He composed 180 solo bass viol
pieces and 67 concerts a deux violes esgales which, according to The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, "regularly defy harmonic rules by using parallel 5ths or unresolved dissonances which are quite unsettling to the ear."
For a start, it makes no sense to begin talking about a hierarchy of instruments (with horns and bass viols
high and recorders and violas low) independently of a hierarchy of players.
In addition, the English division style casts a long shadow over this repertory; extended variations on ground basses and the use of the extreme high register of the bass viol
suggest the influence of Christopher Simpson, Henry Butler, and the numerous lesser-known English emigre musicians on the continent.
Therefore, these four-part suites, and especially the almands, join a repertory of airs composed by Jenkins, Lawes, and Locke wherein the parts frequently utilize a kind of division technique that allows for rapid flashes of technical display and an especially wide range for the two bass viols
The In Nomine contains especially difficult lines for the bass viols
, while the variations on "Go from My Window" feature dotted running passages in all the parts, as well as frequent octave leaps and close imitation between the treble parts.
To anyone who has seen the film Tous les matins du monde, the very special pleasure to be had from the French Baroque repertory for two solo bass viols
needs no advocacy.
The players of IV and V are apparently holding bass viols
; III, who is a boy not a grown man, is playing a tenor; II, another boy, may be playing a tenor, or perhaps a treble (one can see too little of the instrument to be sure); but I's instrument seems rather large for the top voice, and may be intended as another tenor viol.
Both the Purcell Quartet and the Greate Consort give us Lawes's `new' version, in which the "middle' pert has been distributed between the two bass viols
. (These viols operate as equals, each moving freely between bass register and tenor.) The use of two theorbos gives splendid sonority to the ensemble.
On this disc the upper parts are played an octave lower and allotted to bass viols
, a sonority which Charpentier associates with Orpheus rather than the `fantomes'.
Perhaps one should say two new editions, as separate volumes give the so-called `new version', scored for two violins, two bass viols
and two theorbos, and based principally on Lawes's autograph scorebook, and the `old version', for two treble, one tenor and one bass viols
(or perhaps violins), with continuo, which is preserved only in later sources but which, according to a note on one of the manuscripts, represents Lawes's original conception.
During his time in the household of the young Prince Charles (who himself could `play his part exactly well on the bass viol
'), Thomas Lupo worked alongside Coprario, Ferrabosco II and Gibbons; together they were responsible for raising viol-consort composition to a new plane.