July 19, 2013
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.
lacheron.blogspot.fr: Fantasia a6 in c (YouTube.com; 2012)
John Jenkins, Six-Part Consorts. Phantasm, AV2099 (2006)
October 21, 2009
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).
July 19, 2009
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.