Music for two bass viols alone (1)

December 30, 2009

The Noble Bass Viol: English music from Purcell to Handel for Three Bass Viols and Continuo. Bocchi, Conti, Corelli, Draghi, Finger, Gorton, Handel, Hely, Purcell. The Parley of Instruments. CD. Hyperion CA67088. Liner notes by Peter Holman.

Tracks 3-5. William Gorton, two bass viols (Mark Caudle and Susanna Pell). Suite in F: Allemand, Air, Minuet.

Tracks 10-12. Gottfried Finger, two bass viols (MC and SP with theorbo and organ). Suite in D reconstructed by MC: (Almand), (Jig), Adagio/Allegro/Chaconne/Adagio.

Apart from being a desert-island choice, this CD features music by the elusive William Gorton for two bass viols alone. The rest of the album features three bass viols accompanied by theorbo and/or organ, or solo bass viol with continuo. Three strands of “late” English viol music have been brought together: the ‘English’ (Purcell and Hely, not dissimilar to violinistic Locke), the ‘German/Austrian’ in Draghi and Finger (who both tried to set up in business in London as a viol-organ duo) and the “Italian’ as reflected in Conti, Corelli and Handel.

Primarily in terms of the bass duet repertoire, one thinks of Coperario and East, as well as Locke. The connection in this album to Francis Withy, another minor composer of bass duets,  is that he included the Draghi and Purcell among his transcriptions as recorded here.

William GORTON

Wm Gorton (d.1711)  composed A Choice Collection of New Ayres in London in 1701. Some dozen or so movements have been published and here is an incipit from one of them which demonstrates how late the style of writing is. Some of this drama is reflected in the Baroque, sprightly angularity of the pieces on this album. Peter Holman mentions the publication being clearly designed for amateurs, perhaps pupils of this violinist in the royal band.

Gottfried FINGER

I wish the Suite in D as published in full in the back of Gartrell’s book on the baryton was the same as Mark Caudle’s reconstruction of the work by Gottfriend Finger, but it isn’t, since they come from different manuscript sources. The one on this recording comes from Bodleian Library MS Mus. Sch.D249, as does the Pastorale in A which follows on the disk. The solo bass Suite no.2 in Dmaj on this disk comes from D.228 in the same library. I don’t have a full list of Finger’s works to hand, but here’s the incipit of the Suite in D as published by Gartrell to give you an idea of the style of composition. Ignoring momentarily the fact that the gamba and baryton have similar-sounding parts, take note of the simple bass line as played by the baryton – it could easily be given to a second bass viol all by itself. By way of background, Finger was writing 100 years before Haydn for the baryton and the baryton at this time essentially accompanied itself – providing both the solo and bass lines together. And if you’re wondering, the baryton sounded at a different pitch from the one notated below.

The latest VdSGA Newsletter features reviews of newly-published Finger. His Gmin divisions feature in Alison Crum’s Solos for Bass Viol.


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