Author Topic: All things viol  (Read 3912 times)

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Offline Mandryka

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All things viol
« on: February 05, 2016, 11:55:56 PM »



It's to the violist Jonathan Durnford that I owe the realisation that  music for viol solo has multiple summits which are as interesting to hear, and hence as "great" , as any solo cello music.

This recording of solo viol music attributed to Le Sieur Du Buisson is one of those summits. Austere, rich in counterpoint, meditative, complicated and full of variety:  Dunford's style, which is very much based on shades of grey and on clarity of voicing, suits this cerebral and spiritual music to a tee.

I'm no expert in viol, but I hear in Dunford's recordings something I've heard too infrequently from others: he occasionally plays the instrument like a lute. I love this. I love the huge contrast of texture it brings. I hazard a guess that lute is a major influence on Jonathan Dunford. Even when he bows, the sound he makes is quite often short like a plucked instrument, rarely long and rich and resonant like an organ. I wonder if this way of playing viol influenced the way Wispelwey plays the prelude to the 4th cello suite in his 3rd recording of the Bach. Would that Dunford would record the Bach!

What was the function of this sort of music? Private mediation?  Prayer in solitude? These performances make me think again about sacred and secular in early music: I bet that the boundary is fuzzy.


« Last Edit: July 04, 2016, 09:24:48 AM by Que »
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Offline aligreto

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Re: All things viol.
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2016, 03:35:23 AM »



It's to the violist Jonathan Durnford that I owe the realisation that  music for viol solo has multiple summits which are as interesting to hear, and hence as "great" , as any solo cello music.

This recording of solo viol music attributed to Le Sieur Du Buisson is one of those summits. Austere, rich in counterpoint, meditative, complicated and full of variety:  Dunford's style, which is very much based on shades of grey and on clarity of voicing, suits this cerebral and spiritual music to a tee.

I'm no expert in viol, but I hear in Dunford's recordings something I've heard rarely, if ever, from others: he occasionally plays the instrument like a lute. Pizzicato. I love this. I love the huge contrast of texture it brings. I hazard a guess that lute is a major influence on Jonathan Dunford. Even when he bows, the sound he makes is quite often short like a plucked instrument, rarely long and rich and resonant like an organ. I wonder if this way of playing viol influenced the way Wispelwey plays the prelude to the 4th cello suite in his 3rd recording of the Bach. Would that Dunford would record the Bach!

What was the function of this sort of music? Private mediation?  Prayer in solitude? These performances make me think again about sacred and secular in early music: I bet that the boundary is fuzzy.

I am even less of an expert on the viol than you claim to be but I also like the sound of the viol family of instruments. What appeals to me is the tone and the sonority, especially from those instruments in the lower register. That CD looks very appealing from what you describe.
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: All things viol.
« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2016, 02:07:25 PM »


A large number of pieces for viol and organ by Louis Couperin. Sensitively and lovingly played by Anne Marie Lasla and Olivier Vernet. Initial impressions is that this is the real McCoy. A gem of a performance, rapt and atmospheric.

10 viol pieces by Louis Couperin, with the rest by Du Mage Mont and others. I'd be interested to know whether others sense the true voice of Louis Couperin - I don't know, but I like the it  as much as I like Louis Couperin's organ music.
« Last Edit: February 10, 2016, 06:35:56 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline (: premont :)

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Re: All things viol.
« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2016, 05:46:37 AM »

10 viol pieces by Louis Couperin, with the rest by Du Mage and others. I'd be interested to know whether others sense the true voice of Louis Couperin - I don't know, but I like the it  as much as I like Louis Couperin's organ music.

Excusez-moi, I am confused.

Are the L. Couperin pieces transcriptions of some of his organ music? Or newly discovered ??? original music for viol?

And what about Du Mage? Viol music?. His only surviving work is the Premier livre d'orgue.
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: All things viol.
« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2016, 06:35:28 AM »

Are the L. Couperin pieces transcriptions of some of his organ music? Or newly discovered ??? original music for viol?



Allegedly. Apparently they are early pieces from the Bauyn manuscript. Here's what the booklet says (which makes me think that I should see if there is a biography of Louis Couperin. )

Quote
The Regrets

One can only regret that the young Louis Couperin did not leave more music for the first instrument which brought him out of the shadows into public light. One regrets that so few traces of his life remain, because his music is full of eloquent love and impassioned force; one regrets, too, that it is still not possible to have access to the two five-part viol fantasias that are part of the Oldham manuscript, having survived the fate of pages wilfully torn up, pages of music formerly composed for a fleeting instant of time, and depriving future generations of all the other fragments no doubt missing as well... while regretting that it is still impossible to have a full version of the complete works including pieces like this, which would quite cer-tainly have illustrated the fullness of his inspiration. Of his music for viols, only the first flow-ers remain, and very few masterpieces. For Couperin, Malherbe’ s phrase was not to ring true: ‘ ...and the fruit shall bring forth what the flowers promised’ . He did not have the time.

The Flowers

Each of the pieces recorded here, even if not perfect or fully mature, is as rich in emotion, youth, dynamism, and eloquence as it is also in the science of composition and in gravity: in a word, filled with princely beauty. Each piece reflects the timid but simple and modest soul of our defunct Orpheus. Are these pieces undated memories of his musical origins, affectionately preserved in the organ section of the Bauyn manuscript? Their place in the manuscript as well as that of the ‘ Pseaumes’ was the starting point of the pleasing partner-ship of the organ with the viol, desired in this recording. Or were they moments of glory at the court, vestiges of the prestigious post of treble violist to the King? It matters little whether the setting was in a provincial town, in the Louvre or in Paris; with music like this Louis would have succeeded brilliantly.... His imagination fires his melodies and each new turning is a surprise. The composer’ s changing moods result in unorthodox harmonies which astonished the listener. Each piece reminds one of a ‘ palais de Luxembourg’ , with its antique columns and rooms filled with paintings by Rubens; or the wealthy Marie de Medici and the Italian Mazarin. At this period classicism was just one facet of baroque style and Louis Couperin wrote like Corneille before Racine came on the scene. France had yet to adopt a specific style, although it was clearly in gestation. And so Louis took pleasure in abrupt rhythmic changes and harmonic clashes, making this very personal touch a recog-nisable hallmark of his individual style, characteristic of true genius. He was a born impro-viser who composed guided by his inspiration, separating, for instance, a treble viol solo passage from its string continuo bass in order to create a passage of lyrical grandeur; the same is true for three notes in the bass in the Fantaisie, pars operis 142.

Louis Couperin’ s music for viols has so much to tell, and its rhetorical mastery is eloquent. He is capable of remarkable concision, and can pack everything into a short eight bar-phrase. Some of his music, for example the ‘ Pseaumes’ , pars operis 137 & 138, reminds one of a French-inspired haiku, or short Japanese poem, with its characteristic fresh lightness. But at the same time these pieces are like tender loving words which one could well imagine as part of a dialogue between Romeo and Juliet. This is not the only occasion when Louis Couperin associates heightened dramatic tension with concisely-wrought compositions. The harpsichord works include a sarabande, pars operis 60, which is a masterpiece of increasing excitement, reminiscent of an emboldened young lover, followed by an instant of hesitation, as if the girl were feigning indifference. In the end all is concluded with loving elegance. The Symphonie pars operis 146 for viols is even more audacious, telling the same tale, and using an unusually asymmetrical and thoroughly baroque plan which has led many experts to think that the manuscript was incomplete. It starts with a vision of the treble viol pouring out its complaint in a declamatory gesture, when all of a sudden the bass viol arrives on the scene with a lyrical outburst. This is followed by a short reply from the treble viol, taking the form of an unconvincing speech for the defence, albeit full of promises. The bass viol is all the more convincing in its declaration. Couperin introduces a harmonic device which requires the instrument to emphasise the argument by means of playing chords. The treble viol’ s immediate answer is a cascade of semiquavers, suggesting a declaration, encouraged by the discreet underlining presence of a now-pacified bass viol. This arabesque has led the listener in an impassioned yet perfectly natural way to a triple-time dance section, a verita-ble lovers’ duet with an emotional climax to conclude the scene that has just been enacted. Would anyone dispute the title of ‘ les fiançailles’ or ‘ la déclaration’ ? Surely this music foreshadows the descriptive titles used by his nephew François Couperin? The programme corresponds to Chopin’ s Etude in C sharp minor, opus 25 no.7, not to mention many other romantic works. And yet are we really so far from the world of Monteverdi and Cavalli’s large-scale operas to detect something of their style? Only words are lacking.

Similar dramatic awareness is to be found in the Symphonie pars operis 145. The ear is sud-denly accosted by the sound of viols, as if making an effort to hear the sound like the amazed guests of Jacques Champion de Chambonnières the day of the serenade for the feast of St Jacques at Chaumes (24 July, 1651). This trio may well exemplify the high-spirited style of three Couperin brothers; it is full of youthful enthusiasm, anxiety and melancholy, but lack-ing in classical perfection. Could one imagine a better reason why this promising genius was invited to Paris?

It is already time to leave his company, although there is no shortage of music should we wish to stay with him. Keyboard transcriptions of viol pieces may be an attractive idea. The Pavane, an Allemande in earlier style and the Piémontaise are all pieces which sound very convincing when played by viols. One particular piece, the bass division for organ, is clear evidence of a lost art, Louis having been an excellent performer on the viol. The dazzling virtuosity of the art of variation-writing and improvising for the viola bastarda on songs and popular tunes was an art which corresponded perfectly to the youthful force of his compositions, and which he tran-scribed for the St Gervais organ, using a ‘ jeu de tierce’ or the cromorne stop. Certainly many of these bass divisions (variations) cannot easily be considered as original viol music, but rather thought of as reconstructions or later performances of improvised and lost pieces. This appears to be the case of the rather truculent fantaisie pars operis 214, Oldham 69, the superb declama-tory character of which seems to come straight from a collection of part-books by Selma y Salaverde (fl 1638). It has often been stated that Louis Couperin invented this particular genre for the organ. Even if this was not the case (and it would mean under-estimating his predeces-sors’ art of marrying instrumental colours), then it certainly provided him for a long time with the breezy style of the viol.

The Fruit

Let us remain in touch with his sources of inspiration, and the same profound noble sense of style, (royal duties making it necessary - sous-maître of the King’ s Music, Composer of the Chapel, and the Queen’ s Master of the Music) expressed in the works of the great Henri Dumont, whose music was more traditional and more adult, yet so closely related to Couperin in style. Dumont’ s works are truly regal in their beauty, the fruit that one hoped Louis Couperin’ s music would bear. . .



Excusez-moi, I am confused.


And what about Du Mage? Viol music?. His only surviving work is the Premier livre d'orgue.

Me who's confused -- mont not mage!

« Last Edit: February 10, 2016, 06:47:11 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline (: premont :)

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Re: All things viol.
« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2016, 10:19:54 AM »
Well, I understand.

Thanks for the quoting from the booklet. This CD seems mandatory -mand(ryk)atory :) :) ;)

Concerning Louis Couperin biography I am not sure, that it has been written.
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: All things viol.
« Reply #6 on: February 10, 2016, 11:16:10 AM »


De Machy has a bad reputation apparently because Robert Donnington said that his suites have no merit in Grove. For me, nothing could be further from the truth. This is polyphonic solo viol music, and the harmonies are superb.

What it is not is a collection of hummable tunes, simple natural melodies in the classical style of Marais. It's less accessible but more interesting than anything Marais wrote, to me.

Savall plays this music lyrically. I do not feel like I am listening to dances. In fact I quite often feel as though I'm listening to unmeasured preludes! I exaggerate, but still.

For me, that lack of pulse, or rather that evanescent pulse, brings an air of mystery and meditation to the music which I find totally beguiling. Deep, in fact. Like a prayer. It may be a one sided interpretation, it may not be an informed interpretation, but it's one I like a lot.

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Offline Mandryka

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Re: All things viol.
« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2016, 07:06:44 AM »


No one plays like Paolo Pandolfo, I'd noticed it years ago in his Forqueray and this De Machy is if anything even more unusual.

He is a master at touch, at timbre, at phrasing and at voicing. Each voice so evident, so clearly given its own character, and the whole played with a sense of the drama between the voices which is astonishing. It's as if the voices are chasing each other . . . no, as if the voices are dancing with each other. Or playing with each other. Playing kiss-chase or hide-and-seek or It.

Neither lyrical nor rhetorical, I'm not presented with someone singing or perorating. So what is it? It's music conceived as fleeting reflections, ephemeral melodies like sparks blown in the wind.

And sooooooo imaginative, he makes all the other viol players look like stick-in-the-muds. To give an example which made me prick up my ears, there's one piece where he plays one voice with the bow and the other pizzicato (G major sarabande.) It's stuffed with viol effects which I've never heard before.

Like all new poetry, my own sense of disorientation is irrelevant to the value of the poem and all part of the adventure of exploration.
« Last Edit: February 14, 2016, 09:15:24 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: All things viol.
« Reply #8 on: March 11, 2016, 12:01:10 AM »


Fretwork/Charles Daniels perform music by Ludwig Senfl. A interesting recording from the point of view of balance: there is a sense of equality between singer and instruments. Fretwork are there usual models of impeccable sobriety, and here at least, in Stenfl, that seems a satisfactory approach to take. Charles Daniels' voice is adequate I suppose.
« Last Edit: March 11, 2016, 12:04:07 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: All things viol.
« Reply #9 on: March 20, 2016, 01:27:19 PM »


Atsushi Sakae and friends play Antoine Forqueray. Initial impressions (the thing has only just been released) are very positive. There's a magical combination of abandon and control; Rousset is alert, rather more than accompaniment;  colourful and complex sound from both viol and harpsichord ; expressive - not at all cold; they tell a story with the music which keeps you listening; natural well balanced sound.

What it doesn't have is speed and fury: machismo. On the contrary, these performances are unprecedentedly reflective, and unprecedentedly sensitive to the variety of affects in the music. But I think that makes the music sound better! More interesting! Deeper! A revelation!

It makes me wonder if Forqueray's reception hasn't in fact been damaged by the quip that he played like a devil. It's made the musicians paly up the virtuosity and play down his humanity. That's it: Sakai's Forqueray is humane.

But such depth of feeling is  unexpected in Classical French music, rather like with Bertrand Cuillier's Rameau. Maybe we are starting to see a reevaluation of Louis XIV style. This is, after all, the era of Racine as much as of Mollière.

This joins Pinnock and Tilney as the best new releases of the first quarter of 2016


« Last Edit: March 20, 2016, 09:41:48 PM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: All things viol.
« Reply #10 on: April 10, 2016, 05:25:31 AM »


Part of the reason this performance of Art of Fugue by Les Voix Humaines sounds unique is the ornamentation: it is used partly to give the voices their own personality. Another, I think (but I'm not sure), is that the transcription sometimes distributes melodies across different viols, à la Webern. A third is their tendency to phrase the thing with short cells.

At the level of emotion, the performance doesn't seem to go very deep. At the level of exploration, especially textures, it's innovative but somehow not interesting enough to make it worth the candle for the whole duration. It's more like a study of a certain type of texture than an exploration of textural possibilities with the music. That's to say, they've got things to say about the music's potential, but not enough. What's more there's a jumpy jittery aspect to the performance, like they've got ants in their pants, which gets on my nerves. When I first heard it I was impressed by how it sounded like a bunch of people speaking. Now I think it sounds like a bunch of highly strung people speaking: I don't want to be part of the conversation thank you very much.

If anyone has the CD I'd be very interested to know if they say anything about what they were trying to achieve.
« Last Edit: April 10, 2016, 05:35:26 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: All things viol.
« Reply #11 on: April 19, 2016, 08:58:49 AM »


I've been listening to Paolo Pandolfo playing the 6th cello suite, BWV 1012. The allemande especially is in a very familiar and  distinctive Pandolfo style, in which the voices seem to chase each other around in a game of hide and seek. I think it gives the music the feeling of melodies arriving on a breeze.

Another really distinctive moment is is the second gavotte.

The mood is introspective. There's no real sense of a "singing forth"
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Offline (: premont :)

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Re: All things viol.
« Reply #12 on: April 19, 2016, 11:48:53 AM »


Part of the reason this performance of Art of Fugue by Les Voix Humaines sounds unique is the ornamentation: it is used partly to give the voices their own personality. Another, I think (but I'm not sure), is that the transcription sometimes distributes melodies across different viols, à la Webern. A third is their tendency to phrase the thing with short cells.

At the level of emotion, the performance doesn't seem to go very deep. At the level of exploration, especially textures, it's innovative but somehow not interesting enough to make it worth the candle for the whole duration. It's more like a study of a certain type of texture than an exploration of textural possibilities with the music. That's to say, they've got things to say about the music's potential, but not enough. What's more there's a jumpy jittery aspect to the performance, like they've got ants in their pants, which gets on my nerves. When I first heard it I was impressed by how it sounded like a bunch of people speaking. Now I think it sounds like a bunch of highly strung people speaking: I don't want to be part of the conversation thank you very much.

If anyone has the CD I'd be very interested to know if they say anything about what they were trying to achieve.

Your second impression seems more adequate to me - as far as I recall. I own the CD, and do not remember any revolutionary thoughts expressed in the booklet, but I shall reread it and report to you. I am busy at work to morrow, but the day after to morrow I shall do it.
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Offline (: premont :)

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Re: All things viol.
« Reply #13 on: April 19, 2016, 11:51:55 AM »
The mood is introspective.

Isn't this partially kind of the viol's nature - as opposed to the violoncello?
« Last Edit: April 19, 2016, 01:16:26 PM by (: premont :) »
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Offline (: premont :)

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Re: All things viol.
« Reply #14 on: April 21, 2016, 12:51:19 PM »

If anyone has the CD I'd be very interested to know if they say anything about what they were trying to achieve.

Unfortunately I have not kept the complete booklet, only the pages with the track listing.
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: All things viol.
« Reply #15 on: May 06, 2016, 12:50:03 PM »



Basically I was strapped to my seat listening to this recording of 17th century Italian music from Andrea Marcon, Paolo Pandolfo and others. Much, most, of it includes viol, hence this thread. And what a revelation! My first exposure to Neapolitan viol music and it's very jolly! Marcon plays organ too - the CD opens with a powerful, noble, harmonically tangy toccata by De Macque, for example.

It even includes a suitably chromatic harpsichord piece by my bête noire of composers - Gesualdo.

Other suggestions for exploring Neapolitan viol music much appreciated.
« Last Edit: May 06, 2016, 12:52:33 PM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: All things viol.
« Reply #16 on: May 30, 2016, 07:57:39 AM »


Duo Coloquintes play some music by Froberger and others.

This is, of course, a totally disorienting experience, to hear Froberger arranged for a viol and violin, but it is quite an authentic one and I think it's really interesting to hear how the transcriptions bring out the voices - especially in the very familiar suite in D . The music contains some pieces by other composers which, at first glance, aren't quite at the same level of inspiration as Froberger, though I can see the music attributed to someone called Bernhard is possibly  worth a second listen.

Quote
Ce programme de musique allemande s'articule autour de pièces écrites pour violon et viole de gambe insérées dans un manuscrit de la bibliothèque de Wolfenbüttel, le Ludwig Partiturbuch. Ces pièces ont la particularité de présenter un aspect peu connu de l’œuvre du mystérieux Johann Jacob Froberger, figure emblématique de la musique pour clavier du XVIIe siècle ayant fait sa carrière auprès de l’empereur Ferdinand III à Vienne. Car si des traces de sa musique se retrouvent à travers toute l’Europe, les transcriptions de ses suites de danses pour violon et viole de gambe présentes dans ce manuscrit sont uniques en leur genre. Elles ont été pour le duo le point  de départ d’un travail de transcription et d’adaptation plus vaste de son œuvre, que qu'elles ont étayé de pièces de la même époque pour le duo ou instruments seuls.

By the way, this year is the 400th anniversary of Froberger's birth. So far I think only a handful of releases to mark it - this and one by Bob van Asperen and the recordings by Daniele Boccaccio. There are some festivals this summer in France and no doubt elsewhere - I'll have to investigate what's going on.
« Last Edit: May 25, 2017, 01:18:25 PM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: All things viol.
« Reply #17 on: July 04, 2016, 04:26:53 AM »


Thor Jorgen and friends play Italianate music for gamba and organ, occasionally violin too. And very good music too.  Johan van Veen has said that he thought the playing was stiff and awkward, but I disagree. I think their playing has a feeling which I very much appreciate, a mixture of control and expression. There's brilliance and passion aplenty, but it's not in your face,  it's not at all flamboyant or demonstrative.  I do sense a feeling of abandon of self which gives the performances an eternal, universal quality which I find revealing. The style of play made me think of Leonhardt's last recordings, his final Forqueray disc for example.

They use a sweet but I think quite faceless chamber organ.
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Offline bob_cart

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Re: All things viol
« Reply #18 on: July 26, 2016, 03:41:18 AM »
Three names that I find worth noticing; Marin Marais, Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe and Jordi Savall. The first two being great composers, the third being a great viol player who still plays today and is in my opinion a great interpreter of older music. There is also a great french movie reuniting them all together called: "Tous les Matins du Monde". I recommend you check all of it out  ;D

Offline aligreto

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Re: All things viol
« Reply #19 on: July 26, 2016, 07:59:45 AM »
Three names that I find worth noticing; Marin Marais, Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe and Jordi Savall. The first two being great composers, the third being a great viol player who still plays today and is in my opinion a great interpreter of older music. There is also a great french movie reuniting them all together called: "Tous les Matins du Monde". I recommend you check all of it out  ;D




A film that I enjoyed. Even though it has been quite a while since I have seen it I can still clearly recall the atmosphere that it creates  :)
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