Reviews of Saraband's publications

Saraband Music is proud to present its Australian publications of early music. Music for viols, recorders, harpsichord, organ, voice, violin, flute, cello and other instruments in good modern editions, clearly typeset, with attention to page turns, original sources and introductory material.

General editor:
Patrice Connelly (M.Mus Hons)

Selected reviews:

I have quoted large sections of reviews rather than short bits which sound good so that the reader can get a better feel for the reviewer's opinion.

SM1-5 [Duets (2), Baltzar, Simpson, Anon]
Reviewed by Professor Gordon Sandford in VdGSA News, March 1997, p. 10

The first two volumes are adaptations of viol duets for two tenors. Patrice, recognizing that the tenor viol is sometimes neglected in duet literature, has here transposed 10 excellent pieces which should please tenor aficionados greatly. Two Morley duets (from A Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practical Musicke) are not his best known, but this makes them even more welcome. Two worthwhile anonymous (alas) duets (from Bodleian Library Music School MS245-7) have not been published previously, to my knowledge. The two Gibbons duets (originally for trebles) and the two White duets (originally for basses) are familiar to many. Corkine's Two lovers sat lamenting and Morley's Fyre and lightning are adaptations from vocal pieces which work very well on two tenor viols. These two volumes, then, contain wonderful music of medium difficulty which should be of special interest for tenor players.

Thomas Baltzar, A German violinist who worked much of his life in England, is a composer who needs to be better known. The pieces here (praeludium, two allemandes, two sarabande, and a courante) are for unaccompanied violin. The editor adds a short article on ornamentation, including Charles Colman's famous and very useful chart of graces. ... The pieces have not been published before Simpson's divisions come, not from his famous Division Viol, as one might expect, but from Bodleian Library Music Shcool manuscript C.77a-b. These are challenging pieces for the best of players, and they are beautifully composed as well. The score does have impossible page turns for a performer, but the separate parts fold out so as to avoid these. Advanced players will welcome these virtuosic divisions.

The Anonymous Fantasias for three viols (from British Library, ADD MSS 34800 A-C), once more, have not been published previously. They are unusual in that they are for two treble viols and a tenor. They probably date from the early 17th century, are of intermediate difficulty, and are fun to play.

All of these publications are very nicely done. The printing is clear and easy to read, the quality of the paper is excellent, page turns within any single piece have been avoided, and each selection comes in an attractive storage folder with the Saraband logo. I enjoyed Patrice's short, erudite and to-the-point notes included with each volume. They provide excellent backgrounds for each piece. Advertising, on the back covers, suggests that more editions are to come from this source, and I eagerly look forward to these.

SM8: Handel
Reviewed by Ed Kemp-Luck in the Organ Club Journal, May 1997

The Overture is in three movements: a 'French'-style Largo with an Allegro fugue, an Adagio, and finally a Giga. It is presented in a 'clean' format - clear printing without fingerings or pedallings, and the Adagio usefully is printed twice, firstly the basic unornamented version and then the written-out version based upon John Walsh's 1750 harpsichord arrangement. The Giga may be played as a trio, which works very well. A single bare octave chord reminds us that this would of course have had continuo 'filling' originally. Nimble feet are reuiqred, and this will be a useful addition to concert or wedding repertoire.

The Concerto Grosso movement is for manual only, and is intended also to be performed on harpsichord. It is an exciting and arresting movement, also good for concerts and weddings! There is an ossia version of one passage to enable it to be played on instruments which only go up to d''', and an ossia version of a tricky passage avoids parallel 6ths and 3rds. I've already used this movement for a closing voluntary - it needs a little preparation to secure the semiquaver passagework but is well worth the effort.

SM6-7, 10 [Hume, Duets, 4 viols]
Reviewed by Clifford Bartlett in Early Music Review, June 1997, p. 4

...a third volume of Duets for Tenor Viols (SM7) of French repertoire by Boismortier, Hugard, Morel and Philidor, arrangements useful for extending the range of repertoire that tenors can play. For the solitary bass-player ... she has taken the 35 pieces for solo bass viol from Tobias Hume's Musicall Humors (1605). This is a useful collection in that the range of difficulty is very wide. It think that even I could play My Mistresse Almaine, yet Captaine Humes Galliard has tricky scales and leaps. Chords are mostly only in evidence to give finality and panache to the last notes of sections, and can of course be played with some leisure. (SM6)

Four for 4 viols contains four satisfying arrangement for TrTrTB viols (SM10). Viol players pay too little attention to vocal music, perhaps because so little is easily available in congenial format, so I hope this achieves wide circulation. There are two Byrd motets, Ave verum corpus and Ego sum panis vivus from the Gradualia and Merulo's contribution to L'amorosa ero (1588). More complex is the transcription of Sweelinck's keyboard variations on Mein junges Leben hat ein End', which includes variations 1, 2 & 6 along with another assembled from parts of the remaining less amenable variations. This demands rather more skilful playing, and I foresee trouble with the hocketing semi-quavers. I have often berated instrumental arrangers of vocal music for omitting the text. This edition goes part of the way, with the words underlaid just to one part, though not far enough.

SM7, 21 [Duets vol. 3, Marenzio]
Reviewed by Gordon Sandford in VdGSA News, December 1999, p. 11

Duets for Tenor Viols is a collection of twelve pieces from the French baroque. The music has been transcribed (up a fourth) from bass viol literature with the idea of giving tenor players a satisfactory opportunity to enjoy this repertoire. Connelly indicates in her notes that the second part could, in the absence of a second tenor player, be performed on bass viol.In a brief preface Connelly explains her purpose and editorial policy in transcribing and editing the edition, and each of the pieces is given a paragraph of background information.

Obviously, in a small collection such as this, one cannot expect a broad survey of the repertoire, but we are given a representative cross section of interesting dances - a big jump from the English repertoire of Volumes 1 and 2.

Connelly assumes some background in the performance of French baroque music. While her notes do refer to the trill or mordant, it would be useful to comment on other matters of French baroque style, especially egales/inegales suggestions, simultaneous duple/triple rhythms, and bowing idioms not encountered in the usual English consort pieces.

Luca Marenzio's madrigals adapt to viols very nicely. The ranges are modest, as one might expect in music which is fundamentally vocal. The parts are very independent (though not complex) in rhythms, and the music changes mood frequently to reflect the words of the madrigals. Connelly conveniently includes the Italian words in the instrumental parts, suggesting that the players "can [thus] convey the expressive qualities of the word painting" employed by Marenzio. She does supply English translations in her preface which the players could pencil into their parts. The second treble viol lies quite low, and I would prefer it played on the tenor viol - admittedly a small matter. As Connelly points out, the music can be performed by any combination of voices and/or instruments. Madrigal singers should be delighted to find this publication. A preface supplies basic information about Marenzio and his music.

Connelly's editions are very attractively presented with a now recognizable green and white cover. They are very clear to the eye and contain no page turns to bother performers. Notes are of good size, measures are carefully numbered, and notes are easy to read.

SM14 [Marais]
Reviewed by Harold Fabrikant in the Sydney Organ Journal, Spring 1997

These three transcriptions come from the viola da gamba pieces of a highly celebrated French writer; one is dated 1700 and the other two are dated 1717. The middle piece, a Tombeau in homage to the teacher of Marais, is presented as a tierce en taille; it is the longest and most substantial in this group. On either side of it are brisk, carefree writings, suitably prescribed for basse de trompette and recit de cornet respectively.

Marais composes in the style of his time but these pieces are by no means stereotypes. Harmonically they surprise us at times by their daring progressions and they are strong rhythmically. This reviewer is ignorant of them in their original form and therefore unable to make comparisons but finds them of interest in their own right, surely a test of any successful transcription.

As with the Handel adaptations reviewed earlier (SM8), the text is beautifully printed and some excellent introductory notes are provided.

SM15-16 [White, Tenor viol book]
Reviewed by Clifford Bartlett in Early Music Review, March 1998, p. 4

William White's 2 "Diapente Fantasias (SM16) are among the few viol consorts to have been published by a big publisher: Peters issued an edition by Gordon Dodd in 1973, but it is now out of print. The title comes from the five-note cantus firmus (ascending in the first piece, descending in the second, which seems to be a sequel written after the first had become popular); a more logocal title might have been pentachord. This is satisfying music to play; scoring TrTrTTB with optional organ.

The Tenor Viol Book (SM15) will help players extend their technique with solo music for the bass transposed for the tenor. It begins with exercises and divisions by Christopher Simpson and continues with music by Ortiz, Hume, De Machy, D'Hervelois, Young and Bach (BWV1027). The last item presents problems for the harpsichord ... since the matter of the high tessitura is not addressed; even if your instrument has a very top F, it isn't likely to sound good.

You will need to work out your own octave adjustments. That apart, this anthology is a good idea and should help tenor violists develop beyond fantasy parts. It is also suggested that children might prepare for the bass by playing its repertoire on the smaller tenor.

[Editor's note: the issue of the harpsichord transposition is canvassed in the introduction to the Tenor Viol Book; it was decided not to alter the original, but to allow each harpsichordist to make their own adjustments to fit their own instrument.]

SM21-22 [Marenzio, Bevin]
Reviewed by Clifford Bartlett in Early Music Review, October 1998, p. 4

Elway Bevin's Browning probably exists in a variety of recorder editions and appeared in the frustrating big and note-reduced anthology of viol music, Musica Britannica 9. Originally notated in C2, C4 and F4 clefs, Patrice has put the score in TrAB and supplied parts also for a version transposed down a minor third for three bass viols; there is also an untransposed top part in alto clef.

I can well believe her comment that it works surprisingly well on three basses (SM22). Marenzio is far too infrequently performed, so a pair of four-voice madrigals Vezzosi augelli and L'amorosa ero are welcome (SM21). Patrice drew my attention to the fact that she had heeded my previous criticism and she includes full text so that vocal pieces which she is publishing primarily for viols can also be sung (and she agrees that the viols need the words to understand the music anyway).

SM24-26, 28 [A. Scarlatti Toccata, Withy, Strozzi, A. Scarlatti Cantata]
Reviewed by Greg Dikmans in Recorder and Early Music, no. 22, 1988, p. 20, [complete review quoted]

Saraband Music continues to add to its catalogue of well presented and easy to work from editions and arrangements of early music prepared by Australian musicians and musicologists. The list of publications (as at October 1998) comprises 28 editions, including works in various scorings for viols, recorders, keyboard, flute, violin and ensemble. All publications are reasonably priced and the catalogue is well worth perusing.

Rosalind Halton, harpsichordist and authority on the works of Alessandro Scarlatti, has prepared two editions of works by that composer. The first is a charming cantata con flauto comprising two arias each preceded by a recitative. In her introduction, Halton states that the subject of the cantata 'is the River Tiber, repository of the lover's weeping since he lacks the courage to tell his Clori - "alas, mine no longer" - how much he loves her. The first aria depicts the silvery waters and murmuring of the river, while the second aria sees the lover resolve to overcome his inhibitions and to let his heart speak, now eloquent in the language of sighing.' For those keyboard players not experienced in reading from a figured bass, the realisation of the continuo has been very well handled, providing a 'version ... that fits both the music and the player's hands' and that is idiomatic to the style of harpsichord accompaniment in Italy at the time. The introduction also includes some useful advice on accompanying recitatives and a translation of the text. This publication is everything I would hope for in a good modern performing edition. The Toccata da Cimbalo, a work not previously included in a list of Toccatas by Alessandro Scarlatti, has been attributed to him by Halton based on evidence that she outlines in her introduction. This appears to be a work of moderate difficulty and I am sure keyboard players of all standards will welcome this addition to their repertoire.

Francis Withy was a less well-known musician working in England in the 17th century and who the editor Patrice Connelly considers 'worthy of greater attention.' This edition of divisions for solo viol comprises three sets for bass viol, one for violin or treble viol plus two fragments. In her introduction, Connelly states that '[t]hese works fall squarely into the English division school. Simpson's influence is obvious ... Jenkins too, with his more chordal approach, was an obvious influence, as was lyra viol music.' The three sets for bass viol are extended works (192, 208 and 108 bars respectively) that exploit the full range and capabilities of that instrument. The set for violin or treble viol are less demanding and could also be played on a soprano recorder in c' or a "Ganassi" in g'.

Benjamin Thorn continues to extend the recorder's repertoire with arrangements of works from 17th-century Italy. He has prepared another edition of vocal music by Barbara Strozzi arranged for treble recorder and continuo, this time from her Ariette a voce sola opus 6 (Venice: Magni 1657). (For more information about this composer and Thorn's earlier edition see my review in the previous issue of this journal: REM 21 (1997/98) 26-27.) The three arrangements in this edition are of moderate difficulty and are in the style of the mid-17th century Italian sonata.

Michel Corrette and the Organ (1707-1795)
reviewed by David Rumsey, published in the Sydney Organ Journal, Autumn 1999 (this is the complete unedited review)

[To go to the Corrette page, click here]

In a most laudable enterprise, Sydney's Saraband Press has just released an English translation of Yves Jaffrè's splendid monologue, "Michel Corrette et L'Orgue (1707-1795)" under the title of "Michel Corrette and the Organ (1707-1795)" The original French publication, which appeared in "L'ORGUE Cahiers et Mémoires", has been translated and spruced up in book form which might be worthy of a stronger appellation than "monologue" (Grand Plein Monologue, perhaps?). It was published late in 1998 in Sydney, and is a significant international production: written in France, translated in Australia, typeset by Patrice Connelly, and printed at the University of Sydney.

In Saraband's own words: "The book is a strong, perfect bound, A4 format with gloss covers. Black & white illustrations, musical examples, discography, bibliography, index of names. It covers Corrette's biography, the social context of the times, the organs he performed on, a full catalogue of his organ works, plus analyses". And, one might add, a lot of most useful peripheral information not easily available anywhere else in the French language, let alone English.

The translation is by Sydney organist and franco-latin linguist, Pastór de Lasala, who has the ample credentials, in both language and specialist musical arenas, essential to this task (if only all translations knew such pedigree!). Not having had recent access to the original French edition it is hard to comment on just how well de Lasala and Saraband have emulated - or even, as I suspect, possibly sometimes improved on - the original.

So far as Saraband's editing and presentation is concerned it shapes up very well, without being lavish. Perhaps it could, from a mere appearance aspect, have erred a little more on the side of lavishness than it does, although for the price ($40) it is very reasonable indeed (from $40 you won't get even much change at an airport for a throw-away paper-back these days). It presents itself very much as the monologue it is - more a sober thesis than a glossy coffee-table novel - but, notwithstanding this, it is exciting to read in its own way. And that is entirely appropriate to its objectives of encouraging fine performances of this music through the both academic quality and freshness of its content. The illustrations are a very minor gripe - but, from much bitter personal experience at trying to scan 18th Century woodcuts and engravings into modern computers myself, I know, all too well, the seemingly insurmountable problems faced here. Undoubtedly the best has been done in working with these two peculiarly unsympathetic (to each other) media and the end results in this instance are mostly satisfactory.

The translation, too, appears almost unblemished - a few minor typos are a pity, but most won't worry anybody unduly. And I wonder whether either French or English spell-checkers would not both have come up with a "t" for the reversed "ps" in Crepsin (instead of Crespin) Carlier. A reference to Buxtehude's "Lobt Gott, ihr Christen, alle gleich" is probably really "Lob Gott, ihr Christen allzugleich". But, if a reviewer earns his supper from nit-picking in such ways as the above, then this publication would cause a near-starvation worthy of locusts and wild honey. With the exception of one sentence they are few and trivial. (That most serious question is, on page 54: should the text read that the nuns' technical standard left "something" rather than "nothing" to be desired?).

For the rest, this publication is a superb and important addition to the English-language library of vitally important publications on French organ music and its traditions. Indeed it is a gleaming international feather in Sydney's organistic and musicological cap, thanks to Saraband, and probably a significant world-first for them. Not only is it a "must" for your bookshelves, but, after reading it through, it creates a strong urge to own the collected published works of Corrette and a few extra CD's as well - and Saraband or some record shops might take note of that and check their stock.

Indeed, we could go further, and say that this book, once read, craves a great need for performing this marvellous music of the French Golden Age - organ, harpsichord, instrumental and vocal music for that matter. Yet, in spite of all the expenditure of large sums of money on organs in Australia recently, particularly in Sydney, we must agonise that not one instrument yet exists here that can do real justice to this most important keystone French School of organ repertoire. Our publication houses have thus outstripped our organists, organ consultants and organ resources in this instance. Our balance of internationalism and parochialism might need some serious attention here.

"Michel Corrette and the Organ (1707-1795)" is a most highly recommended acquisition whether you are organist, keyboard teacher, musicologist, music lover or collector of Australian trophies.