Bass viol duets – Simon Ives

May 26, 2009

Simon Ives: ayres for two bass viols (British Library Add MS 31424). Ed. Gordon Sandford. PRB Productions, 1990.

Nine short airs, around 30 bars each, all AABB in form, at the easy end of the bass duet repertoire, from the first half of the 17th century. The top ‘melody’ line alternates between both players every couple of bars, so there is much more to think about than first meets the eye. If not already fluent in alto and bass clefs, then they certainly assist in making one so. The suspensions¬†have the flavour of the organ about them, so it’s not surprising to read Ives was an organist. There are also some nice motifs recalling church bells, probably what the editor had in mind when he mentioned “musical felicities” to be found in the work. To keep the momentum going through the long notes, they need to be played at more 80 to the crochet than 60. But if not’s a steady bow on the long notes that’s required, it’s an equally airy light bow that’s needed for the quaver runs. Being ayres, it’s not hard to imagine them as textless songs. Good jumping-off pieces for Coperario and company, without the old sacred vocal character of duets from the previous century and looking ahead to a more instrumental baroque quality as per Withy and Gorton.


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