Former viola player of the famous Arditti Quartet, Irish-Scot Garth Knox makes his solo debut on ECM – on the wonderfully resonant baroque instrument, the viola d’amore. A huge emotional and atmospheric spectrum is shown in entertaining repertoire from Tobias Hume (early 17th century) and Marin Marais to commissioned contemporary compositions, plus Celtic folk music and a gripping piece by Knox himself, based on Ockeghem’s Malor me bat.
8th June 2008
“Garth Knox, more usually renowned as a viola player, gives an enticingly mixed programme of music for his instrument’s sweet-voiced cousin, the viola d’amore, with and without Agnès Vesterman’s expressive cello. He opens with his own duo, Malor me bat (2004), a colourful fantasy based on a 15th-century song. Two contemporary Swiss pieces for viola d’amore alone explore unusual tunings of its seven bowed and seven resonating strings. Roland Moser’s Manners of Speaking (2006) is full of harmonics and other colouristic effects, while Klaus Huber’s ... Plainte... (1990), for Luigi Nono, is all isolated but intense gesture. Tobias Hume’s A Pavin (1605) weaves a melancholic spell, Attilio Ariosti’s Prima Lezione (1720) has rococo elegance and Knox’s version of Marin Marais’s Les Folies d’Espagne is exhilaratingly climactic.”
“Quite simply one of the most outstandingly magical discs I have heard. From the very first notes one is totally captivated by the fantastic richness of the sound produced by the combination of the viola d'amore and the cello.”
“This is quite simply an outstandingly magical disc. From the very first notes one is totally captivated by the fantastic richness of the sound produced by the combination of the viola d'amore and the cello. The viola's sound is precisely described by Paul Griffiths in his notes when he writes of a 'rainbow resonance' – the phrase describes the shimmering harmonic aura created around the music by the freely resonating sympathetic strings. And it traverses, as this recording amply demonstrates, time as well as acoustical space: Knox's transcriptions of Marais and Hume, not to mention of traditional melodies ('Celtic Dance/I once loved a lass/Jig') work marvellously, making the two instruments merge into some kind of enormously expanded viola da gamba. The contemporary works, with the exception of Knox's own inevitably idiomatic fantasy on 'Malor me bat', might seem initially to work against this resonant universe built on the harmonic series, but in fact they are all carefully written with the instrument's possibilities in mind. Klaus Huber's …Plainte… is dedicated to Luigi Nono, and it transfers something of the Italian's fragmented late sound world very successfully to solo viola d'amore, making use in the process of special tunings (three strings are tuned in third-tones). The stunning sound of this remarkable CD will disappoint nobody.”
Click on any of the works listed above for alternative recordings.