Roy Whelden Galax
music for viola da gamba by Roy Whelden and Carl Friedrich Abel, performed by Whelden and American Baroque
An introspective and quite accessible disc which is enjoyable on several levels, not the least of which is the experimental nature inherent in the very combination of new and old.
--SEE Magazine, Edmonton
This album contains pieces for the viola da gamba, some written by me and some by the German composer Carl Friedrich Abel (1723-1787), recognized as the last of the great viola da gamba virtuosi.
Abel occupied a unique position in the history of music. With Johann Christian Bach, he co-managed, performed and composed for one of the most successful concert organizations in London during the late 18th century. From 1765 to 1782, the popular Bach-Abel series was his principal venue, yet the instrument on which his fame rested as a performer was by then universally considered to be old-fashioned and out-of-date. Few amateurs and even fewer professionals were attracted to the viola da gamba after the close of the Baroque period. However, the music which Abel played on these concerts was anything but out-of-date. The 'Adagio-Allegro moderato' pair on this recording is an example; these were taken from a manuscript (New York Public Library, Drexel 5871) containing thirty pieces thought to represent the style of Abel's solo improvisations.
Like Abel, I have chosen to write and perform music using up-to-the-minute compositional techniques on instruments commonly thought to be old-fashioned. These instruments include, besides the viola da gamba, the resonant and warm-toned Baroque flute, violin, and cello, as well as the fully chromatic triple harp, with its three rows of strings. Techniques drawn from minimal music are evident in "Twin Rows" (and to a lesser extent in the "Quartet after Abel"). "Fanfare" is influenced by twelve-tone serialism while taking its rhythms from Baroque marches and countermarches. The retrospective "Prelude and Divisions on She's So Heavy" weds the 17th and 18th century practice of preludizing and division (variation) playing to the inimitable melodies and harmonies of the Beatles. "Galax" (named after the Virginia town hosting the most famous fiddle festial on the East Coast) joins viola da gamba chordal techniques with faint traces of Appalachian fiddle music.
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