you ever needed to know about the viola d’amore is here reflected
in the friendly but scholarly and detailed booklet notes by Thomas
Georgi himself. The instruments are pictured, helpfully, on the
back of the booklet and described inside. They are an Eberle of
1772 with seven sympathetic strings, a six-stringed Matthias Thir
of 1721 and another Eberle of 1783 with six sympathetic strings.
Each then is somewhat different.
was considered in his time to be one of the leading composers
of his not untalented generation. Rameau even quoted a particularly
interesting passage of harmony from one of Ariosti’s operas in
his book on music theory. Ariosti was born in Italy and died,
like Handel, though a few years after him, in London. He was an
all-round musician whose talents included being an organist. He
produced two collections of pieces for viola d’amore comprising
21 pieces in all. Only Graupner wrote more for the instrument.
But why are they called the ‘Stockholm’ Sonatas; a beautiful
picture of that city, after all, adorns the CD booklet.
Helmich Roman (1694-1758) has been called ‘The father of Swedish
music’. He was a pupil of Ariosti and copied his master’s scores
just as artists did in the Renaissance. Georgi has delved into
Roman’s manuscripts. It is thanks to these copies that we know
of this music at all. They only circulated in manuscript copies
and the rest are now lost.
are two collections then, one entitled ‘A Collection of Lessons
for the Viol d’amore’ of 1724 and the other ‘Recueil de
Pièces pour la Viol d’amour’. The CD booklet tells us clearly
which is which and details the instruments involved in each. The
Lessons appear in both sources. After the first five lessons Georgi
has concocted or, I should say, reconstructed remaining pieces
from the Lessons in the way they might have been before the lessons
were finally assembled. These are the two ‘Sonatas’ which he has
numbered 6 and 7. Individual movements are given dance titles,
like Minuet and Corrent. Georgi explains in the notes how he has
done this and why he chose to use specific instruments for certain
pieces. It’s all rather complicated. For now I will just say that
we have therefore twenty-six tracks constituting seven sets, suites
or sonatas depending on your terminology. Are they worth hearing?
style is difficult to pin down. If you know Buxtehude’s chamber
music then add a touch of Alessandro Scarlatti and a few interesting
harmonies and you have something like it.
his notes, Georgi comments that “after surmounting these hurdles
(i.e., tuning and choice of instruments) I found a composer with
inimitable powers of expression”. He adds that “Ariosti is at
his best in deeply felt slow movements” and he cites the cantabile
in Lesson 2. I would also add the lyrical opening Adagio
of the third lesson. Georgi mentions the sheer joy of the
final Giga that ends the Sonata Number 7 and also ends
the CD. The happy little Giga that ends the 5th
Lesson is also good fun. It’s worth adding as well that the musical
interest does not lie alone with the upper part; the gamba has
much of interest and often imitates the upper part. They are accompanied
by either the archlute with its delicious bass resonating strings
or the rather sober theorbo or the guitar which has a little more
attack. The sonatas either fall into a three movement fast-slow-fast
pattern or four movements with more dance-like elements or possibly
adding a second slow movement, each lesson/sonata being slightly
scholarship has been involved in putting these pieces together.
The music is treated to beautiful, well-shaped and authentically-aware
performances and these have been captured in an excellent recording
which is warm yet with space around it. Despite these virtues
one must say that this is, at the end of the day, second-rate
music; at best suitable for a sleepy late evening with a bottle
of Chianti to hand. Nothing wrong with that, I hear you shout,
and quite right too. So if you enjoy the music of this period
especially its somewhat queer corners then you should seek out
this disc without further ado.