Simpson: 20 Ayres for two trebles and two basses; Four Divisions

Reviewed on Thu 03 Sep, 2015

Viol consort Chelys perform on facsimiles of 17th-century instruments strung with unwound (plain) gut strings which produce a warm, even tone. BIS's lovely, spacious SACD recording is the best way to appreciate this music’s subtle charms.

Christopher Simpson (c1605-69) remains best known – to those in the know at least – as the author of a treatise called “The Division Viol”, published in 1659 and still in use to today by exponents of these antique instruments. His “Twenty Ayres for Two Trebles and Two Basses” has recently been edited by Alex Parker and is the edition used for this recording. Following Simpson’s own guidance, the “strains” or refrains for each Ayre are first stated then embellished with a selection of ornamental “Graces” intended to evoke different moods. Viol consort Chelys perform on facsimiles of 17th-century instruments strung with unwound (plain) gut strings which produce a warm, even tone. Sonorous diversity is achieved by alternating the continuo accompaniment between theorbo and baroque guitar (both played by James Akers), and Dan Tidhar’s organ or harpsichord. The lovely, spacious SACD recording is the best way to appreciate this music’s subtle charms.
–Mark Walker