mico pavan a4 4

At consort rehearsals, we’ve been looking at the Mico Pavans for four viols. Number 1 is rather severe; number 2 is more melodious and things are quite lively for the two treble parts in Numbers 3 and 4. The key is not to take too fast a tempo if you don’t want to come unstuck in the busy second and third sections.

Of particular note is the two treble parts in the opening of the final section of the fourth Pavan. Like a good student, I’ve been playing them slowly and playing against myself by recording one of the parts. The key here is to play them over and over until they are almost memorised.

 

 

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.

 

Viol consort playing has its own peculiar risks in January and February, with mid-summer extremes of heat and humidity. Today’s four-hour session produced playing that was a shade on the ordinary side, somewhat rushed if anything, but the repertoire for trtrTTB was unusual and challenging. By the time afternoon tea came along, we were all quite ready for the Cabernet-Merlot and coffee on offer. I think the room is ideally better suited to a quartet than a quintet; we were all a bit playing over each other. I was separated again from the other treble which meant I felt a bit like drowing-not-waving. The lush deep sound is intense and velvetty. Not to complain though – these are Distract’d Times for me and the Viol Consort is a great Refuge – , these sessions are rare and wondrous!

 

Amner(*). Pavan a5. Cambridge Consorts. Really very good. I ought to have got us to play a final chord before starting since the tuning of my top string on Treble 1 can sour the exerpience if it’s a shade flat, as it was here. Shades of Tomkins’ severity as well as Gibbons’ openness in this music.

Mogens Pederson(#). Two Pavans a5. His only works for viol consort. From the Cambridge Consort collection. Good characterful writing!

Picforth. In nomine a5. At least one In nomine per session seems to be part of the action these days. Each part played a separate rhythm, but in addition each part plays the same rhythm continuously from start to finish. So Tr1 played crochets throughout, Tr2 played a dotted crochet syncopation, T played the whole-note-to-the-bar In Nomine part, B1 played minims and B2 played dotted minims. It sounded all the world like a 20th-century minimalist piece; both trebles tried the syncopation but the tactus was impossible to grab hold of (with every second bar starting on the main pulse) – or at least not easily heard with the others. One immediately started wondering exactly what bowing might make it more interesting. Obviously a 16thc teaching piece for choir boys learning viol and musical rhythms, but thoroughly engaging. Anticipated Fretwork might have included this one on their anthology, In Nomine (CD, Amon Ra SAR 29) but it’s not there. I would have been interested in their phrasing and tempo and creating viable structure.

Jenkins. Fantasy no.1 a5. We eventually did this justice. Heavy duty bass parts. The three-part structure was clear enough, but the aural differences between them were not. I need to know this aurally to do justice to the bowing in the treble parts and have a much better feel for the flow of phrases. Given the technical difficulty in playing the piece, it’s difficult to stand back and appreciate the structure, but in terms of my own strategy in conquering it there’s obviously two big chunks to contend with: bb.1-26 based on a Point essentially in Gmajor starting with a rising perfect fifth. Bars 27-55 start off in Cmaj and end up in Gmajor via a falling motif, more tender and langorous than the very confident initial theme. Perhaps not langorous exactly but certainly more considered and introverted, in contrast to the earnest extrovert nature of the start. The ‘knottiest’ bit is where Jenkins becomes extremely complex in his cascades of close imitation in bb.19-26. I guess once this small section is understood and appreciated and tackled without too much angst, then the sections on either side fall into place. Jenkins is extremely clever in the positioning of his fugal entries and I guess really good consorts are able to control and vary the volume to bring out everyone’s individual entries and the “shimmers” across all parts, e.g. bb.18-19 from top to bottom, and the rising tension in the fugue from bottom to top in bb.32-35. 

Hingeston. Fantasy and Corant from a Suite a5. A remarkable lot of rests in the Tr parts of the fantasy; I was busier counting six bars of rest at a time than actual playing. Not a bad sound though, obviously later in style than the normal consort compositions. Surprisingly problematic editing in the Tenor part (only) where whole sections are noted with repeat signs; will have to make allowances for this in future since it’s a bugbear with counting bars.

Vincentino – as in the maker of early keyboards.  Canzon a sonar “Bella” a5. Quite nice with tricky dotted rhythms.

Ward. Fantasy a5 Dolce languir. Apparently made famous by the Dolmetsch family a hundred years ago. We got the discordant middle section terribly terribly wrong the first time, but it evened itself out reasonably quickly. I really like Ward; either that or we tend to understand him. We always eventually make a good fist of Mr Ward – a great pity my sheet music doesn’t match up with my recordings.

Dumont. An Allemande a5 I think, as a replacement for a Byrd which some of us would have liked, had we gone into Extra Time.

(*) Answers.com provides the following biographical information. (b Ely, bap. 24 Aug 1579; d there, bur. 28 July 1641). English composer. From a family with connections with Ely Cathedral he was informator choristarum at Ely from 1610 until his death. He studied at Oxford (BMus 1613) and graduated MusB of Cambridge in 1640. A contemporary of Gibbons and Tomkins, he wrote mainly English service music and anthems (mostly MS, some in Sacred Hymnes, 1615). His early pieces are simple and syllabic; later he used more intricate verse-anthem and polyphonic choral styles showing his skill in matching text with music. He also wrote a Pavan and Galliard for viols and keyboard variations.

(#) Naxos’ website gives the following biographical information. Christian IV’s vicekapelmester or Deputy Master of the Royal Chapel, Mogens Pedersøn is the first composer in the history of Danish music from whom we have a large, collected body of work, and about whom we have, if not a complete biography, at least a number of items of biographical information. In addition – and crucially – he emerges as a composer of international format, perhaps the most significant Danish composer before the breakthrough of bourgeois musical culture in Denmark in 1800 with names like Kunzen, Schultz, Weyse and others. Finally, he is the earliest Danish composer whose music has been the object of detailed musical analysis. Although he did not hold the very highest musical post at the court of Christian IV, he was the most important Danish composer at the court and a composer whose light does not dim in comparison with the many big names who had been brought in from abroad. The first time we hear of Mogens Pedersøn is in 1599 when, as a young apprentice in the King’s cantori, he was sent on a one-year study trip to Venice accompanied by the fifteen-year-older Melchior Borchgrevinck, who had already by that time achieved a certain status among the King’s musicians, and who was later to rise rapidly in the hierarchy until, in 1618, he reached the top as the King’s kapelmester – incidentally the same year as his presumed former pupil Mogens Pedersøn became vicekapelmester. The study period of the Danes with Gabrieli in Venice was the start of a succession of such visits to the Venetian master, making him almost the permanent tutor for talented Danish composers at the court of Christian IV. Just five years after coming home in 1605, Mogens Pedersøn again went to Venice, this time to stay there for four years. In 1608, his first book of 21 madrigals was published. In the course of his last year in Venice Mogens Pedersøn may have met another composer who was later to win European fame, for in that year Heinrich Schütz too was studying in Venice. He too had published a collection of madrigals, and Pedersøn and Schütz may well have wandered around along the canals of Venice eagerly discussing some difficult detail in one of Gabrieli’s exercise madrigals. Many years later, when Schütz came to Copenhagen, Pedersøn had long since died. Just two years after his return from Venice, Mogens Pedersøn was again sent out into the world, this time with his fellow composers Jacob Ørn and Hans Brachrogge to England. It is unlikely that this was for training – perhaps it was rather to make contact with the King’s sister, Queen Anne, who was married to the English King James I, and who perhaps missed a little Danish conversation and culture. There is some suggestion that Pedersøn worked there on his previously promised second book of madrigals. At all events we find a source with ten Pedersøn madrigals, copied by an English convict, dated 1611 with an added remark that this was a kind of second collection of Magno Petreio Dano. Safely returned from England, Mogens Pedersøn must have gradually risen through the ranks of the musicians, for in 1618, when Melchior Borchgrevinck’s work as kapelmester had grown too much for him, the King decided to appoint a deputy chapelmaster to relieve him, and Mogens Pedersøn became the first to hold this office, the duties of which are meticulously recorded in a Royal licence dated 6th February 1618 – he held the post until his early death in 1623. Mogens Pedersøn’s principal work, which is also a major work of Danish musical history, was printed in Copenhagen in 1620 under the poetic title Pratum Spirituale (“The Spiritual Meadow”). The collection consists of 21 Danish hymns in five-part settings, a mass in five parts, three Latin motets and a number of Danish and Latin choral responses. The collection was intended for use by the professional choirs in the larger churches, and parts of it provide evidence that in the Danish church, almost a century after the Reformation, there was still room in the liturgy for certain remnants of Catholicism. Performances in concerts in our own time and recordings on CD show that the pieces in Pratum Spirituale are fully up to the standard of better known composers of the age in the rest of Europe. It shows Mogens Pedersøn as the master he is.

 

I can’t say my week of choral singing improved my playing, but may have subtly improved sight-reading and holding my own line. Convinced more than ever that this has to be my Jenkins year, when I become fully conversant, at least aurally, with the consorts a5 and a6. I won’t feel happy about trying to join The Other Consort in town – now playing on Saturdays instead of late on Friday nights – unless I’m on top of my Jenkins. Same goes for Easter Viol School, for which it is pre-requisite.

John Coprario, Twelve Fantasias for two bass viols and organ, and eleven pieces for three lyra viols. Edited by Richard Charteris. Madison: A-R Editions. Recent Researches in the Music of the Baroque Era, vol. 41.

Okay, so these fantasies are for two bass viols, but the organ seems to be required since it fills out the harmonies, and since Coprario is playing around with major and minor key colourings in each of these pieces, the organ seems pretty indispensable.

Most experienced consort players would rather be playing Jenkins, Lawes or Purcell than Coprario. For some, he’s a bit too daggy and a bit too ‘vocal’. Too much of the mad-wriggle and not enough of the pure abstract instrumental.  I however could play Coperario till kingdom come, but that’s just me.  The 5-part consorts are the most familiar to us and I think he has important things to say. I keep coming back to Illicita cosa, with its forbidden tritones, as recorded by the New York Consort of Viols as a bridge between Renaissance and contemporary viol music on the CD of the same name. It’s enormously challenging to get viols to sound like voices and when not playing Monteverdi, Coperario is the one to experiment with.

What has put me off for ages about these pieces (and they vary in length from 70 to 90 bars) is Coperario’s going off the deep end, above the frets on the top string. Sooner or later, one has to come to grips with the Higher Octave, those scale passages from top A last fret to D, so here’s one’s chance. You only stay up there for a phrase or two and one could chicken out by playing an octave lower, though that seems to be missing the point somewhat. It’s a big like John Catch advocating beginner viol players tackle the Fmin scale as their first: get going with the hard stuff and everything after that looks easy.

However,  there are at least three, nos. 7, 8 and 12, which do not feature the Call of the Soprano. At just 77 bars or four pages (the A-R Editions are full scores), No.7 (RC 87) is the most accessible. I’ve included the incipit to show how important the organ is in establishing major/minor as well as the brooding imitation in the viols.

There is the close imitation of short motives one expects both from Coperario and the fantasia. Both 7 and 8 are in Gmin/maj and 12 is in Amin/maj. Apart from exploring drifting between major and minor, I think Mr Cooper seems to be exploring tessitura and creating a lot of fun for us by so doing. I’m not aware of any other composers for viol of this time featuring the Top Octave, his dates being c1575 to 1626. At least in England. Italians would have brought over the virtuosity of the bastarda style and all that jumping around the instrument. At a deeper level,  I have enormous respect for composers who push the boundaries and exploit the outer ends of any instrument’s sound potential, whether they be Bach or Chopin or Scarlatti on keyboard, or Marais or Coprario on viol.

These pieces are such ‘Basic Units’ that I’m not aware of them ever having been recorded much, except for a YouTube clip made by Ernst Stolz, Den Haag, in April. He recorded the first one in Amaj/min against a very strong, silvery-sounding organ. The impact of the top octave can be held around the 2minute mark. For the record, one was recorded on LP: Anthony Rooley’s Consort of Musicke, L’Oiseau-Lyre, LP DSLO 511, Coprario, Songs of Mourning, Consort Music.

Apart from the games with tessitura and modality, there is no great rhythmic virtuosity and no great showing-off in these pieces, just that nice mellow plainness one associates with Coperario.

One of the reasons I got this weblog going was to psych myself up for some bass viol duets. That has happened, yet, but may. As Picasso once said, “I don’t wait for inspiration to come, I work 9 to 5 in my office every day so I’m ready when it does!” One of the delights of blogging is the serendipitous nature of interweaving realisations and synchronicities. Today’s example is the link between tab for two and bass viol duets.

Music for a Viol: J.Jenkins, Chr Simpson, Th Ford, M Locke. Wieland and Sigiswald Kuijken, viols with Robert Kohnen, harpsichord.  CD. Beert, Belgium: Accent ACC 68014D. Recorded 1980.

Tracks 4-9, Matthew Locke, Duos for two bass Viols, composed in 1652 in C and Emin.

Tracks 12-14, Thomas Ford, Musicke of Sundrie Kindes, 1607.

One notes the players, the Kuijken brothers, and one knows immediately one is talking about the high end of the bass duet repertoire, not just in terms of the technical complexity of the music but the transcendent nature of the performance. For mere mortals, this is the stuff of aspiration, reinforced by three tracks devoted to Chr Simpson divisions and the two fantasias by Jenkins as well, for violoni e viola. Locke and Ford remain accessible for some of us, so I’ll speak of them briefly today.

Matt: LOCKE

Tracks 4-6. Fantazia (1.27), Fantazia (2.07) and Saraband (0.45). This is “pure” Locke, consort music distilled into two parts. Brilliantly “searching” introductions quickly developing into the full sound of the confident point once established. Players thrown in some sensitive changes in tempo in the fantasias. Tracks 7-9. Fantazia (1.44), Fantazia (1.52) and Courant (1.28). More of same!

For sheet music, see The King’s Edition, Corda Music Publications, in their usual hand-copied style.

Tho. FORD

And here’s the cross-over with tablature. Firstly, the sheet music is available in the Martha Bishop tab anthology, Tablature for Two. In that book, her normal tuning works are by Hume and her Lyra Way or Bandora Sett (fefhf) are in the main by Mr Ford. Here you will find Why not Here, which is the title of another CD recording of tab music. They come off here as almost encore pieces after the Jenkins and Simpson.

Track 12. Pavan, M. Maine’s Choice and Galliard (7’48”). The Galliard is a splendid work and the pavAn a beautifully Grave work, from poignant beginning to piercing end, all so delightful the sheet music is worth seeking out. The score is not in the Bishop anthology, but another Paven is, being M Southcote’s Paven.

Track 13. The Baggepipes, Sir John Howards Delight (1’10”).  A mere 20 bars played at a rollicking speed.

Track 14. Why not Here M Crosse His Choice (2’05”). Not dissimilar to the last, but rather more tuneful, including some delightful thumpes or pizzicato, a common ornamental feature of tab and not just in the likes of Hume’s Harke Harke!

 

 John Rozendaal has a new solo CD out featuring Chr Simpson divisions and pieces from the Manchester Gamba Book.

Why Not Here: English Music for two Lyra Viols is a CD by Lee Santana and Hille Perl, featuring music by Ford, Ferrabosco, Jenkins, Holborne, Alison, Danyel and Lawes. The Ford pieces include Pavane and Galliard, M Mayne’s Choice, Forget me not, Why not here? and another Pavane and Galliard. all with lute accompaniment. The Lawes is the Pavan a3 for lyra viols and Aires for 2 Division Viols in C.