ALBUM TITLE: Collection: The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book
WORKS: King’s Hunt; add more
PERFORMER: Charivari Agréable
CATALOGUE NO: SIGCD 009
Once, this collection of early 17th century pieces was fair game for the piano; then, in the name of ‘authenticity’, only virginals would do. Now, in the true spirit of their age, 18 numbers appear transcribed for a wonderfully colourful mixed consort. The process is justified by known contemporary practice – dances for instance were freely transferred between media. Many of the pieces were themselves arrangements. Ballad tunes generated sets of spectacular variations. But if you still doubt the principle, the sound will convince you: this is an inspired concept, played with the exuberance and commitment which presupposes technical mastery of the highest order. Recording quality is superb, alive to the scrape of bows on strings, the snap of fingering, yet never oppressively close.
The ensemble’s variety is endless: tenor viol plays a recurring melody at three registers, bathed in organ polyphony; Jennings sings original song texts above the new instrumental variations (requiring the recomposition of missing bars); Bull’s cerebral fantasia on 17 transpositions of a scale takes on new life as viols clarify the counterpoint – especially effective with violin ingeniously matched with treble viol – while his King’s Hunt is positively orchestrated with dramatic silence and extended flute trills. Outstanding in every respect. George Pratt