Bowed vielle and vielle music on record

April 6, 2010

Some preliminary observations on bowed vielles used in audio recordings, inspired in part by wondering about the provenance of instruments used in the period 1950-2010 in recordings of Johannes Ciconia and in part by discovering the use of violins and ‘cello, alongside viols, used in an early recording of Lawes and Byrd viol consort music by the Leonhardt Consort on LP. My thesis is that instruments might have been handed down from master to student. This is part of wider thesis that the translation of musicological research into audio recordings (and presumably concerts as well) follows a trajectory marked by the loyalty students have to their masters and will shy away from innovation – by no means an original idea. This contrasts with my ‘anecdotal’ impression that a few years ago viol playing sped up enormously, perhaps around the time of Pandolfo interpreting Tobias Hume and the increased drive and exuberance in the playing of Forqueray, for example, by Il Giardino Armonico. I’m also much intrigued by Howard Meyer Brown’s article in Early Music on the Trecento fiddle and its bridges. I’m hoping to ‘track’ specific instruments down through the decades. Or not.

Recordings made 1982-1994, with a few interlopers.

0. English Medieval Songs, The 12th & 13th Centuries. Music of the Middle Ages vol.5. Russell Oberlin, countertenor and Seymour Barab, viol. CD, Lyrachord Early Music ser, LEMS 8005. Originally recorded in 1958 on a (fretted) tenor viol (Dolmetsch, England). Saville Clark has devised his own viol accompaniment to these examples of English monody.

1. L’Art de la Flute, vol.1 La Flute a Bec du Moyen-Age au XVIIIe Siecle. Roger Cotte et le Groupe des Instruments Anciens de Paris. LP, 1969. Liner notes by Cotte, trans. Edgar Hunt. Arion 30A070.The bowed vielle, played by Odette Geoffre, makes an appearance on the first three tracks of this recording. Track 1. Ductia, Oxford MS. 0’55. Larigot, rebec, tambourin. Track 2 In Saeculum Viellatoris, motet instrumental, anonyme. 0’55. Flute a bec, viele a l’arc and cornet a bouquin.Track 3 Hoquet David fragments, Guillaume de Machaut, 0’51. Largiot and viele a l’arc over the plainchant played on the harpe medievale a fils d’archal.

2. Music of the Crusades. Early Music Consort of London, dir. David Munrow. CD, Decca, 1991. Recorded 1971. No vielles on this recording, but Oliver Brookes plays bass rebec. This LP/CD features the French royal dances, which is why I mention it here, e.g. nos.3 and 8 are played on a treble rebec and a bass rebec.

3. In a Medieval Garden. Stanley Buetens Lute Ensemble, dir. Stanley Buetens. LP, Nonesuch H71120, [1960/70s?]. Fifteen tracks of music ranging from C13 to Capirola’s La Spagna (C16) via Dufay, Obrecht and Attaignant. Instrumental accompaniment and instrument-only pieces are played on recorder, krummhorn, lute and viol in the main. This recording predates the use of the bowed vielle, but I include it here because it perhaps forms part of the bowed vielle music canon. Side 1. Track 2. Anon. C13, In seculum artifex (krumhorn, lute, viol), 1’12. From Higinio Angles, ed. El Codex de las Huelgas, vol.III. Barcelona, 1931. Track 5. Anon C13, Trotto (recorders, krummhorn, viol, lute, percussion), 1’10. From British Museum MS; Harold Gleason, ed. Examples of Music before 1400, New York, 1942..Side 2. Track 2. Anon C13. In seculum viellatoris (krummhorn, lute, viol), 1’00.From Gleason, ibid.

4. Medieval Monodies: Martin Codax and Marcarbru. La Romanesca. CD,. Move Records, Melb. Australia, 1987. Recorded 1982. Vielle (as appearing on front cover photograph of liner notes) played by Ruth Wilkinson and Australian-made by Ian Watchorn (then Canberra).

5. Bella Domna: the Medieval Woman: lover, poet, patroness and saint. Sinfoyne, dir. Stevie Wishart. CD, Hyperion, 1988. Vielle is mostly limited to the more instrumental of the tracks here – the Martin Codax songs are accompanied by symphony, harp and pandeiro, for example. Vielle accompanies two C13 troubadour songs. Vielle and Moroccan bendir, a very limited texture compared to larger ensembles, are used in recordings of the same pieces: Estampie Royales nos. 2, 4 and 6. Vielles are described as ‘Medieval Fiddles, by Alan Crumpler (tuned according to Jerome of Moravia’s 2nd tuning) and by Jim Bisgood, as used in the troubadour song’..

6. Ars Magis Subtiliter, Project Ars Nova: secular music of the Chantilly Codex. CD, San Fran: New Albion, 1989. All but two of the fifteen tracks, vocal with instruments and instruments alone, feature one and/or two vielles: Shira Kammen, vielle by Fabrizio Reginato (Fonte Alto, Italy, 1984) and Randall Cook on one by Richard Earle (London, 1982).

7. Little Consort: Ciconia & His Time. CD, Channel Classics, 1990. Recorded in 1988. Both Kees Boeke and Toyojiko Satoh take up the viella in addition to their principal instruments, flustes and lute respectively. Their CD liner notes quote the Eugene Deschamps, L’Art de dictierAbout Music, 1392 to justify their use of bowed vielle.

8. The Island of St Hylarion, Music of Cyprus 1413-1422. Ensemble P.A.N. CD, New Albion Records, 1991. Half of the sixteen tracks feature bowed vielle, played by Randall Cook and Shira Kammen, as per 1989..

9. A L’Estampida. Dufay Collective. CD, Avie 0015, 2002. Recorded June 1991. Three vielles on this one, played by Giles Lewin, Susanna Pell (a large bass vielle, easily the size of a tenor viol or small bass, judging from the photo in the liner notes) and Raphael Mizraki. Their 1993 recording seems to ‘fill the gaps’ so that between these two CDs, one appears at first glance to have the entire Italian istanpitta collection and the British MS pieces.

10. Homage to Johannes Ciconia, ca.1370-1412 Ensemble P.A.N. CD, New Albion Records, 1992. Recorded April 1992. This is the first CD devoted entirely to the composer since the complete works recorded on a 3-CD set by the Huelgas Ensemble. It’s the first to explore arrangements and improvisation in interpreting Ciconia. The vielle appears on just about all the tracks. Bowed vielle played by Shira Kammen on the Reginato mentioned above

11. Wanderers’ Voices: Medieval Cantigas & Minnesang. The Newberry Consort. CD, Harmonia mundi HMU 907082, 1993. Mary Springfels plays a bowed vielle without credits – presumably the same instrument as played on their other albums, Il Solazzo, Ay Amor! and Cornago.

12. A Dance in the Garden of Mirth: medieval instrumental music. Dufay Collective. CD, Chandos, 1994. Recorded 1993. Suzanne Pell plays a Gary Bridgewood (London, 1988) bowed vielle on Tracks 1 (Ghaetta istanpitta), 5 (3rd Royal Estampie), 8 (Trotto-Saltarello), 10 (Belicha istanpitta) and 11 (Isabella istanpitta). She shares the music with at least five or six others on these tracks, which are large ensemble/dance band interpretations of the standard French and Italian monophonic dances I’ve mentioned in other posts.

13. Poder a Santa Maria: Andalucia in the ‘Cantigas de Santa Maria’ of King Alfonso X ‘el Sabio’. Sinfonye, dir. Stevie Wishart. CD, Almaviva, DSI 0105, 1994. Recorded Oct. 1993. Stevie Wishart plays Medieval Fiddles on the three tracks out of eleven. Alan Crumpler (Leonminster, UK) made the waisted fiddle and Bruno Guastaldi (Oxford) made the oval fiddle. Tuned according to Jerome of Moravia’s Tractus de Musica.

14. Venus’ fire. The Renaissance Players. CD, Walsingham WAL 8004-2, 1994. Recorded 1992/1993. Katie Wards plays an Ian Watchorn vielle, with four or five other instrumentalists, in a large ensemble texture, which includes Royal estampies 4 and 8. Vielle-maker Bernard Ellis has one of his rebecs on this recording.

15. Oswald von Wolkenstein, Lieder. Ensemble fur Musik des Mittelalters.CD, BMG, 1993. Two Fiedels, one by Rainer Ulreich (Vienna, 1991) and one by Richard Earle (Basel 1988). Elizabeth Gaver plays one and Rainer Ullreich the other. Songs here are accompanied by fiddle(s) and sometimes with additional late Gothic Harp. Elizabeth and her vielle photographed on the back cover of the liner notes.

16. Chominciamento di gioia: virtuoso dance-music from the time of Boccaccio’s Decamerone. CD, Ensemble Unicorn. Naxos, 1994. Fidel/Fiddle features in the photo of instruments on the back cover of the liner notes. Fidels played by Marco Ambrosini and Thomas Wimmer.


One Response to “Bowed vielle and vielle music on record”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    “This recording predates the use of the bowed vielle…”

    No, it doesn’t–Sterling Jones played vielle on Studio der FruehenMusik recordings c. 1960 🙂

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