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Harmonia Uncut: Quaver

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Welcome to Harmonia Uncut, the podcast that brings you modern performances of old music. I’m Wendy Gillespie, inviting you to join to me to listen to some of a performance from 2018, celebrating the tenth anniversary of the founding of Quaver, a consort of viols comprising Brady Lanier, Loren Ludwig, Marie Szuts, and Toby Szuts. The concert took place on Thursday, July 26, at the Coulter Recital Hall at Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, North Carolina, as part of the 56th Conclave of the Viola da Gamba Society of America.

Let’s begin with music of Henry Purcell  – not, as one might expect, one of his viol fantasies, but an arrangement of his March from the funeral music for Queen Mary II of England, who died in December of 1694. Her funeral took place at Westminster Abbey in March of 1695, the same year that Purcell died. The astute listener may immediately spot that Purcell is not the only creative presence at work here, and indeed the hands of both Wendy Carlos and Quaver member Brady Lanier have participated in this arrangement:

1) Queen's Funeral March Suite.  Composer:  Henry Purcell (1659-1695) 

We’re listening to the consort of viols Quaver, and that was an arrangement by Wendy Carlos and Brady Lanier of the March from Purcell’s 1695 Music for Queen Mary’s Funeral. Quaver, in their own words, “is committed to playing exciting music, new and old, in ways that engage the eclectic sensibilities of the iPod era.” Their mission statement continues:

Our concerts bring together music ranging from Petrucci to Purcell, and from Shostakovich to Sheryl Crow. We draw on the traditional viol consort to reunite polyphony's rich musical heritage with the present: seventeenth-century pavans and fantasias are paired with recent polyphonic music from performers such as the rock band Radiohead, the electronica ensemble Ratatat, and the composers Astor Piazzolla and Gyorgy Ligeti.

The combination of old and new music is not new to the historical performance world, but Quaver combine them in their very own, fresh way, well illustrated by the Purcell we just heard. Let’s hear Quaver take a more traditional approach and more or less just “play the charts” in a canzona entitled “La Furugada” by Giovanni Cangiasi, who died in 1614. I’m reliably informed that “furugada” is a Milanese word meaning turmoil or commotion, perhaps a barnyard disturbance with flying feathers and hysterical clucking. See what you think!

2)  Canzon "La Furugada".  Composer:  Giovanni Cangiasi (d. 1614)

The viol quartet Quaver performed the canzona “La Furugada” by Giovanni Cangiasi. Having casually said that in this piece, the ensemble was “playing the charts,” of course the page itself does not give enough information to make a successful performance. For “the chart” in the early C17 left a great deal to the performer’s imagination, often with little or no hint about dynamics, tempo, expression, articulation – all the things that bring music alive. Bringing the music to life is one of the things that Quaver thinks about a lot, whether they are playing old or new music, and it is one of the things that makes them such an appealing ensemble.

Many thanks to Brady Lanier for sharing these performances of the viol consort Quaver, whose other members are Marie Szuts, Loren Ludwig, and Toby Szuts. The concert took place in July 2018 at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC at the Conclave of the VdGSA.

We’d be interested to hear your thoughts about anything you’ve heard on this podcast. You can find Harmonia on Facebook or leave a comment or question any time by visiting harmonia early music dot org. This has been the Harmonia Uncut podcast, and I’m WG, thanks joining me!

Viol consort, Quaver

Viola da gamba players often travel in packs. The Viola da Gamba Society of America holds an annual gathering, or “conclave,” at which players of all ages and abilities collect for a week of music making. In 2018, the viol consort Quaver celebrated their tenth anniversary with a concert at the conclave in North Carolina and surprised their listeners with some unexpected approaches to familiar music.

 

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