Concert in London – “Lessons for Lyra Viol” – Liam Byrne (viola de gamba)
At around the same time, John Dowland was writing his famously beautiful music for solo lute. His contemporary Alfonso Ferrabosco the Younger composed a collection of equally gorgeous, subtle, and elegant pieces for solo viola. Heard all too rarely today, the repertoire is highly complex, chordal and contrapuntal, with Ferrabosco asking the player to tune his instrument in various non-standard ways to achieve unique resonances. As a result, we often describe the viol as a bowed lute, particularly in this writing style, called playing lyra way or playing the lyra viol, where this close relationship between the lute and viol is most apparent.
The Lyra viol’s bow is light and flexible, and it does something halfway between plucking and singing, like filling in the ink drawing of lute playing with strokes of delicate watercolour. In this program, Liam Byrne intersperses selections from Ferrabosco’s 1609 collection of lyra viol lessons with some anonymous gems from unpublished manuscript sources, as well as works by William Lawes, Daniel Farrant, and others.
The lyra viol is the ultimate unaccompanied repertoire for the viol. Introspective, intimate, and delicate, it flourished in Britain throughout the 17th century. One of its more well-known proponents was the diarist Samuel Pepys, who often writes of playing alone on his lyra viol before bed.