Thursday, October 8, 2009
The bass viol [a 6 (or 7) stringed precursor to the cello] sounds, to me, the way good red wine tastes. It's not too sweet, it has an exciting edge, it has growly depths, it has glowing resonance. Viols were used in medieval consorts and that type of thing, but I'm talking here about the bass viol as a solo instrument, in the early 18th century. I think this is the very beginning of classical music, but I'm no musical historian.
In the early 18th century we have "Late french viol music," which is, perhaps, my favorite music ever composed. Two of the best-known composers of this period were Marin Marais and Antoine Forqueray. Somebody described Marais as a very angel, and Forqueray as a devil....
les Voix Humaines just kills me, I think it's one of the most beautiful things. A lot of Marais' songs were made to dance to, and named after the dance. A sarabande is a stately, slow dance.
performed by Jordi Savall
Les Voix Humaines
Performed by Wieland Kuijken and Gustav Leonhardt, you can hear the bells!
La Sonnerie de Sainte Genevive du Mont Paris
performed by Jordi Savall
2eme Suite Chaconne La Buisson
1ere Suite La BEllemont
Performed by Wieland Kuijken and Gustav Leonhardt
La Sarabande (tendrement)
Mr. De Sainte Colombe was, I believe, a teacher of Marin Marais, and he wrote the beautiful Concerts a deux violes esgales. Here's an excerpt as performed by Weiland Kuijken and Jordi Savall
Concert Le Retour
A british contemporary was Tobias Hume. He was a soldier as well as a musician, and in the second song you can hear the soldier marching off to war. It gets quieter and quieter until finally it's just the back of the bow - the wood - hitting against the strings to make the melody.
A Souldiers Resolution
Bach composed a sonata for Viola da Gamba, which has long been one of my favorite pieces of music. The viol is accompanied by a harpsichord, which is not everybody's favorite instrument. (somebody once described it's sound as "two skeletons copulating on a corrugated tin roof"). But I like it here.
Here are a few movements of the sonata, performed by Jordi Savall
Jordi Savall has an ensemble called Hesperion XX, which includes his wife (who has a beautiful voice). Here are a few tracks from some of their albums. These tend to be a little wilder, and I believe they're frequently Spanish. (Savall is Catalan)
Paduana del Re - Anonyme
ay perdut mon saber
Anon Danza Del Viento
Todo el mundo en general
If anybody has seen Tous Les Matins Du Monde then they will know what a viol looks and sounds like, and will have heard Jordi Savall playing, because he did the soundtrack for that. (I found the movie a bit over-wrought. I think it's so hard to make movies about musicians or artists).