|Founder: Len Mullenger|
| "Two Upon A Ground"
Christopher SIMPSON: Divisions in A, F, F & G.
Thomas TOMKINS: Voluntary, Prelude, What is a Day, Worster Brawls.
Godfrey FINGER: Division on C; Sonata Solo in G.
John JENKINS: Divisions in C & A.
Matthew LOCKE: Fantazia and Courant.
E GAILTIER: La Pompe Funebre.
Tobias HUME: Loveís Farewell; Pavan.
PURCELL: Two in One Upon a Ground.
SIGNUM RECORDS SIGCD 007 [78í28"]
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This illuminating disc of English 17th Century instrumental music is built primarily around several examples of the composition known as the Division, i.e. continuous variations on a short theme or "ground". This was a type of piece popular and, seemingly uniquely so, in England during the 17th Century and into the earliest years of the 18th Century.
Two of the great masters of the Division were Christopher Simpson (died 1669), who published The DivisionĖViolist in 1659 (two further editions appeared over the succeeding half century) and his friend and admirer John Jenkins (1592-1678). They are represented here by four Simpson examples (the A Major and first of the F Major are here recorded for the first time) and two by Jenkins of which the A Major is also a recorded premiere. All are for two bass viols and a continuo of guitar or theorbo and organ or harpsichord. As compositions they are at the same time restful for the listener and impressive in their grasp of compositional technique. Others, of course, mastered the craft of writing divisions and they are represented by Fingerís example. This one is for just a single bass viol and continuo. We can add Purcellís Ground which features treble, rather than bass, viols and continuo and is for my money the finest piece on the disc. Fingerís solo Sonata for treble viol and harpsichord is in four thematically related sections and is very fluent and approachable in idiom. Finger, who came from Moravia, but lived in London for some two decades at the end of the 17th Century, wrote much for the theatre, as did Matthew Locke. Lockeís two short pieces recorded here for two bass viols without accompaniment seem to me to be at the more austere end of his output. Another work for two viols but with organ "continuo" is the suite in G Minor by Williams Lawes, most impressively written, though the extended opening Pavan is hardly balanced by the two short Ayres which make up the rest of the Suite. Lawes was a big loss to music in England when he was killed at the Siege of Chester in the Civil War.
Charivari Agréable perform all this music in admirable style. Susanne Heinrich and Susanna Pell play the viols, Linda Sayce guitar and theorbo, Kah-Ming Ng harpsichord and spinet. The harpsichord, a Ruckers of 1623, and spinet, a Keene instrument of around 1680, are notable instruments. The theorbo is a modern reconstruction of an English theorbo, different from the unusual Italian type. Both bass viols, the harpsichord, organ and theorbo are given the opportunity to be heard in solos. The solos for bass viol are by Tobias Hume and appropriately so, as he was a firm advocate for the instrument and his affection for it certainly emerges in these two quite extended movements. Thomas Tomkins, a survivor from the great Elizabethan/Jacobean period, is represented by four short keyboard solos, three on the Ruckers, one on chamber organ. The English theorbo solo is the only item on the disc which is not by an English born or resident composer, but Gaultierís deeply serious and again quite extended movement is a not inappropriate interloper as his music was highly regarded in Restoration England.
Purcell apart, the period 1625-1700 has never had quite the prestige in the history of English musical development as the two generations prior to 1625, but this excellently recorded, generously filled, thoroughly recommendable CD (along with others which have appeared in recent years) should certainly help to put a strong case for it. Lawes, Locke and, despite their relatively limited field, Simpson and Jenkins, deserve to be remembered.
Philip L Scowcroft
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