Viola da Gamba – Consorts a4: Richard Mico, Pavan no.4
April 16, 2009
Tyler, Meredith ed. Richard Mico: The Four-Part Consort Music. Fretwork Editions, 1992.
Still music of the spheres: consorts by William Byrd and Richard Mico. Phantasm, Simax, PSC 2243, 1997.
Is this one of the most beautiful pavans ever written? Surely. In terms of overall character, I like to think of it as ‘life-affirming’, in contrast to the strident (Pavan no.1), pensive (Pavan no.2) or the doleful (Pavan no.3). The discords in bb.2-3 and elsewhere are vibrant shimmers, like moire fabric, not points of agony.
The tempo is a smartish two-in-the-bar. The third section will inevitably speed up as a result of its unison opening breaking up into quaver runs. Third sections of pavans are designed to wear players in to the ground with their virtuosic scramble.
The first section is all about the top two parts and their intertwining – the Treble 2 needs to match the dynamics of the first and certainly crescendo in its imitation at the end of bar 3. The Treble 2 at the end of bar 6 needs to repeat the sense of the second half of bar 4 – an attempted resolution with the sense of “we’ve-mused-now-it’s-time-to-come-back-down-to-earth”. While the top lines ask the Big Questions, there are “answers” given (“This is The Dance!”) in the descending crochets of bars 4 and 6, announced in bar 4 with a solid breath marks in all parts.
The second section is all about the thrice-repeated crochets – rising in bb.9-12 and falling in bb.14-16. Rhetorically, this is a ‘deeper discussion’ of the issues raised in the first section. The conclusions are positive and (as I say) life-affirming.
The third section is designed to remind us that this is a not just a discussion about Life, but a Dance – see the opening of Pavan 1 with its too-strident opening in the same vein. Note the intense imitation going on in bb.19 and 20 and again in bar 22: all four parts in both instances. Note the second imitation in the top line in bb.20 – the first should be mezzo-forte and the second a good forte.
So how to lift this from an ordinary performance to a really moving one? I think the answer lies in dynamics. Ordinarily amateur consort players are loathe to write dynamic markings in their parts – I’ve hardly ever seen such a thing in 20 years – but here it’s absolutely indispensable. Each player has to ask “Why am I playing this at this point in time?” And the answer is you’re either being very quiet supporting someone else ‘saying’ something important, or you are taking the floor yourself. Every phrase in every part requires attention to dynamics. Mark your parts today!