The Old Days About The Really Old Days

Commenting over at BadTux’s site about various music-related matters, I began to think about “the old days” in which I was an active performing musician, and about some of my colleagues from those old days. The music was, of course, from the truly old days, the 16th through 18th centuries, and we played it on period instruments or close copies. The assortment of instruments used was, of course, a bit different from today’s. Fortunately, we have people who specialize in the instruments of earlier centuries, including viola da gamba, or “viol” in period English. One of those people is the primary subject of this post.

A quick google of YouTube yielded an old buddy of mine with whom I worked for at least 20 years, gambist Wayne Moss. Some years ago, Wayne finally got the gig of his dreams, literally working and living in the 18th century in Colonial Williamsburg, instructing and performing for visitors to that historically rendered colonial town:

This work is an allemande by Louis de Caix d’Hervelois (1670-1759) and is a very typical straightforward example of the French viola da gamba literature, complete with the bowed chords so intrinsic to the instrument. Note how the chords vary in intensity and speed of arpeggiation, especially the grand concluding chord.

It’s all rather understated by today’s standards, but after a while the passion of this music gets under your skin.

Here ends the nostalgia for the day. 🙂

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  • MandT  On Wednesday May 18, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    Absolutely delightful. Thank you for those exquisite sounds. More, more!

    • Steve  On Wednesday May 18, 2011 at 4:17 pm

      MandT – if it’s more Louis de Caix you’re looking for, try the Werner Icking archive; they have a couple of oboe suites, which are really just transcriptions of his viol music. (Annoyingly, each movement is in a separate .mp3 file, but beggars can’t be choosers.)

      If you want more French viol music, try searching for these composers: Marin Marais, Antoine Forqueray (the man that the splendid film Tous les matins du monde was about), Le Sieur de Machy (I hope I’m spelling that correctly), Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe. Or just google “French Baroque viol players” and choose the WikiPedia Category entry. There are many good recordings by several genuine viol virtuosos; one of my favorites for French music is Jordi Savall, who ironically is not French but Catalan, and who has also composed many film scores.

      (I did not realize how many of today’s pre-eminent gambists, including Jordi Savall, studied with the late great August Wenzinger, whose heyday was around 1960 or so. Thirty years ago I heard him play when he headed up the Oberlin Baroque Performance Institute; his playing, even in the fastest, busiest passages, was nearly serene… his economy of motion was astounding.)

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