There’s a big difference between 5mins 52secs and 3mins 37secs. Those are the total times at which this fantasy is played by viol consorts L’Acheron and Phantasm respectively.

Bars 1-25 establish a mood of quiet confidence, not with a lot of hubris but there’s a certain grimness in the moving harmonies and gentle defiance in the cadences (e.g. bar 13). However, thereafter, some doubt starts to creep in, though the upper parts maintain a grim determination in their interval leaps.

Subtly from bar 25 onwards, the mind of Man, the rhetoric of human thought, seems to be overtaken by, or blend into, the natural world. I see Nature and the World as reflected in the increasing swirls of descending notes. For L’Acheron, these quaver patterns fall like autumn leaves, steady and lingering in the air, while for Phantasm they have more of the scamper of squirrels. It’s hard to decide whether or not Phantasm’s tempo flits to the final cadence or whether L’Acheron’s overall tempo, slow to the point of a rare and crystalline stillness, reveals or conceals.

For both though there is the evocation of the wondrous light of Nature. I see the whole as a commentary on the affairs of human kind, the rise and fall of greatness, the passing of reputation and good intentions. Personally I prefer the L’Acheron tempo, but although it evokes the woods of Kent in Autumn and of the Auvergne in Winter as much as it does the woods of Massachusetts in Summer, I’m sure that when it comes up on the music stands of the consort I play with, we will take it a faster clip.

References

lacheron.blogspot.fr: Fantasia a6 in c (YouTube.com; 2012)

John Jenkins, Six-Part Consorts. Phantasm, AV2099 (2006)

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Tempo in this recording is a very pacey 160/minute for the crochets/half notes. This creates an overall effect largely of birds twittering, with the more graceful insistent bird song when the largely quaver-dominated runs turn to crochets, for example in bb.11 and 12 in the top treble line. Everything has a very English sense of the ‘rollicking’, despite all the surface shimmer. The moments of seriousness are but brief, for example at bar 50 where there is a plaintive turn, quickly dispelled by the quaver runs from bar 51 onwards. Phantasm bring out the strong Gibbons-like feel to the syncopated imitation in bar 20 and you can see Jenkins really ‘pushing the envelope’ with this Gibbons-like phrase in the following five or six bars before he decides to bring the whole thing to a stop.

Here’s what I said earlier about the structure of the piece:

BB 1-26: first section with a rising motive.

BB 26-55: second section with a falling motive.

BB 1-5: Opening motive, starting with a rising fifth in all parts over five bars. Strident and confident, a Treble and Tenor announce it echo-like in bar 1, with the other Tenor and Bass tripping over each other to bring it in in bar 4. The quaver runs following this clarion call are not identical in all parts; some parts exactly imitate others (Tenor 2 and Treble 2) while others are only approximate. This lack of strict imitation may be somewhat offputting for some players used to stricter imitation as provided by other earlier composers.

BB 18-19: The theme is repeated at regular intervals in all parts up to and including bar 17. Of note is the fall from top treble to bottom bass of a cascade of running eighth-notes. This “Jenkins cascade” is a feature of other fantasias.

BB 20-25: Perhaps the knottiest part of the fantasy in terms of fragmented eighth-note runs and rests, there are moments of homophony where two or three players play the same quaver rhythms and moments when that homophony fragments and scatters. If a consort can get right bars 18-25, then they are on their way t0 conquering the whole.

BB 26-30: establishment of a new theme.

BB 32-36: imitation from bass 2 to treble 1.

BB 37-55: knotty again, with tension only coming off in b.50, with a Chord V in bar 51 resolving to Chord I G in bar 52, bars 52-55 forming a final close.

I’m looking more closely at the John Jenkins viol consorts these days. Any viol player ought to be as aurally familiar with them as, say, the Beethoven symphonies or the better known Brahms songs. Perhaps this aural familiarity will one day spread to William Lawes and Alfonso Ferrabosco in my case. To boost the process, I’m moving to from recordings which are anthologies to complete recordings. Looking more closely at the scores won’t go astray either.

Background

In terms of the literature, I’m aware of the following: Andrew Ashbee  The Harmonious musick of John Jenkins: Volume 1, The Fantasias for viols. 359pp. Toccata Press, 1992. ISBN 0907689345. I’m of the impression it will be reissued as a paperback in April this year.  Also, Ashee, Andrew ed. and Peter Holman. John Jenkins and his time: studies in English consort music. IBSN 0198164616.

In his article in Early Music magazine, Ashbee discusses the six-part fantasias in the main, but includes passing references to several of the five-part, nos. 3,6,13 and 17.  We are told that the seventeen Five-part fantasias are from MS 1145 and were copied between c1630 and 1645. With precedents in Ferrabosco, Ward, Gibbons and Coperario (d.1626), the fantasias were obviously popular enough in Jenkins’ own lifetime to have been copied in various parts of the country.

Discography

Playlists on Jenkins anthologies do not always make it clear whether the fantasias are five- or six-part. The Rose Consort of Viols on their anthology, Jenkins: All in a Garden Green  (Naxos 8.550687), have recorded two Fantasias in Cmin a5 and one in Dmaj (tracks 2,14,15). More on the Phantasm complete five-part consorts in due course.

Sheet Music

Scores and parts as edited by Martha Bishop are on the Viola da Gamba Society of America website.

Fantasia No.1 a5 in G major

BB 1-26: first section with a rising motive.

BB 26-55: second section with a falling motive.

BB 1-5: Opening motive, starting with a rising fifth in all parts over five bars. Strident and confident, a Treble and Tenor announce it echo-like in bar 1, with the other Tenor and Bass tripping over each other to bring it in in bar 4. The quaver runs following this clarion call are not identical in all parts; some parts exactly imitate others (Tenor 2 and Treble 2) while others are only approximate. This lack of strict imitation may be somewhat offputting for some players used to stricter imitation as provided by other earlier composers.

BB 18-19: The theme is repeated at regular intervals in all parts up to and including bar 17. Of note is the fall from top treble to bottom bass of a cascade of running eighth-notes. This “Jenkins cascade” is a feature of other fantasias.

BB 20-25: Perhaps the knottiest part of the fantasy in terms of fragmented eighth-note runs and rests, there are moments of homophony where two or three players play the same quaver rhythms and moments when that homophony fragments and scatters. If a consort can get right bars 18-25, then they are on their way t0 conquering the whole.

BB 26-30: establishment of a new theme.

BB 32-36: imitation from bass 2 to treble 1.

BB 37-55: knotty again, with tension only coming off in b.50, with a Chord V in bar 51 resolving to Chord I G in bar 52, bars 52-55 forming a final close.

Fantasia No.2 a5 in G minor 

BB 1-5: Fugal melody of a rising fourth followed by quavers. Introduced in all parts over five bars. There are actually two dotted notes providing a note of persistence in the rising fourth theme, falling away suddenly with descending quavers: a call to heavenly justice and Fate, followed by quick doubts perhaps.

BB 5-22: increasing complexity with subtle variations each time the theme is introduced.

BB 22-46: contrasting insubtantial falling quaver melody introduced and developed. Quite unrelenting work in all parts in quite a long exposition.

BB 46-50: after such hard work, Jenkins pulls us up smart with just five bars of resolution and closure on a Gmajor chord.

Fantasia No.3 in G minor

BB 1-10: Starts with a martial rising theme in three parts and a counter-melody of falling notes in the other two parts. As in the first fantasia, the entries are not regularly symmetrical, so there is nothing of the predictable imitation in each part that comes to expect from the madrigal repertoire. Everything comes to a close with a minum cadence in B-flat, but the music continues immediately thereafter.

BB 11-20: Similar work with the two themes again, ending again in a minum cadence in G at bar 16 and in Dmajor at bar 20. These ‘false finishes’ create the indistinct impression of a sectional madrigal.

BB 20-50: This forms quite an extended, convoluted passage developing a new five-note theme (see Treble 1, bar 34, and doubled in length at bars 39-40). Everyone eventually gets to rest up a little with this long-note theme, while everyone else is working away feverishly with augmented eighth-note runs.

BB 50-58: A close in long notes, with discords and harmonic variety throughout.

Ashbee mentions this fantasia in his Early Music article in terms of melody and counter-melody (pp.498-499) and also mentions the new theme emerging without a bridge, as well as the expansive augmentation in quaver runs.

Andrew Ashbee, John Jenkins in Early Music.

 

Playing John Jenkins is not technically easy for amateur viol consort players because there is a stark move away from the homophony and tight imitation in Italian madrigalesque motives that one might have grown used to playing late 16th century and the earliest music of the 17th century. The most immediate features of Jenkins’ writing are his independent part-writing, the long drawn-out phrases and idiosyncratic syncopation. Initially challenging, these characteristics of Jenkins become pure delight. As Andrew Ashbee quite rightly says in his article on Jenkins in Early Music magazine, “All Jenkins’s viol fantasias are pervaded by a unique and unrestrained lyricism.” There is none of the predictability of Tomkins, the choppiness of Coperario or the earnestness of Gibbons.

A consort is ready for Jenkins when it has moved well past the likes of Coperario and is already exploring with relative ease Ward, Ferrabosco and Gibbons. But Jenkins moves beyond even these three into realms of unpredictability and lyrical freedom.

When initially tackling Jenkins, amateur consort players get caught up with their technical problems and these can justifiably overshadow any feeling of growth or improvement with Jenkins. The Jenkins fantasias are however easily comprehensible in their overall organic structure and perhaps if amateurs saw where they are most likely to break down, then perhaps everything will be carried along with maximum equanimity. At the end of the day, playing Jenkins must be a delight rather than a chore, uplifting rather than dispiriting.

If a consort breaks down in the first ten bars, it’s either because of tension associated with an unfamiliar key like Cminor, or thinking to the end of long melodic phrases or because of the counting in rests leading to one’s own entry. Bars 10-20 will see increased interweaving of fugal melody and tensions will rise. Overall volume may rise with increasing fear. Focussing on the independence of the part-writing means the whole may lose its airiness.

Breaking down in bars 20-30 is entirely predictable because this is where the fugal counterpoint is at its most knotty and complex. Unrelenting augmentation of fugal motives in eighth-note runs and sudden stops and starts is inevitable here. I think it’s important that the consort clearly recognises the culmination of the fugal enterprise around bar 30 or so; it’s difficult to predict when reading just from a part book. After bar 30 or so, one can relax, savouring the drift into the longer notes for the close.

Not all consorts will break up the fantasia into digestible chunks, starting with the easy finale, moving to the searching beginning (the laying out of the Point) and consciously tackling the middle hard bits last, before putting the whole thing together. Of course it’s only natural that we’d all prefer it fell into place from beginning to end without any ‘hard work’. A strong consort leader might, at the very least though, point out the middle significant cadence and the structural features leading to it and from it.

 

In a Musicology lecture last week, I had recourse to a primary source document recounting Lord Dudley’s musical gatherings at his country estate, involving trekking a mile into a wood at Banstead for six-part viol consorts, plus some violin playing (the lecture was about the Rise of the Violin Sonata in C17) to the organ and harpsichord. I got to wondering if the chests in which the instruments would have been stored in the house wasn’t hoisted onto a dray and led off by a horse; I can’t imagine the Lord and his guests heaving the instruments all that way and we know relatively little I think about instrument cases except for the odd extant wooden vyall chest or two, I think illustrated in an article in Early Music magazine. My other concern was that they must have played in some sort of bandstand or basically-built folley to minimise breezes blowing away manuscript part-books and affecting the tuning of gut strings. North talks of clearing paths through the forest and poor soil (mud on boots?), but no architecture at the far end. I imagine the weather must have been unusually and spectacularly good for the venture, presumably setting out with luncheon between two periods of music-making. Six viols and players, a chamber organ or harpsichord, sheet music and music stands, plus refreshments – that’s some trek into the forest. I’m not aware of other accounts of viol-playing outdoors. Enquiring minds need to know!

In any case, http://books.google.com mentions two accounts worth following up:

* Roger North’s Cursory Notes of Musicke: (c.1698-c.1703): a physical, psychological and critical theory. Vol.1 of [North papers], by Roger North, Mary Chan, Jamie Croy Kassler. Unisearch, 1986.

* Dale B.J. Randall, Baron Dudley North North. Gentle Flame: the Life and Verse of Dudley, Fourth Lord North (1602-1677). Duke Univ. Pr., 1983. Lord Dudley’s dates almost exactly those of John Jenkins (see below). Henry Loosemore is mentioned as a Dudley music-master and I recall the violin-like top lines of Loosemore’s viol music.

The two important monographs on John Jenkins (1592-1678) are:

* Andrew Ashbee, The Harmonious Musick of John Jenkins, vol.1.

This book is the first in a two-volume study of Jenkins and his music. After a full biographical introduction, it concerns itself exclusively with the superb consorts for viols which dominate the early part of the composer’s career. Indeed, it is probably the first book ever published to deal only with music for viol consort. It is profusely illustrated with music examples, and virtually every work receives individual comment. After the quartcentenary of Jenkins’ birth in 1992 and with an increasing number of recordings of his music now available, this study will serve the awakened interest in his music as a major contribution in promoting the music of a man acknowledged in his time as ‘the ever Famous and most Excellent Composer, in all sorts of Modern Musick’. (Overview from Google Books).

* Andrew Ashbee and Peter Holman, John Jenkins and his Time: Studies in English Consort Music. Oxford Univ Pr., 1996.

John Jenkins (1592-1678) was a leading English composer of instrumental music in the mid-seventeenth century. These studies by leading experts focus not only on his life and work but also on the music of such contemporaries as Gibbons, Ferrabosco II, Mico, and Cobbold; period instruments; and consort manuscripts. (Overview from Google Books).

 

 

After years of nervous trepidation, I’m starting to tackle Jenkins and Lawes. The part-writing is of course a source of endless wonder for viol players. Not that I’m about to embark on a period of intense first-hand experience of them, but it’s worth pondering the score, the parts I’m most likely to play and of course recordings. Recordings have progressed in recent years to the extent that a complete Jenkins (or two) is now a reality instead of being an ideal.

I recently re-joined the Viola da Gamba Society of America, mainly to honour the fine contribution Martha Bishop has made in getting a full set of a5 and a6 consorts uploaded to their website.

Sheet music: Viola da Gamba Society of America.

Recording: Vingt ans Hesperion XX, dir. Jordi Savall. Auvidis E8522, 1994. Track 16, 3’52”.

Further reading:

 

ASHBEE, Andrew ed. and Peter Holman. John Jenkins and his time: studies in English consort music. IBSN 0198164616.

Of note to players: 

BB 1-5 Eight-note theme starting in bass, proceeding through all parts to Treble 1.

BB 5-12 Reprise of initial theme, moving through parts, culminating in a Gmaj chord, followed by dotted notes falling away from top to bass parts

B 16 Cadence, breaking into a new motif involving two quavers and a crochet, quickly moving between parts not dissimilar to bar 12.

B 17 Move to a further Gmaj cadence.

B 18-26 New theme of crochets starts with tenors and spreads to other parts.

B 16 Reprise of tenors with a briefly homophonic crochet motif, again moving to other parts

B 30-48 High degree of chromaticism in a move to writing with noticeably more minums and breves; stunning silence in all parts at the end of b.32; a new motif of minum-two crochets moves between parts.

B 48 Tenors start the final stretch, with a breve-three crochets-quavers motif spreading quickly between parts.

B 53-57 Tr1 announces the end with its minum-crochets-breve motif, repeated in 55.

 Conclusions: aural highlights would have to be bar13 and the chromaticism in bb.35-38.

Jenkins: All in a Garden Green. Rose Consort of Viols. Naxos, Early Music ser. 8550687, 1993.

This budget recording doesn’t make immediately clear the forces required in each of the eighteen pieces, so I thought I’d elaborate for myself. It’s very much a survey album, since the composer’s life spanned Byrd to Purcell. Useful essay by Andrew Ashbee as liner notes. I’m trying to link up recordings of Jenkins’ consorts with the scores/parts available from the Viola da Gamba Society of America website.

Track 1. Pavan in F Major. Consort a6.

Track 2. Fantasia in C Minor. Consort a4, Fantasia no.7

Track 3. Divisions for two basses in C Major.

Track 4. Fantasia in C Minor.

Track 5. Fantasia in F major, All in a Garden Green. Fantasia no.6

Tracks 6-7. Newarke Seidge.

Tracks 8,9, 10. Four-party Are in D Minor: Ayre, Almaine, Coranto.

Tracks 11-13. Fantasia-suite in A Minor: Fantasia, Air, Corant. For treble, bass and organ.

Track 14. Fantasia in C Minor. Fantasia a5, ? no.9

Track 15. Fantasia in D Major. Fantasia a5, ? no.16

Track 16. Fantasia in E Minor. ?Fantasia no.8

Track 17. Four-part ayre in G Minor. Two trebles and two basses?

Track 18. In Nomine in G Minor. Consort a6.