You didn't know that the late David Bowie played the viol? This was him in a former life, perhaps, as Jean Baptiste Antoine Forqueray. We're going to play his three remaining pieces for three bass viols, recently discovered, at Kings Place next Friday. And they are just part of a cornucopia of wonderful baroque music, some of which we haven't played before, such as Legrenzi's two remarkable sonatas 'per viole di gamba o simile', or Charpentier's 'Concert pour les violes'. Finish off with the great J. S. Bach Passacaglia, and you have a pretty exciting programme - well, in my opinion, anyway.
Last night we played Bach's Art of Fugue in the Great Hall at Balliol College, Oxford. There were lots of young people there making a really attentive and generous audience. It was an intense experience. Here's a photo of us rehearsing:
We're doing a concert in Sherborne's St Mary Magdalen church on Sunday 17th January at 4pm. We'll be playing some of the four-part Fantazias by John Jenkins and combining them with some of Bach's Art of Fugue. This is prior to recording all of the Jenkins 4-part Fantazias in the church next week.
Next month we will embark on the extraordinary Peerson Project, performing and recording the 'Grave Chamber Musique' by Martin Peerson. I Fagiolini will provide the five voices and we will be the five viols, and James Johnson will play the organ.
The Peerson Project centres on the songbook “Mottects: or Grave Chamber Musique” published in 1630. 25 of the Caelica poems by the Elizabethan courtier-poet Fulke Greville were set to music for voices and viols by Martin Peerson, a respected composer and Master of the Choristers at St Paul’s Cathedral (London) for 25 years.
This virtually unknown songbook – apparently a collaboration between poet and composer – is significant both historically and musically. It offers a new and rich source for researchers into domestic music of the Jacobean era.
The recent edition by Prof Richard Rastall has begun the process that enables both amateurs and professionals to experience Peerson’s music in workshops and performances.
The Peerson Project aims to heighten interest and widen participation in Peerson’s music through a series of different events beginning 19th February 2016. For brief details of the events, goto http://music.leeds.ac.uk/research/lucem/the-peerson-project/
Peerson was a wonderful composer and a few years ago we recorded his complete consort music. You can find a couple of tracks here on our jukebox:
This three-CD set features Richard Boothby's Fretwork consort playing his intriguing transcriptions of Bach keyboard works for the instrumentation of a slightly earlier era. Bach probably never had access to a full consort of viols, though pieces such as the "Passacaglia" and the "Prelude & Fugue XVI" from The Well-Tempered Clavier adapt so smoothly to the strings' interplay, and so naturally within their timbres, that they might have been written for the then-unfashionable consort. Read More...
Taverner and Tavener, Fretwork, London
‘Apt for voices or viols’: eager to maximise sales among the domestic market in Elizabethan England, publishers emphasised that the music contained in collections such as Thomas Morley’s First Book of Madrigals to Four Voices of 1594 was suitable for performance by any combination of singers and players.
Applying the same principle to a work from the sacred repertoire, in the first part of this deeply contemplative concert at King’s Place the viol consort Fretwork performed John Taverner’s Missa Gloria tibi trinitas, a Mass which was most probably first sung by the choir at Cardinal College (later Christ Church) Oxford, where Tavener was employed before 1530. Read More...
The Spitalfields Winter Festival opened at Shoreditch Church with a programme by the combined Fretwork viol consort and Red Byrd vocal group that unexpectedly overlapped in theme with an otherwise starkly contrasting concert by the combined London Sinfonietta and Royal Academy of Music Manson Ensemble at the Royal Festival Hall. The link was the reclamation of demotic musical material by high art.
At Shoreditch, the items were imaginatively tied together to set off Orlando Gibbons’s remarkable achievement in uniting, in his Cries of London, copious sounds of the street with the recherché polyphony of five-part “In Nomine” writing for viols. Comparable, if less sophisticated, syntheses by Thomas Ravenscroft, William Cobbold and Richard Dering were offered — Dering’s Country Cries showing particularly well how this vivid raw stuff could lend new freedom to word-setting — but it was Gibbons’s genius in bringing together artistic extremes that told. His three freestanding five-part In Nomines for viols were threaded through the programme, and we were treated, too, to a vigorous treble-viol Duo.
Harmonia Mundi USA have just released a 4-CD compilation album of all our J.S.Bach arrangements: The Art of Fugue, Alio Modo and The Goldberg Variations. It looks very good, and I think it's at a very competitive price.