is known of Farina (c1600-c1640), an Italian originally from Mantua, who later worked for the German court in Dresden where he published these tuneful and lively four-part settings.

Tarquinio Merula worked in his home town of Cremona and was later engaged to the court of the King of Poland. His music for viols is strikingly daring in appropriating sounds from the natural world within the contrapuntal setting of a canzona, a lighter-style instrumental piece. The unique cooing of the Nightingale, for example, is captured in the remarkable point of imitation which opens the second work.

Giovanni Paolo Cima from Milan (c1570-c1622) shows a yet lighter and even more playful side in his Canzonas for four parts. The clearly festive quality of the music is displayed in polyphony that avoids every sign of artifice and revels in the bright interplay between sonorities.

The settings of De tous bien playne (Full of Every Goodness is My Mistress), a 15th-century French song that was known all across Europe, show how Renaissance composers took the 'hit tunes' of their day and 'covered' them with inventive arrangements. The original song by the Flemish master Hayne van Ghizeghem (1445-c1480) is played first and is then heard in some settings which hide within them some fascinating musical tricks. In the celebrated setting in four parts by leading composer Josquin des Prez (c1440-1521), the two lower parts compete with each other in a breakneck canon in which the bass and tenor viols play the identical part, starting at different times, one beginning just a quick quarter note later than the second. The piece presented the performers with a puzzle labeled with a cryptic Latin inscription which read simply: 'Peter and John race each other at a point.' The pieces of the puzzle fall into place when it is realized that the composer has ingeniously concealed two parts in one within this amazing miniature tour de force.

In the 16th century the term fantasy—sometimes called a 'Fancy' in Elizabethan English— came to mean instrumental pieces for a viol consort in which themes were 'imitated' or copied between all the parts. As a kind of elevated conversation on a variety of subjects, fantasies were particularly apt for after-dinner entertainments at court, at country houses, and at the universities where, in England in particular, the viol was cultivated both by a wide range of amateurs and professionals. Rather than the more extroverted dance music for a public audience, this was music that appealed to the intimate side of life and therefore was able to represent a range of different emotions and passions. Whereas William Byrd's Fantasy is an early contemplative masterpiece in the genre, the pieces by John Jenkins and Richard Mico display the 17th-century flowering of the viol fancy. The stirring Jenkins work evokes the military noises and alarms of canons and gunfire heard everywhere during the strife-ridden period of the English Civil War. In Mico's Fancy No. 10, the first six notes of the scale are passed among the four viols and set in long notes on daring degrees of the scale against the counterpoint in the other voices,

Matthew Locke's powerful Sett (or Suite) in G minor, probably composed during the Commonwealth, attests to a new experimental voice which is not afraid to show its deep emotional commitment as a form of English eccentricity. On the other hand, Purcell's fantasies for three viols composed after the Restoration of the monarchy, represent the very apex of the tradition, and these, the greatest masterpieces in this genre, lead the old devices of imitation between all four parts into profound disquisitions on the state of the human soul. These pieces amount to an astounding achievement for a twenty-year-old composer who, in his brief but in his meteoric career, was never again to return to pieces for viol consorts. These works passed into the hands of a small coterie of connoisseurs and had to await the 20th century for their subsequent revival and cultivation.

---Notes by Laurence Dreyfus

BIOGRAPHIES

Phantasm, founded in 1994, is an award-winning consort dedicated to music for viols, from the mysteries of Byrd and Purcell, through the masterworks of Marais and Couperin, to the profundity of Bach’s and Mozart’s fugues. Rather than returning to the past, the imaginative performances of this dynamic quartet dwell in the here-and-now, evoking a sound-world rich in expression and lyricism. The ensemble has appeared in festivals and on concert series in London, Amsterdam, Norway, Iceland, Finland, and the United States, and made its New York debut at the prestigious Frick Collection. In 1996, Phantasm released its debut CD of Henry Purcell’s Fantasias and In Nomines on Simax Classics. This CD won a 1997 Gramophone award. A second CD, Still Music of the Spheres, Consorts by Byrd and Mico, was released in October 1997; a CD featuring J.S. Bach’s Art of the Fugue, together with Mozart’s quartet arrangements from the Well-Tempered Clavier, appeared in Autumn 1998. In 1999, Phantasm released two CDs: Matthew Locke’s Consort of Fower Parts and Byrd Songs with Ian Partridge, tenor, and Geraldine McGreevy, soprano. Phantasm's recordings and broadcasts can be heard, downloaded, and purchased via the Internet on the Music Channel of the Global Music Network. Phantasm maintains its own website on <www.phantasm.org.uk>.

Laurence Dreyfus, founder of PHANTASM, was born in Boston (USA) and pursues a dual career as performer and writer on music. He has published extensively on the music of JS Bach, including Bach’s Continuo Group (Harvard University Press, 1986) and Bach and the Patterns of Invention (Harvard University Press, 1996), which won the Otto Kinkeldey Award from the American Musicological Society. Laurence Dreyfus makes his home in London where he holds the Thurston Dart Chair of Performance Studies at King’s College London. His recordings of Bach and Marais with harpsichordist Ketil Haugsand on Simax Classics have received critical acclaim and their recording of Rameau's Pièces de Clavecin en Concert was nominated for a 1994 Gramophone award. Dreyfus can also be heard in a CD of Purcell songs on the Phillips label with Sylvia McNair, which won a Grammy for the best vocal recording of 1995.

Wendy Gillespie was educated at Wellesley College, the Amsterdam Conservatory and at New York University. She has been a distinguished performer of medieval, Renaissance and baroque stringed instruments for over 20 years, based in New York City, then England, and currently Bloomington, where she is Professor at the Early Music Institute of Indiana University and teaches performance practice, notation and early strings. She has appeared all over the world with ensembles from the New York Pro Musica Antiqua and Ensemble for Early Music to Ensemble Sequentia, Taverner Players, and Theatre of Voices. Her special interest is the viol and its ensemble literature; she is a founding member of Les Filles de Ste-Colombe and Fretwork. Gillespie has participated in more than 50 recordings for Virgin Classics, Harmonia Mundi, EMI, BIS, Simax and other labels.

Jonathan Manson was born in Edinburgh and received his formative training at the International Cello Centre in Scotland under the direction of Jane Cowan, and was later taught by Steven Isserlis and David Waterman in London and Steven Doane at the Eastman School of Music. While in America, he became involved with the performance of early music and from there went to the Hague to study viola da gamba with Wieland Kuijken. As a period instrument performer, Jonathan Manson plays and records regularly with the Academy of Ancient Music, The English Concert and many other leading early music ensembles. He has made numerous recordings for Erato, Decca, Chandos, Naxos and Simax Classics, and is principal cellist of the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra.
Markku Luolajan-Mikkola studied cello with Arto Noras at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki which awarded him its diploma in 1983. An interest in baroque music led him to the Hague where he studied viola da gamba with Wieland Kuijken at the Royal Conservatory receiving postgraduate diplomas in viola da gamba and baroque cello. Markku Luolajan-Mikkola currently teaches at the Sibelius Academy and is active as a chamber musician in several European ensembles. His recording from 1994 of Marais’ Suite d'un goût Étranger on ALBA records won a national award for excellence in his native Finland and a second solo CD of virtuoso viol music by Antoine Forqueray and a third recording from Marais' Second book of viol pieces (on BIS) has likewise garnered critical acclaim. A special interest of Luolajan-Mikkola’s is contemporary music commissioned for the bass viol.

 


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