Concerto di Viole

Vittorio Ghielmi: Full of Colour

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The novelty of this disc resides in its packaging above all; although the music is quite unfamiliar, there are no booklet notes at all, just a tracklist, some credits, and wallpaper-like background with a design evoking human cells. Discs of early music have sometimes incorporated contemporary music, so the contents of the disc itself aren't so unusual. The music is for viol consort, a group of stringed instruments of different sizes that were predecessors of the modern orchestral strings. A cello is added to the group on several tracks that are original compositions by cellist Ernst Reijseger. All the music is either of the late Renaissance era (from Italy or England), or new music composed by the performers themselves (in a few cases they arrange early works in modern ways). The Renaissance pieces are artfully chosen so as to fit this project. Some of the Italian composers represented, such as Giovanni de Macque and Giovanni Maria Trabaci, were experimentalists themselves; Macque (sample the Prima stravaganze, track 10) was something of an instrumental counterpart to Carlo Gesualdo in his heated, ultra-dramatic manner. Their works provide something of a middle ground between the simpler dances of John Jenkins and the contemporary compositions, which utilize extended playing techniques. Reijseger's Colla Parte, track 5, sounds like an invasion by a pack of hounds during a viol recording session -- not, as Jerry Seinfeld might say, that there's anything wrong with that.

What will an average browser pick up from this disc without the background afforded by notes? There's nothing inaccessible about the music; most of the pieces are short, and their expressive devices lie right on the surface. The viol consort is not really a familiar sound for many people, however, and a few words might have helped listeners follow the unfamiliar concepts of both older pieces like Ferrabosco's Ut Re Mi Fa Sol La (the piece manipulates the hexachords or six-note scales that were integral to Renaissance theory) and Reijseger's Hownot2, whose title is either self-indulgent or begs explanation. In the end, with the selection of pieces as cleverly done as it is, listeners who enjoy approaching music entirely without preconceptions will find an intriguing experiment here.

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