As Hyperion's 'English Orpheus' series proceeds, we continue to marvel afresh
at the constant riches that are being mined from England's gloriously active
musical past. This varied collection has the now defunct bass viol as its
protagonist and Peter Holman has managed to find around eight composers for
this instrument, an achievement that should sell the disc alone for rarity
reasons. Purcell's classic 'two upon a ground' Variations set the distinctive
tone of beauty with Mark Caudle's viol mesmerisingly alive throughout. Then
the rarities begin.
Hely and Gorton were unknown to me before this listen and I can safely say
that their music, if not as inspired as Purcell, lacks nothing in taste and
refinement with Gorton's Suite particularly tasteful and refreshing. Draghi's
delightful 'Italian Ground' is also highly innovative with full use made
of the opposite registers of the instrument. Still, the real gem of this
superbly recorded disc lies in the works of Gottfried Finger. A Moravian
exile, he brought much dashing virtuosity and music of a rich palette to
England as these three works amply demonstrate. The Pastorale in A major
is a particular success with rich harmonized inflexions and some beautiful
variations towards the end, surely the hands of a master are at work here.
Eleven minutes of harmonic glory are the prerogaritive of the final movement
of the Suite in D, a colourful work that exploits the full tonal palette
of the bass viol. This is arguably some of the finest repertoire that Hyperion
have rediscovered recently. After such inspired music, Francesco Conti's
fragmentary 'Ungrateful cruel maid' may sound slightly disjointed although
there is no denying ist effects. I was unaware of Corelli's sublime Sonata
in G, a work rather reminiscent of his Op. 6 concertos with full ripienos
and highly original treatment of structure.
Two Sonatas by Handel (one is an attribution) reveal the famous Georgian
composer in the best of spirits although these pieces cannot match the exuberance
and vitality of his best works. Framed between the Handelian contributions
to the bass viol repertoire we find the unjustly neglected Lorenzo Bocchi
whose Sonata is an admirable excercise in harmony and counterpoint.
Throughout the disc, Mark Caudle's playing is exceptional and he is the brains
behind most of the reconstructions, these works apparently survive with minimal
parts and fragmentary scores. It is highly intriguing to leaf through Peter
Holman's entertaining notes which are brimful with good humor and knowledgeable
anecdotes. The recording is ideally crisp and clear, a model of its kind.
Another self-recommending Hyperion CD from the justly famous 'English Orpheus'