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.


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.


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.



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.

When I first came to viols in 1986,  there was little talk of Bach in the viol consort area: Jenkins, Lawes and Purcell, yes, but Bach, no. From the Viol Conclave at Los Angeles in the early 1990s, I brought back a transcription of the three-part inventions for two trebles and bass.

I guess with increasing competency among amateurs over the years, publishers and professional players have looked more closely at Bach and transcriptions have popped up.

So I thought I’d start off this thread, with the intention of adding to it slowly as I become more and more aware of what’s happening.

Art of Fugue, BWV 1080.

The Walter Icking Archive has the work in a variety of settings, probably the most accessible of which for our purposes is the transcription for two violins, viola and cello.

Contrapunctus 1. The Yukimi Kambe Viol Consort recorded this on the “Buffet delle quattro Viole da Gamba” CD  (YKVC 0201) in 2001. 2’56” Contrapunctus 9. Hesperion XX/Jordi Savall, 3″04, recorded on “Vingt ans Hesperion XX”, Auvidis, 1994. Savall throws in some wonderful-sounding brass instruments to play the themes in contrast to the swirls and eddies of string passages. In the Walter Icking Music Archive, see this written out for two violins and two cellos (Les Editions Outremontaises, 2006).

BWV 1021. Sonata in G for violin and basso continuo. On the Walter Icking Music Archive, note the transcription by Joseba Berrocal for gamba and bass gamba.

Trio for two violins and bass gamba continuo. This, at first glance anyway, looks accessible to two treble viols and bass. Walter Icking again, being an anonymous reconstruction, edited by Gunther Morche.

BWV 1093 (Yale MS). Herzliebster Jesu. Walter Icking, set for viols (trTTB). 

BWV 1010. Cello suite no.4. Transcription to G Major and arranged for 5-string piccolo cello or bass gamba.

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.

Giovanni Paolo Cima, Sonata a 2 per Viole e Violone. CD 1,  track 11. Following Psaume III (no.121). 4mins 21secs.



Searching, canzona-like (viol consort theme initially until the elegant violin sound takes over); very much a conversation between two string instruments rather than any strong presence of ‘continuo’ instruments. Not overly ornamented, very much in the style of bastard viol playing in the fast runs, contrasting with the poignant long descending notes.

Sonata a3 per violino, cornetto and violone. C 2, track 3. 3mins 17secs.

Lots of short and long phrases for individual instruments contrasting with more homophonic passages. Beautiful and elegant playing with lots of dance-like lightness – not rushed but sufficiently langorous to allow for the virtuosic runs required in all parts. Great contrast with the a capella singing in which it is interpolated.


Concerti Ecclesiastici a 1,2,3,4,5 e 8 voci. Milano, 1610. Firenze, Studio per edizioni scelte, 1986. Archivum Musicum series, La cantata Barocca. Includes a Capricio a due d’Andrea Cima; Sonata per cornetto, trombone overo Violino e Violone; Sonata a4 of Giovanni Andrea Cima for Violino, e Violone, Cornetto e Trombone, in addition to the two sonatas mentioned here.


Claudio Monteverdi, Vespro della Beata Bergine. Taverner Consort, Taverner Choir, Taverner Players, dir. Andrew Parrott. EMI, CDS 7470788, 1984. Performed on violino, violoncello, cornetto, chitarrone and organo (Andrew Parrott). 440 pitch.


Milanese contemporary of Monteverdi’s – with his Concerti Ecclesiastici published in 1610, the year of the Monteverdi Vespers. Hugh Keyte and Andrew Parrott in the recording’s liner notes posit that the six concerti may have been intended to follow the five Psalms and Magnificat of Vespers.


Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1701), Lament for soprano, two gambas and basso continuo.

At first hearing on radio, somewhat long-winded – I’ve always found Buxtehude’s writing quite dense, not that I can speak with much experience -, with the singer seeming to work extremely hard, but the pulsing bowing action of the gambas is quite phenomenal and quite exciting. I’m very curious to see how the composer has written out these gamba parts. Coincidentally with the Vivaldi Concerto funebre, yet another example of word painting with gambas and link to the funereal. What I was listening to was from a recording, Dietrich Buxtehude Cantatas and sonatas with the viol, with soprano Benedicte Tauran and Christophe Coin playing one of the two gambas – a funeral Klaglied, Muss der Tod auch entbinden, was kein Fall entbinden kann? I daresay composed in the busy period 1680 to 1687. Worth pursuing with the score, if only to see how his musical inspiration ebbs and flows with the text. Buxtehude was obviously playing with musical form, difficult for modern musicians to come to grips easily with because we’re so used to better known and more solid forms both before and after Buxtehude. Not having had to work as a Kantor I guess afforded him the luxury of composing what and when he wanted, leading to the ‘freedom’ of the music itself.

The recording also features two trio sonatas (Op.1 no.3 and 4 from 1693/4) which are readily accessible via the Icking Music Archive, so this becomes a ready source for further study of Buxtehude’s instrumental music for viol as well.

Ensemble Baroque de Limoges, Christophe Coin. Astree E 8851 (France, 2000, 66:16) 03D022.

Okay, so this is not a baroque concerto for solo bass viol. Unusually, and perhaps, uniquely, it’s a concerto featuring viol consort. How many concertos have ever featured two trebles and a bass as solo instruments? But is the viol consort being used as some sort of defacto, curious concertante orchestra backing to a principal violin? And where is the tenor in this consort – with tentative links to the use of trebles and basses sans tenor by the Germans?

Concerto for muted oboe, chalumeaux, principal violin and viols (two trebles and bass) and basso continuo, in B-flat – Largo/Allegro poco poco and Allegro.

In the Savall recording (run time is 7’44), he plays first treble with Imke David on treble II (with no indication who’s playing the bass viol part) with Bruno Cocset on ‘cello presumably the string basso continuo plus theorbo, with Michael Behringer swapping the organ for harpsichord.

Michael Talbot in the liner notes for Savall Alia Vox recording dates this from around the mid-1720s,which is while the French court is still mourning the death of Louis XIV. I mention that only for those viol players who like me see everything in terms of what was happening in France at the time. Talbot indicates the concerto was played as part of a church service, perhaps honouring a benefactor.

We’re talking principal violin, one or more oboes, one or more tenor chalumeaux, three viols (trtrB), muted strings and continuo. Talbot is perfectly correct in indicating an overall sombre effect with a lot of musical interest and variegated sound within. The introductory slow movement apparently is a re-write of a sinfonia from a 1719 Mantua opera, Act III, Tito Manlio, presumably Vivaldi’s and not one of his pastiches. And the final fugue comes from a concerto a quattro, RV 123.

The Alia Vox liner notes feature the first seven bars from the manuscript score.  EuroSheet Music has the score (15euros) and parts (26euros) available.

The sombre tone is established by the opening repeated four-quavers-minum motifs, giving us a sense of pause. We’re not talking doleful here because it is still in B-flat major. The pearl of this stately Largo is the extraordinary aural treat via a trill from the woodwinds, about 3/4 the way through. We get there via the very dry viols – no violinistic exuberance, at least until the cadential violin which leads us nicely into a slightly more pacey (but still relatively stately) Allegro. The opening statement still features woodwind trills, but this time with delicate waterfall like descending scales from the upper strings. The development features more solo passages from each of the instruments in turn, so it’s still not sounding like a violin concerto by another name. A nice fullsome coda to finish. The final movement is ‘truer’ Vivaldi as we know him best, with a certain triumphalism creeping in (including a return, once again, to strong woodwind trills). Talbot remarks that in the final two movements, the viols have no independent passages.