22 Agosto 2022 - Ore 21:15
Due secoli di musica per viola da gamba
Les Joyes des Elizées
Viola da gamba originale XVII Sec. – N. Bertrand
Viola da gamba copia Colichon – J. Kraft
ENGLAND: from Elisabeth I to Charles I, a late Renaissance
T. Hume (? – 1645)
The Spirit of Gambo
C. Simpson (? – 1669)
Division in F major for two division viols
FRANCE: between Louis XIII and Louis LV, extreme refinement
Mr de Ste. Colombe (? – 1701?)
Concert à 2 Violes Egales N.44
Tombeau les regrets
Cloches ou Carillon
Apel de Charon
Les Joyes des Elizées
Forqueray (Antoine? 1672 – 1745)
(J.Baptiste? 1699 – 1782)
from “Pièces à trois violes” (Manuscript MS 135, Lille) Allemande – Sarabande – Courante
arrangiamento per 2 viole da gamba di P.Pandolfo
GERMANY: from Koethen to Berlin, from Baroque to Classic
J. S. Bach (1685 – 1750)
Prelude and Fugue BW1011/ BWV995
arrangiamento per 2 viole da gamba di P.Pandolfo
C. Schaffrat (1709 – 1763)
Sonata a 2 Viole da Gamba
Poco Allegro – Adagio – Allegro
The viola da gamba, as an instrument prone to perfection, finds its fulfillment in the encounter with another viol: its peculiar huge variety of expressive possibilities gets doubled and becomes almost unlimited..
Six or seven strings, bowed lute, string instrument unique in its kind, on which on the one hand one can perfectly imitate the human voice, and on the other, one goes in search of the freedom of the plucked string sound, of the long resonances of bells and of the ancient “Carillons”, like the one of St.Geneviève du Mont in Paris (most beloved by great viol master M.Marais, who tried to reproduce those fantastic sound effects on his viol).
From the early Renaissance to early classical style, the viola da gamba accompanied the life of the most refined European courts, and therefore the viol-duo experienced a wide fortune, first in England, then France, and finally in Germany. The path remains the same, leading gradually from southern to northern Europe over the course of about three Centuries.
In its small, intimate, chamber dimension, the viol-duo repertoire is directly connected to, and influenced by music of larger ensembles being composed and performed at the same time.
- Lyra-way pieces by Captain Tobias Hume are clearly echoing court dances and theater Masks of Elisabethan and Jacobean’s courts.
- The highly virtuoso divisions by C.Simpson, are directly connected to the italian “viola bastarda” repertoire, which itself echoed the exiting dialogues of diminutions (divisions) which marked late Renaissance polyphony.
- In a complex piece like “Tombeau les Regrets” by Mr. de Sainte Colombe, the two viols are genially used as “multitask tools”, demanding to the listener the effort of visualizing the images suggested by the music: mourning weeping voices rising their lament for the mortal destiny of mankind (opening Tombeau); imitation of death’s most recognizable “soundtrack” in christian countries: the sound of bells (Cloches ou Carillon); picturing the “calls” of the god of Ade, Charon (Apel de Charon”), gathering the souls on his boat for bringing them beyond the Acheron river; painting again the suffered laments of those remaining alive (Les Pleurs); and finally changing the scene for an extraordinary jump into another dimension, placing an imaginary “hidden camera” right in the middle of the Elyses Fields, where the souls of those who passed away are in fact experiencing some sort of “paradise”: alive and pleasant musical figures recall dance or even popular society games (like Badmington); Ste.Colombe didn’t mean to close his tiny musical “Divina Commedia” tale with the vision of Paradise, and decided instead to bring the attention back to the lamentations of those remaining on earth (Les Pleurs”). An extraordinary piece, famous in the world of the viola da gamba lovers.
- MS135, of Archives départmentals de Lille, contains three pieces for three viols by “Forqueray”, and the discussion is still open among scholars if the author be the father or the son. Interestingly enough, the same discussion stays open even for the famous book of Pièces de Viole, published in 1745 by the son, containing music namely by the father. The extremely complex family relations between the two (the father managing to first imprison and then make his son be banned from France) suggests all imaginable possibilities, and we’ll probably never know in which extent the two fantastic musicians hated and mutually influenced each other.
The three pieces are jewels of the finest french baroque chamber music, and make us deeply regret that only three of them survived by “Forqueray” for this instrumentation. A little note to the transcription may be necessary: being the third viol line just a very simple bass, it was relatively easy, by adding a few chords to the the two solo viols, to transform the trio into a duo, where the harmonic structure is still perfectly intact, as well as the stylistic vocabulary.
- J.S.Bach’s solo cello suite N°5 (BWV 1011) exists also in a manuscript version for lute (BWV995).
This is already a clear sign of how common it was to transcribe music for different instruments and chamber music groups. In particular this Prelude and Fugue, is deeply influenced by the french ouverture style: the slow start, marked by its over-dotted rythms and harmonic surprises, can definitely recall large orchestra writing, as well as the fast fugue in triple tempo, where themes and counterpoints cross each other in gradually more complex and tight combinations, building exiting emotional intensity that again challenges the two viols to their very borders.
- Christoph Schaffrath was active in Northern Germany few decades after J.S.Bach, serving as an harpsichord player and a composer, first the Crown Prince Friedrich II and later his sister Amalia. This composition duo is an example of excellent writing for viola da gamba accomplished by a non-viola da gamba player. He makes the two viols dialogue in a natural and beautiful way, providing them with a style which approaches in an almost unique way classic string quartet writing, and makes us sometimes think of the early quartets by J. Haydn.
In Berlin, the viola da gamba knew its last extraordinary fortune, thanks the Crown Prince who played it apparently very well, and to great virtuosos like Ludwig Christian Hesse. It is interesting to spend a few words about him in the context of this program, because Ludwig Christian, like the Forquerays, belonged to a family of viola da gamba virtuosos. He also learned to play with his father, Ernst Christian, who had been protagonist of an exemplary story of how musical vocabularies and skills traveled through Europe at the time: he had been sent to Paris in order to improve his skills as a viol player, where he became, at the same time, student of the two greatest masters of the time: Marin Marais and Antoine Forqueray. For doing so, he had to carefully hide to each of them his pupil’s double life… The story ended when the two masters organized a public competition in order to show their best student, who turned out to be the same person! Ernst Christian brought back to Berlin the most accomplished viola da gamba skills, and passed them over to his son, who became the “viola da gamba star” of Berlin’s court, and for whom composers like Schaffrath, as well as Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, J.G.Graun, wrote solo and chamber music.
Paolo Pandolfo is one of the most famous viola da gamba players worldwilde.
Since more then thirty years he has performed all over the world and published dozens of CDs dedicated to the Viola da Gamba repertoire. He is invited to teach masterclasses in Europe, Usa, Australia, Japan and is Professor for Viola da Gamba at the prestigious Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Basel.
Amélie Chemin is a former student of P.Pandolfo, with whom started to play in ensembles and in duo soon after her final degree in Basel. She is a baroque cello player as well, and is member of several important early music groups based in Basel (La Cetra Barockorchester, Il Profondo, La Traditora, Musica Fiorita u.a.).
Her concert activity has brought her all over the world. She recorded dozens of CDs with her ensembles, and a few with Paolo Pandolfo (Marais 1689, Couperin Pièces de Viole, Regina Bastarda, Abel Sonatas with Basso).