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Orlando GIBBONS (1583-1625) Fancies for the Viols
rec. Church of Notre-Dame de Centeilles, 2017 RICERCAR RIC384 [74.07]
This CD is a reminder that Orlando Gibbons was a versatile composer in all genres. Cathedrals and churches have many the anthems and services in their repertoires, the secular works just found in one collection of 1612 are mostly well known and the keyboard music is easily available in various anthologies and also the famous Fitzwilliam Virginal Book.
Although this is a generously filled disc it does not represent all of Gibbons’ music for viols but does concentrate on his most individual and fascinating ones especially the ‘Fantasies’ or as described on the front of the CD cover - ‘Fancies’ or as described inside on the track listing page ‘Fantazias’ - anyway, I will say immediately how enjoyable I have found the entire listening experience. The consort play with such consummate understanding of the rise and fall of the beautifully shaped phrases and with the inclusion of subtle dynamic shadings allow voices to dominate or support as the composer probably intended.
The Fantasia form, so common in the 16th and 17th Centuries caught on again in the 20th. It allows the composer a free rein in which once one idea is finished another can develop out of it, changing the mode, the tempo and the time –signature, before moving on elsewhere again. There is no need to revert at the end to any previous material although Gibbons often does. These sections start with a “point” which then moves into each part either imitatively or in what we now call a ‘fugue” and may be treated sequentially as in Fantasia 15. Ones interest is maintained by how interesting these points are and how Gibbons extends them. The length, varies greatly, the earlier numbered ones tending to be short but the disc begins with a six part Fantasia in G minor one of the longest you will encounter from any Tudor or Jacobean composer.
There are five other pieces for six viols and the textures are varied across the disc between pieces for two to five viols. The keys however are mostly minor but each ‘Fantazia’ has modulatory passages with some intriguing harmonies as in the G minor Fantazia 39.
The CD also includes some ‘lighter’ works, a six voiced Pavan (which is certainly not danceable) and two Galliards and the variants on a popular tune of the day ‘Go from my window’ allowing us a opening into another aspect of Gibbons’ resourcefulness. There are also two examples of a more outmoded form for his time the ‘In Nomine’ with its complex, imitative polyphony around a plainchant.
In his slim, long out of print, 1925 book on ‘Orlando Gibbons and his family’ the scholar Edmund Fellows lists thirty-two works divided between three manuscripts including one in the Bodleian. In his notes for this CD, and there are three essays to offer an in depth background not only on the music but on the instruments, Jérôme Lejeune tells us of more consort works we now can attribute to Gibbons making the total of forty two but only nine were published in Gibbons’ lifetime c.1610.
The essays are first, one on Gibbons life including a brief description of several of the pieces. The second beginning “Our dream has finally come true….” on the particular viols used in the recording and the search for their precise sound and modelling, by François Joubert-Caillet who directs the group and plays treble viol and then a more technical one by Arnaud Giral about tuning and instrument making. Its useful then that a list of the instruments and their makers is given in the booklet and which instrument is played in which piece.
The recording made in a small, remote church in the Languedoc is close and vivid and also beautifully spaced. So, an important addition to the catalogue.
1. Fantazia g minor a 6 (39) [10.11]
2. Fantazia d minor a 3 (12) [1.47]
3. In Nomine d minor a 5 (25) [4.27]
4. Fantazia g minor a 3 (7) [2.29]
5. Fantazia f major a 2 (1) [2.35]
6. Fantazia d minor a 3 (19) [5.30]
7. Galliard g minor a 3 (23_) [1.04]
8. Fantazia g minor a 6 (32) [5.00]
9. Fantazia d minor a 3 (14) [2.33]
10. Pavan g major a 6 (41) [4.29]
11. Galliard g major a 6 (42) [2.45]
12. Fantazia d minor a 3 (18) [5.06]
13. Fantazia d minor a 2 (4) [2.43]
14. In Nomine g minor a 6 (28) [5.01]
15. Fantazia c major a 4 (24) [5.25]
16. Fantazia g minor a 3 (8) [3.26]
17. Fantazia d minor a 6 (33) [4.23]
18. Go from my window a 6 (40)[5.16]