Viola da gamba – Bass trio – Thomas Lupo, Fantasia

April 19, 2009

Thomas Lupo, Fantasias for three equal viols. Ed. George Hunter, Northwood Music TL-3 (1987)


A seriously nice work for three bass viols, easier than Hingeston and Marais or lyra works. It requires quite a deal of confidence among amateurs to bring it off – I say that not just because of the quaver runs from b.43 to the almost at the end at b.50, but mainly because of the nerve required to play the dissonances and hold the long notes  through the first half of the piece. On repeated playings, more can be made of the imitation which is pretty close throughout and where two viols play identical rhythms at cadences.

In terms of form (and convenient places to stop), note

Intro finishing bar 10

Mark A. a new start at b.11 ending with cadence at second half of b.15.

Mark B. Off again with close imitation, crochet figure, ending at b.22 – it’s vital players feel the relative short length of these thematic ‘phrases’. 

Mark C. Imitation introduces a quaver element and next cadence is at b.28 (bottom parts moving together through 30 and 31!).

Mark D. Returns to the pace of the intro.

Mark E. Things hot up rhythmically from 36, ending at first beat of b.43

Mark F. …whence descending quaver runs pour forth till cadence at b.51 followed by

Mark G:  a slow ending and major (F#) close.

Obviously there’s a lot happening and measured bell-like quaver runs will take a lot out of you. Still, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better example of the genre. I’ve only ever had the opportunity to play this in consort twice over the decades and certainly not to the point of polishing. I’ve never managed a group effort with the other trio in this collection – scored for trebles (and transcribed for tenors as well).

A recording of these two fantasias would be a delight.


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