Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Viola da Gamba at Old Saint Mary's

Noontime Concerts at Old Saint Mary's
French Music Festival
Tuesday, January 19 12:30 p.m.

Farley Pearce / Amy Brodo, violas da gamba
Jonathan Salzedo, harpsichord

Louis de Caix d’Hervelois: Suite from Book I
Marin Marais: La Badinage, from Book IV
Antoine Forqueray: Ciaconne, from Suite II
Antoine Forqueray: Suite V

I did not recognize any of the composers on this program, so it turned out to be an introduction for me to an instrument & a repertoire. Before beginning, viola da gamba player (violist da gamba? viola da gambist? gamba player?) Farley Pearce explained that they would be playing on modern copies of French instruments from the late 1600s. The viola da gamba has 7 strings, is fretted, & is more akin to a guitar than to a modern cello. The sound is very soft. One imagines it being played ideally in a small room for an intimate gathering. I also got the impression that it can be a difficult instrument.

The dance suite by Louis de Caix d’Hervelois of course reminded me of Bach suites, though it was more moody & melancholy. The Badinage by Marin Marais was even more pensive & brooding. The final suite by Forqueray is plainly virtuosic, & Mr. Pearce executed a neat double-stop trill in one movement. Harpsichordist Jonathan Salzedo described Forqueray's music as being dense & dark, "like eating a lot of dark chocolate."

Amy Brodo invited us to look at her manuscript score after the concert. The 3 musicians did not have separate parts but were reading the same music, which is in 2 staves. Mr. Pearce & Ms. Brodo alternated playing the top line for viola da gamba while the others played the bass line continuo. I think this was a nice way to involve all 3, & it gave the concert the simple feel of friends getting together to play music.


Gavin Plumley said...

Badinage is such a great word. Have you seen the wonderful Tous les matins du monde?

Axel Feldheim said...

Yes, it is a fine word; I'm sure I none of us use it nearly enough.

As one of the performers remarked, "badinage" makes us think of witty banter, but Marais's version seems to be the opposite. I have not seen Tous les matins du monde, but it looks like I will need to check it out soon.