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Rose & lys
English and French music for two violas da gamba

Eleanor Lewis-Cloué, Olivier Gladhofer (violas da gamba)
rec. August 2019, La Chapelle du Villiers, La Chapelle Saint-Marola de gambatin-en-Plaine, France.
HORTUS 187 [66:40]

In an address “to the understanding Reader”, prefacing his 1605 collection The First Part of Ayres, Tobias Hume asserts that the “Gambo Viol shall with ease yeelde full various and as devicefull musicke as the Lute” and insists that “the Trinitie of Musicke, parts, Passion and Division, […] be as gracefully united in the Gambo Violl, as in the most received instrument that is.” John Dowland leapt, somewhat angrily, to the defence of the lute in A Pilgrim’s Solace (1612).Though Hume exaggerates his own importance in the establishment of the viola da gamba, his larger points are valid. The viol, both as a solo instrument and as part of an ensemble was, by the early years of the seventeenth century the equal of any other instrument of the age.

I can’t remember encountering the work of Eleanor Lewis-Cloué before. The biographical notes provided with this delightful CD tell one that Lewis-Cloué was born in Australia and studied music at Sydney University, going on to play with various ensembles in her native land – including one ensemble (Coruscation) focusing on contemporary music and another, The Renaissance Players with (clearly) a different area of specialization. She also worked with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. After beginning her career playing the modern cello, her interests in early music grew and she studied the viola da gamba (with Marianne Muller) at the Conservatoire National Supérieur in Lyon, graduating in 2005. Since taking up residence in France she has been a member of several distinguished ensembles such as Doulce Mémoire and Diabolus in Musica. She also teaches cello and viola da gamba at the Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional d’Angers. Olivier Gladhofer (a more familiar name, to me at least) plays a number of early instruments; from the age of 14 he was performing with François Tainturier’s Ensemble Laostic. He studied the viola da gamba at the Conservatoire National de Region d’Annecy, going on to further study of the Renaissance viol and early reed instruments. He worked with l’Ensemble Baroque de la Chapelle Ducale and La Salamandre before establishing his own ensemble, Le Banquet de Roy in 2012, of which Eleanor Lewis-Cloué is a member. Rose & lys is the first recording to be issued under the auspices of Le Banquet de Roy.

The viol seems first to have emerged as a distinct instrument in Spain around the mid-fifteenth century and was soon copied and further developed by Italian instrument makers (see Ian Woodfield, The Early History of the Viol, Cambridge University Press, 1984). Its use and popularity soon spread across Europe. Henry VIII had a consort of Italian violists in his service by the 1540s. Their presence must, surely, have contributed to the emergence of a school of distinguished English composers for the viol, men such as Robert White, William Byrd, Tobias Hume, John Coprario, John Ward, Michael East, Orlando Gibbons, John Jenkins, William Lawes, William Young, Christopher Simpson and Henry Purcell. Naturally enough, distinct national differences emerged in the sort of music written for the viol and in the time span of the instrument’s popularity.

This CD seeks to ‘reveal’ rather than to analyse; it does not pretend, that is, to be a musicological treatise. We are presented with a series of duos for two viole de gamba. Some of these (e.g. those by Thomas Morley) pair a treble viol with a tenor viol; others (such as the pieces by Tobias Hume and Matthew Locke) are played by two bass viols. Louis Couperin’s ‘Fantaisie pour les violes’ is played by a treble viol and a bass viol). We are given details of the instruments played by Lewis-Cloué and Gladhofer, but not of who plays what on individual pieces. At various points Eleanor Lewis-Cloué plays a treble viol made in 2015 by Julia Senjean-Rogaud, after an instrument of 1708 by Pieter Rombouts, a tenor viol of 2017 by the same luthier after an instrument of 1604 by John Rose and a bass viol by Isao Masuko, made in 1981; Olivier Gladhofer plays a treble viol made in 2013 by Pierre Thouvenot after a French instrument of the late 17th century and a bass viol (1992) by the same luthier after an instrument of 1683 by Michel Collichon.

The earliest works on the disc are by Thomas Morley. Both ‘La Torello’ and ‘Leave now, mine eyes, lamenting’ are to be found in Morley’s First booke of Canzonets to Two Voices of 1595. By the term canzonet (meaning ‘a little song’) Morley understood “little short songs (wherein little arte can be shewed being made in straines, the beginning of which is some point lightlie touched, and every straine repeated except the middle) which is in composition of the musick a counterfet of the Madrigal”, (quoted from Morley’s A Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke, 1597). Of the 21 pieces in the First booke of Canzonets 12 are settings of short poetic texts (such as ‘Leave now, mine eyes, lamenting’), while 9 are purely instrumental (e.g. ‘La Torello’); all of the instrumental pieces are identified as ‘Fantasies’. Morley himself defines the form thus in A Plaine and Easie Introduction: “that is, when a musician taketh a point at his pleasure, and wresteth and turneth it as he list, making either as much or little of it according as shall seeme best in his own conceit […] And this kind will beare any allowances whatsoever tolerable in other musicke, except changing the ayre & leaving the key, which in fantasie may never be suffered.” The title ‘La Torello’ is a little puzzling. The Italian (which appears above the music) means “a young bull” or a “strong young man”, but the music sounds altogether inappropriate for either of those ‘subjects’. However, the index to the volume refers to the work as ‘La Tortorella’, which means ‘the turtle dove’. This, surely, is the correct title? In support one might cite not only the music itself, but the fact that one of the other fantasies in the collection entitled ‘La Rondinella’ (The Swallow) and a third is ‘Il Grillo’ (The Cricket). ‘La Tortorella’, as I prefer to call it, is a sweetly eloquent and gently beautiful piece. ‘Leave now, mine eyes, lamenting’ is, fittingly, much darker in tone and emotion. Even without the words Morley set, the music ‘speaks’ much of the emotion in the anonymous poem concerned:

Leave now, mine eyes, lamenting;
Your tears do but augment this my tormenting.
Death, Death, come thou relieve me.
Alas! To live forsaken thus doth grieve me.
Ah! see now where he lieth!
Then farewell, false unkind, thy Flora dieth!

In both of Morley’s pieces there is extensive use of imitation, often quite tight. Imitation (or, indeed counterpoint in any form) is a much less prominent feature in the work of that strange Scotsman Tobias Hume. The difference perhaps reflects the fact that Hume was not a professional musician. In that same address ‘To the understanding Reader’ from which I quoted in the first paragraph of this review, Hume declares: “I Doe not studie Eloquence, or professe Musicke, although I doe love Sence, and affect Harmony: my Profession being, as my Education hath beene, Armes, the onely effeminate part of me hath beene Musicke; which in me hath beene always Generous, because never Mercenarie. To prayse Musicke, were to say, the Sunne is Bright.” Hume is, then, an amateur, in the true sense of the word, one who does something purely out of love; the word ‘amateur’ is derived, probably via French, from the Latin verb amare (to love). His pieces for two viole de gamba (though his volume says that the music it contains is “Principally made for two Basse-Viols, yet so contrived that it may be plaied 8 severall waies upon sundry Instruments with much facilitie”. Most of the pieces in Captain Humes Poeticall Musicke are based on dance forms, and deploy some relatively simple ornamentation. Although Hume’s music lacks the technical sophistication of ‘professional’ composers such as Thomas Morley or Michael East, pieces such as ‘The Spirit of Gambo’ and ‘The Passion of Musicke’ have an engagingly direct expressiveness, well-handled by Lewis-Cloué and Gladhofer.

Elsewhere in the English ‘half’ of this programme, highlights include the disc’s opening track, Matthew Locke’s ‘Fantaizies – Saraband’ and Christopher Simpson’s ‘Division for two viols’. Both of these composers belong to later generations than Morley (born, c. 1557), Hume (born, c. 1575) and East (born, c.1580); Locke was born c.1621/2 and Simpson in 1605. Morley learned much, musically speaking, during his years as a chorister in Exeter Cathedral (where he also learned to play the organ), and went on to become one of the leading English composers, writing significant works in most of the musical genres of his time – for the stage and for the church, as well as instrumental music, not least for viols. After the restoration he was chiefly a court composer. Even if none of his own work had survived, he would hold an important place in the history of English music, as having been an admired friend and colleague of Henry Purcell, who paid tribute to him, in the year of Locke’s death, in his ode ‘What hope for us remains now he is gone’: On the Death of his worthy Friend Mr. Matthew Lock, musick-composer to his majesty, and organist of Her majestie’s Chappel, who dyed in August 1677. Much of Locke’s music for viols was written during the years of the Commonwealth, such as the Consort ‘for several friends’ and The Flatt Consort. Although Charles II had no great enthusiasm for viol music (preferring the newer fashion of the violin) Locke continued to produce fine music for the instrument even when in the service of the king, as in Tripla Concordia (1677). The pieces by Locke heard here belong to the years of the Commonwealth, since they are found in a manuscript of c.1652. His two Fantaizies and a Sarabande are fine examples of the sophistication and finesse with which Locke wrote for viols. The music of Hume, for example, seems somewhat coarse by comparison. The manuscript specifies that these pieces are to be played by two bass viols, and in Locke’s writing the two instrumentalists repeatedly exchange the roles of leading voice and accompaniment. The playing of Lewis-Cloué and Gladhofer is especially pleasing here, being both sensitive and clear of purpose.

Christopher Simpson was a composer of much narrower range than Locke – he seems to have concentrated his energies exclusively on the viol, teaching the instrument as well as playing and writing for it. In 1659 he published his much-admired treatise The Division-Violist, or the art of playing extempore upon a Ground (which was reprinted several rimes until 1712); a later work, The Principles of Practical Musick appeared in 1665 and, in revised form, in 1667 as the Compendium of Practical Musicke. As a composer for viols his major works were The Monthes and The Seasons, two sets of fantasias for viol consort, probably written in the 1660s. The documentation accompanying this disc doesn’t make clear the exact source of Simpson’s ‘Division for two viols’. Leaving that question aside, this ‘Division’ is an assured and solemn piece which isn’t especially demanding technically but which, in not being at all ‘showy’, requires interpretive insight (which is evident in this performance) to do justice to the poetry of its slowly circling repetitions and near-repetitions.

The French ‘half’ of this disc includes two of Marin Marais’ many fine works for viols. Few would, I suspect, disagree with the assertion made by Lewis-Cloué and Gladhofer, “Marin Marais […] brought the viola da gamba to the height of its technical and expressive powers.” Here Marais is represented by two rondeaux, ‘La Fête Champêtre’ and ‘La Rêveuse’. Both were published in the fourth of Marais’ five volumes of Pièces de Viole (1711) in a section headed ‘Suitte d’un gout étranger’ – which Eleanor Lewis-Cloué translates as ‘Suite in a foreign style’. ‘La Fête Champêtre’ is appropriately robust, its dancing rhythms consciously heavy-footed, at times almost plodding. This is a real country feast, not a painting by Watteau. Still, it has, especially in its central section, some rustic romance. Unsurprisingly, ‘La Reveuse’ (The Dreamer) is far less demonstrative, more inward-looking and shaded with mystery. It has a distinctively beautiful poetry. Few, if any, composers, writing for the viol have ever been the equal of Marais when it comes to the evocation of scene or mood in his many pieces de caractère such as the two played here.

Although Marais wrote four operas it was primarily as a player of the bass viol and as a writer for the viol that he was most famous amongst his contemporaries and his posthumous reputation has similarly been based largely on his works for viol(s). The same is true of Sieur de Sainte-Colombe, although in his case the word ‘largely’ might be replaced by ‘exclusively’. Relatively little is known with certainty about Sainte-Colombe, save that he taught Marais. In 1687 another viol player who had studied with Sainte-Colombe, Jean Rousseau (1644-1741) dedicated his Traité de la viole to him, while in 1701 Marais published a tombeau in honour of Sainte-Colombe. Some readers will, I am sure, know the film Tous les matins du mond, which is concerned with the relationship between Sainte-Colombe and Marais. The film is based on Pascal Quignard’s 1991 novel with the same title (of which there is a very fine English translation by the late James Kirkup). Sainte-Colombe’s ‘Le Tendre’ begins with a poignant Prelude, which is followed by a number of dances; ‘Dalain’ or (d’Alain’) gets its title from the name (Alain) of one of Sainte-Colombe’s friends, who is said to have entered the composer’s house while he was composing/playing. There is a strong air of the improvisatory to this engaging piece as if, perhaps, the arrival of Alain prompted the composer to change the direction of the piece he was writing. One interesting fact about Sainte-Colombe which I didn’t previously know is provided by Lewis-Cloué and Gladhofer: “The manuscript of the Concerts à deux violes esgales, composed by the enigmatic Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe was found in 1966 among the papers of the pianist Alfred Cortot.”

Louis de Caix d’Hervelois, a player of the bass viol and a composer, published five collections of pieces de violes between 1719 and 1748. But, as Julie Anne Sadie notes, he “remains a shadowy figure”. Although he worked in Paris with Marais and others, he held no court appointment, having to settle for the patronage of the lesser aristocracy. He is somewhat lavishly praised in the 1740 work Défense de la basse de viole contre les enterprises du violon et les prétentions du violoncelle by Hubert Le Blanc, in which he is seen as one of the last upholders of the viol against the growing fashion for the violin family. Coincidentally the suite played here is taken from Caix d’Hervelois’ fourth collection, also published in 1740. Its four movements (Prélude, Allemande La Chambord, Menuet I & II, Tambourin I & II) show him seeking to employ the galant style in a way that earlier writers for the viols had not done. The result is elegant, but rather superficial, music, lacking the powerful expressiveness and profundity of the greatest previous music for the viols. The Prélude is the most convincing movement; of the ensuing dances the Allemande and to a lesser extent the first of the Tambourins have a lively charm. Despite Le Blanc’s praise, Caix d’Hervelois’s music sounds and feels like the approaching end of a great tradition.

As in England, not all French music for the viols was written by specialists in the instrument. Louis Couperin at one time held the post of Treble Violist at the royal court, but he was also an accomplished player of both harpsichord and organ, as well as the violin. It is primarily by his compositions for keyboards that he is now known. Indeed, little of what he wrote for viols now survives – “there remain only two reductions for harpsichord of his fantaisies pour les violes. We have chosen to play one of these compositions on the treble viol, accompanied by a bass viol.” (Lewis-Cloué and Gladhofer). The piece is nicely played and contrasts the sonorities of the two instruments attractively but isn’t, it has to be said, especially memorable. By no stretch of the imagination could the prolific Joseph Bodin de Boismortier be called a viol ‘specialist’, although he did apparently write a treatise, now lost, on the pardessus (treble viol). It is with the flute that Boismortier’s name is most often associated, though he wrote concertos not only for the flute but also for the cello, bassoon, musette, violin, vielle and, indeed, the viola da gamba. He also composed both sacred and secular vocal music and a substantial body of chamber music. His chamber works seem largely to have been written with amateur musicians in mind, and to have sold very well. They include his Opus 10, a set of ‘sonatas’ for two viols. These pieces are, in the words of Lewis-Cloué and Gladhofer, “clearly influenced by the Italian model, as evidenced by his impetuous compositional style and the arrangement of the movements, very far removed from the traditional French suite of dances.” Though far from being a great composer Boismortier is one of those figures so responsive to changes in taste that their work sometimes anticipates later developments. He is, as Manfred Bukofzer puts it in Music of the Baroque Age (London 1948, p.250) one of the composers in whose chamber music “the rococo style came to the fore”. This is not the place to debate the usefulness (or otherwise) of ‘rococo’ as a term in the history of music. However, if one takes the term to refer to a fascination with surface decoration rather than with complex and almost architectural structures, it is quite a good way of identifying how Boismortier’s music differs from that of the great baroque masters. What we hear on this disc is the first sonata from Boismortier’s Opus 10, which is in four movements: Gravement, Allemande, Rondeau and Gigue modérément. The music is pleasant enough but is rather lightweight if compared to the great music written for the viol.

The programme on this disc is well-chosen and is a persuasive illustration of the statement made in the booklet essay which accompanies it: “The English viol players developed great virtuosity and an extraordinary harmonic richness, while the French gambists were devoted to increasing the expressive possibilities of the viol, in order to create beautiful melodies and imitate the voice.” The playing of Eleanor Lewis-Cloué and Olivier Gladhofer is of a high order, both as regards technique and artistic interpretation. They are recorded well in an appropriate acoustic.

This disc might make a good introduction for those wanting to make a first exploration of the world of the viol. It would be understandable, however, if those with a specialist interest in the viol preferred to listen to some of this music in recordings which put it in a different context. There are, for example, fine CDs devoted to Morley’s Fantasies for Two Voices (released by Astrée in 2020) played by Jonathan Dunford and Jêrome Chaboseau, and of Sainte-Colombes’ Concerts à deux viols esgales played by Wieland Kuijken and Jordi Savall (originally released by Astrée and reissued on Alia Vox). On those discs one can hear works from this disc alongside other music by their composers, rather than as part of a wide-ranging anthology such as this.

In offering the opinion that Lewis-Cloué and Gladhofer are not quite the equal of Kuijken and Savall, I do not intend to denigrate their work in any way. Kuijken and Savall are amongst the modern masters of the viola da gamba and good as it is, this first recording by Lewis-Cloué and Gladhofer doesn’t quite place them in that category. However, Rose & lys is certainly good enough to make one hope that there will be further recordings by these members of Le Banquet de Roy.

Glyn Pursglove

Matthew LOCKE (1621-1677)
Fantaizies-Sarabande (1652) [5:03]
Tobias HUME (c.1575/9-1645)
The Spirit of Gambo (1607) [2:45]
The Passion of Musicke (1607) [5:01]
Thomas MORLEY (c.1557-1602)
La Torello (1595) [1:50]
Leave now mine eyes lamenting (1595) [2:25]
Michael EAST (c.1580- 1648)
I as well as thou (1638) [2:05]
Hold right (1638) [1:47]
Christopher SIMPSON (c.1605-1669)
Division for two viols (1659) [3:59]
Louis COUPERIN (c.1626-1661)
Fantaisie pour les violes [2:44]
Monsieur de SAINTE-COLOMBE (1691-1701)
Le Tendre [5:04]
Dalain [3:14]
Marin MARAIS (1656-1728)
La fête champêtre (1711) [4:39]
Louis de CAIX d’HERVELOIS (c.1675-c. 1760)
Suite (de livre IV) (1740)
Prélude [3:05]
Allemande de La Chambord [2:41]
Menuet I and II [2:35]
Tambourin I and II [2:10]
Joseph Bodin de BOISMORTIER (1689-1755)
Sonate 1 de l’opus 10 (1725)
Gravement [3:41]
Allemande [2:41]
Rondeau [2:29]
Gigue modérérement [2:08)
La rêveuse (1711) [4:24]

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