D'Amore

Garth Knox, Agnès Vesterman

Celebrated as one of the most outstanding contemporary violists through his association with the Ensemble InterContemporain and the Arditti Quartet Music and his work as a soloist, Garth Knox turns his attention to the viola d’amore for the first ECM disc issued under his name. In Knox’s hands this almost-forgotten baroque instrument takes on a new life as he applies it to music from 1600 to the present day. Repertoire includes music by Tobias Hume and Marin Marais from the 17th century, by Attilio Ariosti from the 18th century, by Klaus Huber and Roland Moser from the 20th, and by Knox himself from the 21st. Garth also offers arrangements of folk music from Celtic sources that connects to his own Irish/Scottish heritage. A wonderful programme superbly played by Knox and French cellist Agnès Vesterman.

Featured Artists Recorded

September 2006, Propstei St. Gerold

  • 1Malor me bat (for viola d'amore and violoncello)
    (Garth Knox)
    09:16
  • 2Les Folies d'Espagne
    (Marin Marais)
    10:35
  • Manners of Speaking
    (Roland Moser)
  • 3Poem03:49
  • 4Anecdote02:45
  • 5A Pavin
    (Tobias Hume)
    06:45
  • Prima Lezione
    (Attilio Ariosti)
  • 6Allegro04:16
  • 7Largo04:12
  • 8Andante02:09
  • 9Celtic Dance
    (Traditional)
    01:36
  • 10I Once Loved a Lass - Jig
    (Traditional, Traditional)
    02:35
  • 11...Plainte... (for viola d'amore)
    (Klaus Huber)
    05:15
Gramophone, Disc of the month
 
This is 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. … Knox’s transcriptions of Marais and Hume, not to mention of traditional melodies 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. … The stunning sound of this remarkable CD will disappoint nobody.
Ivan Moody, Gramophone
 
Garth Knox, an Irish-born, Scottish-raised string player, ends this CD with Celtic jigs and airs, the 14 viola d’amore strings dancing over a cello bass line from Agnès Vesterman, knuckles knocking soundboards for a beat. Elsewhere, baroque and modern pieces intermingle, Marin Marais and Tobias Hume striking their own resonances off spikier modern composers.
David Honigmann, Financial Times
 
Als überragender Virtuose vermag Garth Knox einen Klang zu entfesseln, den man von der Viola d’Amore bislang noch kaum vernommen hat, einen Klang dem Agnès Vesterman ungemein homogen und anschmiegsam Tiefe und gewissermaßen Perspektive gibt. Und aus diesem Klang heraus werden die Werke eindringlich und intensiv gestaltet. …
Selten kann einmal auf solch (be)zwingende Weise erlebt werden, wie aus Tönen, Spielweisen oder Klängen sinnvoll artikulierte Musik, wie eine klingend geformte und reich gegliederte Gestalt mit identifizierbaren Konturen und Umrissen entsteht. Die einzelnen Werke gruppieren sich zu einem Gesamtprogramm, das hier tatsächlich mehr bietet als lediglich die Summe seiner Teile.
Giselher Schubert, Fono Forum
 
Mit seiner technischen Makellosigkeit kann er allein in den berühmten “Folies d’Espagne”-Variationen des französischen Gambenkönigs Marin Marais jeden Stimmungswechsel von kantabler Versunkenheit bis zur furiosen Attacke mitgehen. Und in der dreisätzigen Sonate „Primo Lezione“ des Viola d’amore-Piniers Attilio Ariosti wechseln sich Stolz und Eleganz miteinander ab, leuchtet es selbst im gefährlichen Diskantbereich lupenrein. Der Facettenreichtum der Viola d’amore verblüfft hier wie in dem gesamten Programm, das gleich sieben Jahrhunderte Musikgeschichte absteckt.
… Die Neue Musik scheint demnach die Viola d’amore wiederentdeckt zu haben. Ihre eigentliche Renaissance dürfte aber nun Garth Knox auf breiter Front ausgelöst haben.
Guido Fischer, Rondo
 
Knox erweckt die unvergleichlichen Klänge der Viola d’amore, jener mit mitschwingenden Saiten versehenen Cousine der Bratsche, in Musik von der Renaissance bis zum 21. Jahrhundert zu verführerischem Leben. Sämtliche Werke sind dem Instrument auf den Leib geschrieben bzw. bearbeitet worden, um alles auszukosten, was es kann.
Carlos Maria Solare, Partituren
 
In seinen assoziativen Sprüngen durch Zeiten und Stile zeichnet das Album das einzigartige Porträt eines einzigartigen Instruments. Ausgangspunkt dabei ist die Klangerfahrung einer neuen Musik, die so wie neu geerdet erscheint. Von Klaus Hubers „Hommage an Luigi Nono“, darin die Resonanzsaiten in Mikrointervallen gestimmt werden, die die einzelnen Klänge gleichsam verbiegen, zieht sich, unhistorisch, aber doch evident, eine Gedankenverbindung zu den Klangmeditationen einer Pavane des Renaissance-Komponisten Tobias Hume. Und „Les Folies d’Espagne“ des Gambenvirtuosen Marin Marais werden reflektiert im ekstatischen rhythmischen Schwung keltischer Folklore, die Knox ebenfalls mit jener Mischung aus Empfindsamkeit und kühler Präzision spielt, die jeden Kitschverdacht von vornherein ausschließt.
Martin Wilkening, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
 
 
When Garth Knox – one of the most versatile and adventurous viola virtuosos of our time – makes his solo debut on ECM with an entire programme played on the viola d’amore, it is obviously in a spirit of discovery and experiment rather than of historical reconstruction, even though historically informed performances play an essential role. Fascinated by the outstanding technical, sonic and expressive possibilities of the instrument (for example when scordatura is used i.e. different kinds of tunings for the seven strings), the former violist of the Arditti Quartet has experimented widely and quite naturally incorporated early, traditional and contemporary pieces in this programme. While Swiss composer Klaus Huber’s “…Plainte …” is based on Turkish scales, Huber’s fellow countryman Roland Moser explores different “Manners of Speaking”, whereas Knox himself combines a quite faithful arrangement of Ockeghem’s “Malor me bat” with free improvisation.

His juxtapositions of old and new and of “popular” and more abstract music develop into a poetic journey through time and space, that – in spite of an ever-present underlying melancholy – leaves plenty of space for humour, playfulness and sheer virtuosity. As a bass imposes itself for reasons of harmony and balance, Knox wrote additional cello parts for all the pieces he arranged himself. They are played here by French cellist Agnès Vesterman. The extraordinary sound of the duo is captured in the generous acoustics of the Austrian monastery St. Gerold, one of ECM-producer Manfred Eicher’s favourite recording locations, especially for early and baroque chamber music.

In his performer’s note to the present recording Knox tells the story of his first encounters with this soft and discreet instrument that has always been confined to the small chamber due to its softness and already by 1800 had become some kind of curiosity – considered an anachronism in the age of dawning industrialisation. Some afternoons spent in a studio in Italy kick-started a coup de foudre-love affair: “I was quickly seduced by the gentle sweet sound of the seven playing strings (so rich in harmonics) and intrigued by the mysterious presence of the seven sympathetic strings that add an intimate resonance that happens on the playing strings”, writes Knox. He once described these resonating strings as a “kind of memory” for the instrument: “Everything that is played on the normal strings leaves acoustic traces in the sympathetic strings – not a straight echo, but a kind of harmonically encoded souvenir”.

While in the 18th century this effect was perceptible only in very small rooms, Garth Knox has developed an electronic way of amplifying only the sympathetic strings with the regular strings left with their original sound. This effect is employed in his musical-theatre project “Jeux de Mémoires”, directed by Emmanuèle Stochl that, by building an entire system of references, resonances and memories, carries Knox’s obsession with the Viola d’amore to even higher symbolic and metaphorical levels…