The viol was a very popular instrument in 17th century England. Similar to
other string instruments in size (it can range in size from that of a violin
to that of a cello), the viol is a fretted instrument, which is much easier
to begin playing than other string instruments. In addition, English viol
music was generally scored in tablature, which is a system that marks notes
according to their position along the strings. Musicians did not need to
read standard scores, which made it a much more accessible instrument than
The viol differs from other string instruments in one essential way - it
is a monophonic instrument on which it is relatively easy to play chordal
music. Chords on the viol are played either by playing two strings together,
or by playing a kind of arpeggio, holding the last two strings longer. This
gives the viol, when played as a solo instrument or in duos like this, a
uniquely rich sound.
Lyra viol music, or music played the "lyra viol way", represented a specific
type of playing and tuning. There is a huge body of music for the viol, both
for solo viol, two viols and groups of viols, called consorts. This recording
features music for two viols by Thomas Ford and Tobias Hume, as well as some
Those unfamiliar with viol music are quickly won over by the warm, lush sound
of the instrument. This is even more apparent when two instruments play together,
as on this recording. The music itself recalls that of other English music
of the time, in its melodies and rhythms; the best-known composers of this
period are, naturally, Henry Purcell and John Dowland. It can be slow and
melancholy, such as The Spirite of Musicke, by Tobias Hume, a moving piece
where the two viols seem to be playing different tunes, yet their music fits
together perfectly. It can be lyrical and bouncy, as in the Thomas Ford piece
The Galiard, which features a song-like high melody over a more rhythmic
bass. And it can be lively and energetic, as with the Ford piece An Almain
(Monsieur Lullere his choice), which is a dance piece that bubbles over with
energy. Sometimes the music blends together to sound like just one instrument,
as in the attractive anonymous work Redes Pavin, where the two viols sound
almost like one voice singing.
This music is performed beautifully, on two excellent sounding instruments.
The recording is fine, although it tends to lack depth at times. But, all
in all, the unique sound of the viol is well-captured here.
A fine performance of some excellent 17th century viol music. For those who
appreciate this unique instrument, this is an excellent recording. For those
unfamiliar with its sound, this would be a fine introduction.