musica Dei donum

CD reviews

Music for lyra viol

[I] "What if a day - Music from Peter Leycester's A Booke of Lessons for the Lyro=Viole"
Johanna Valencia, lyra viol

rec: April 14 - 15, 2007, Vienna, Villa Hainisch
ORF - CD 3098 (© 2010) (75'45")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover & tracklist

[listing follows tracklist]
(Alphonso way sharpe) anon: Coranto (Passamezzo antico) (VdGS 9114); Coranto (VdGS 9196a); Almayne (VdGS 9198a); Coranto (VdGS 9113); Richard PICKERINGE (?-?): Galliard (VdGS 3)
(Harpe way flat) John JENKINS (1592-1678): Almaine (VdGS 234); Coranto (VdGS 235/6); Almaine (VdGS 241)
(Octavo way) Thomas GREGORYE (?-?): Almayne (VdGS 34a); anon: A Thumpe (VdGS 9412); Coranto (VdGS 9411); Peter WARNER (?-?): Almayne (VdGS 8); anon: Almayne (VdGS 9414); Coranto (VdGS 9413); Joseph SHERLYE (?-?): Galliard (VdGS 25)
(Bagge-pipe way) anon: Hornpipe (VdGS 9968); Jig (VdGS 9970); A Scotch Jigge (VdGS 9969); The Canaries (VdGS 9973); A Health to all the Lords & Ladyes of ye Courte (VdGS 9976)
(Another way) John JENKINS: Praeludium (VdGS 301); Almain (VdGS 303); Coranto (VdGS 305); Coranto (VdGS 306); Coranto (VdGS 308)
(Old lyro way) anon: Le Mounsier's Almayne (VdGS 8262); Pawles Wharf (VdGS 8268); Coranto (VdGS 8261); Almayne (VdGS 8263); A Toy (VdGS 8264); A Thump (VdGS 8243)
(Another way) John JENKINS: Ayre (VdGS 388); Coranto (VdGS 389); Sarabrand (VdGS 390)
(Octavo way) Richard PICKERINGE: Coranto (VdGS 7); Mrs Daniels choyce (VdGS 9); A Thumpe (VdGS 5); John JENKINS Per Jenkins (VdGS 441); William LAWES (1602-1645): Almaine (VdGS 542); Coranto (VdGS 544)
(Harpe way flat) Charles COLEMAN (?-1664): Almayne (VdGS 462); anon: Coranto (VdGS 7941); John LAWRENCE (?-?): Ballet (VdGS 7902); William YOUNG (?-1662): Almaine (VdGS 72); anon: Daphne (VdGS 7440); Robert BLAGRAVE (?-?): Sarabrand (VdGS 2)
(Alphonso way sharpe) anon: Jemmy (VdGS 9140); Daphne (VdGS deest); What if a day (VdGS deest)
[VdGS: Thematic Index of the Viola da gamba Society of Britain]

[II] "Love is the cause - Scottish Tunes for Viola da gamba & baroque Guitar"
Jonathan Dunford, viola da gambaa; Rob MacKillop, guitarb

rec: Feb 12 - 15, 2009, Edinburgh, Liberton House
Alpha - 530 (© 2011) (71'26")

anon: A portb [10]; Angloise (Coming through the rye)b [2]; Auld lang syneab [9]; Bonnie nanniea [3]; Courante & doubleab [5]; Fy gar rub her o'er wi'straeab [4]; I long for the virginitieb [10]; Jenny I told youab [3]; La Clochea [3]; Lady Lothians liltb [5]; Lady lie nier meb [11]; Love is the cause of my mourningab [4]; Maggie I must love theea [3]; Mary Scottab [4]; Montrosse Lynesa [3]; My dearie if thou diea [3]; My lady Binnis liltb [11]; New Hilland ladiea [3]; Oh ye bonny Christ Church bellsa [3]; Rhona's tuneab [6]; Scots tune Ib [8]; Scots tune I (Peggy, I must love thee)b [7]; Scots tune IIb [7]; Scots tune IIb [8]; Scots tune IIIb [7]; Sweet Williea [3]; The canariesb [10]; The duke of Lorains marcha [3]; The gilliflowera [3]; The Lass of Peaty's Millab [4]; The last time I came o'er the moorab [4]; When cold storms is pasta [3]; When she came in, she bobbedab [1]; Women's work will never be donea [3]; Young Phaona [3]

Sources: [1] Balcarres ms; [2] Henry François de Gallot ms; [3] Leyden ms; [4] Orpheus Caledonius; [5] Panmure 5 ms; [6] Pickering ms; [7] Princess Anne's Guitar Book; [8] Schiller ms; [9] Scots Musical Museum; [10] Straloch ms; [11] Wemyss ms

The lyra viol is not an exclusively English phenomenon, but was more popular in 17th-century England than anywhere else. This instrument is basically the same as the bass viol, and most music written for the lyra viol was also played on the bass viol. There are some small differences between the lyra viol and the bass viol, though, which explains why music was written for the lyra viol as the pieces which Johanna Valencia has chosen for her programme. They are all taken from a manuscript which is called A Booke of Lessons for the Lyro=Viole.

In The Division-Violist of 1659 Christopher Simpson writes that the lyra viol had lighter strings and that the bridge was less rounded. The strings of the lyra viol were fitted more closely to the fingerboard than those of the consort bass. But the main difference between the lyra viol and other viols was the various tunings which were used in the music written for it. Nearly 60 different tunings have been identified; only nine of these seem not to have been used in England. In this collection of lessons the tunings for the various pieces are indicated like harpe way flat, octavo way or bagge-pipe way. As the main feature of the lyra viol is its tuning scholars generally speak not so much about music for lyra viol as music for bass viol played lyra way.

The popularity of this kind of playing is reflected by the amount of music which was written in England. No less than 18 collections have been preserved. Some of the main composers of the 17th century are represented, among them William Lawes, John Jenkins, John Coprario and Christopher Simpson. The collection which is the subject of this disc was put together by Peter Leycester (1613/14-1678), a member of a landowning family who fought at the side of the Royalists during the Civil Wars. After the victory of the Parliamentarians he was imprisoned; he was released in 1651 and barred from public life. After the Restoration he returned to public life. He published several books on history and music. He also collected books with music. Of the almost 40 collections he had gathered only this book with pieces for the lyra viol and a manuscript with lute music have survived.

The collection is not very different from many lute books of the time, as it comprises dances and arrangements of popular songs. That reflects the statement of Tobias Hume - who wrote music for the lyra viol himself - that the viol could produce equally well the musical excellencies of the lute. Alongside some famous masters of the time the collection includes anonymous pieces and compositions by hardly-known composers like Joseph Sherlye, Peter Warner and Thomas Gregorye. The value of the manuscript is enhanced by the fact that over two thirds of the pieces don't appear in any other source.

The result is a programme which is historically of the utmost importance, but also musically arresting. A number of pieces are arranged in suites, and all pieces are grouped in sequences of three to five according to the tuning. Johanna Valencia is an Austrian gambist who has specialized in music for the lyra viol. Her performances are technically impressive and musically engaging. She regularly plucks the strings, one of the features of playing the bass viol the lyra way. The Praeludium by John Jenkins is even entirely plucked. The booklet includes an essay in the programme, explaining some of the titles and giving some clues about the identity of the unknown names appearing in the track-list. Everyone who has an interest in music for viol will be delighted with this disc.

One of the tunings of the lyra viol has been mentioned above, the harpe way flat. The next disc contains also music for lyra viol, this time tuned the harpe way sharp. The pieces for lyra viol which have been chosen for the recording by Jonathan Dunford and Rob MacKillop are from the Leyden manuscript, called after its 18th-century owner John Leyden. Those pieces have been selected which have a connection to Scotland which is the thread of this disc. The pieces for guitar are from several manuscripts and show that the guitar was a common instrument in Scotland in the late 17th century.

What I wrote about the previous disc is confirmed here, that the repertoire for the lyra viol is largely identical with that for plucked instruments like the lute, the guitar or the cittern. This disc contains very few dances, but mostly arrangements of popular songs and tunes. Most are rather short; there are some more substantial pieces, like the Courante and double. Interesting is the Angloise from the Henry François de Gallot manuscript. It is not quite certain how this manuscript has come to Scotland, but the presence of French music for viol, for instance by Sainte Colombe and Marais, is an indication of French influence. The former's son spent some time in Edinburgh as viol teacher.

I enjoyed this disc a little less than the previous one. I am sure that those who have a stronger liking for this kind of folk music than I have will enjoy it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the playing of Jonathan Dunford and Rob MacKillop - on the contrary. It will probably help if one can identify the tunes which pass by here.

Johan van Veen (© 2011)

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Rob MacKillop

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