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  • Performer: Garth Knox, Agnes Westerman, Sylvain Lemetre
  • Composer: Henry Purcell, Antonio Vivaldi, Garth Knox, Kaija Saariaho, John Dowland
  • Audio CD (19 Mar. 2012)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: ECM New Series
  • ASIN: B0075SEAHE
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 211,119 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
  • Sample this album Artist - Artist (Sample)
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Garth Knox is one of the most versatile and audacious string players today, a member of the famous Arditti Quartet for eight years and a virtuoso viola soloist, he is now a leading exponent of the viola d'amore (the rare instrument from the Baroque era with seven playing and another seven resonating strings that allow for a particularly full and warm sound). On Saltarello he plays both instruments, as well as the fiddle, in an astonishing range of music spanning 1000 years.

From opposite ends of this timescale are Hildegard of Bingen's Ave, generosa, a song of praise to the Virgin Mary, and Vent Nocturne, pieces for viola and electronics written for Knox by Kaija Saariaho. The adventurous programme also brings in Guillaume de Machaut, John Dowland and Purcell, a concerto for viola d'amore by Vivaldi, and a new work for solo viola by Garth himself, plus his captivating arrangements of 14th century dances and traditional Celtic tunes (he was born in Ireland and raised in Scotland). Sounds and feelings resonate across the centuries...

Knox comments: "Each of my instruments - medieval fiddle, viola d'amore and viola - brings its own perspective and sound world to the chosen pieces, and is complemented by its corresponding partner (fiddle/percussion, viola d'amore/cello and viola/electronics). The aim was to 'bring back' the pieces to the present day and to explore them here and now without destroying their inherent qualities."

He is joined for different pieces by percussionist Sylvain Lemêtre or French cellist Agnès Vesterman. She also contributed to his previous "hypnotic" recital for ECM, D'Amore, named as Gramophone's 'Disc of the Month' in September, 2008.

"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...Stunning" - Gramophone

Personnel: Garth Knox (fiddle, viola, viola d'amore), Agnès Vesterman (cello), Sylvain Lemêtre (percussion)

From the Artist

Garth Knox: "Each of my instruments - medieval fiddle, viola d'amore and viola - brings its own perspective and sound world to the chosen pieces, and is complemented by its corresponding partner (fiddle/percussion, viola d'amore/cello and viola/electronics). The aim was to 'bring back' the pieces to the present day and to explore them here and now without destroying their inherent qualities."

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This is (I think) Garth Knox's second work for ECM, though I was not familiar with his name until now. He plays the viola, viola d'amore (seven strings), and a medieval fiddle, occasionally accompanied by violoncello (Agnès Vesterman) and percussion (Sylvain Lemêtre). The album comprises Knox's interpretations of compositions that are mostly Baroque and Renaissance in style, though his sources range in period from the 12th century to contemporary and are not strictly confined to classical.

The album begins very nicely with Black Brittany. Despite being an reworking of an Irish folk waltz called Leaving Brittany, it fits perfectly here alongside the 17th century classical works that follow it. They include Purcell's Music for a While, and then there is Vivaldi's Concerto rv.393 (not the parts of three different concerti listed below) for Viola d'Amore, which is quite beautiful and prompted me to seek out more of Vivaldi. Anyone with the same interest should look for albums of the late concerti.

After that, there is a marked change in style and mood, starting with an original composition called Fuga Libre. It is dramatic and a little discordant, played with a lot of emotion and rising to a crescendo, as if Knox is expressing a mixture of anger and sadness. Then he blends the work of two composers (Hildegard von Bingen and Machaut) two centuries apart in Ave, Generosa. It is plaintive and quite haunting, even as Sylvain Lemêtre's percussion joins in at the halfway point.

As I looked at the track list, I wondered why the two parts of Vent Nocturne (a modern composition by Kaija Saariaho of Finland) were separated by a work that is around five hundred years older. In fact, it works well.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x98252084) out of 5 stars 5 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x998e0eb8) out of 5 stars Folk Music, the Brother of Art Music 9 Aug. 2012
By Grady Harp - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This is a fascinating recording by a provocative artist, Garth Knox. A bit of his history: `Garth Knox, (born October 8, 1956 in Dublin, Ireland) is a violist specialized in contemporary classical music, and new music. He was the youngest of four siblings, and although he was born in Ireland, he was raised in Scotland, to a family who all played a variety of musical instruments. The youngest of four children who all played stringed instruments, Knox chose to study the viola as his primary instrument. After studies at the Royal College of Music in London with Frederic Riddle, he became a member of Pierre Boulez's Ensemble InterContemporain in Paris (1983-1990) then joined the Arditti Quartet in London (1990-1997). He has given first performances by and worked with most of the leading composers. (György Ligeti, Iannis Xenakis, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Boulez, György Kurtág, Salvatore Sciarrino, Hans Werner Henze etc.) Now soloist on viola and viola d'amore, he lives in Paris.'

Given that solid background, on this CD titled SALTORELLA (a 14th-century fast Italian dance in ¾ time that survives today as a folk dance) Knox not only demonstrates his dexterity in contemporary music but also reflects on the history of music, beginning teeth the 12th century to the present. For this fascinating selection of works Knox plays the viola, the medieval fiddle (known to all of us as the instrument often included in the paintings of the old masters as the instrument of choice for Renaissance painters) and the strangely haunting viola d'amore. `They usually have five strings, and their bridge is flat and you can play all the strings all the time, which is the idea. It's a very beautiful instrument, and it has a very earthy sound.'

Knox opens the works on this recording using this instrument for `Black Britanny' (an arrangement of an old Irish song) and for the Vivaldi Concerto for viola d'amore in d-minor. Aside for his own works for solo viola, Knox is joined by cellist Agnès Vesterman and percussionist Sylvain Lemêtre for works ranging from Hildegard von Bingen's `Ave, generosa', Guillaume de Machaut's `Complainte `Tels rit au main qui au soir pleure', Henry Purcell's `Music for a While' to exquisite Renaissance sounds of John Dowland, juxtaposing these against pieces by Kaija Saariaho (Vent nocturne: I. Sombres miroirs (Dark Mirrors) and II. Soupirs de l'obscur (Breaths of the Obscure) that make subtle use of electronics, and ties these to the similarities found in sets of arrangements of traditional melodies and anonymous dance movements. It all works very well. This is an intellectual adventure as well as a survey of very beautiful music. Grady Harp, August 12
HASH(0x998e0f0c) out of 5 stars Five Stars 5 April 2016
By vinz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
4 of 13 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x998b6c18) out of 5 stars A Little too much discordant music! 17 Feb. 2013
By Oregon birddog - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Bought this album thinking that it would be great to listen to the progression of Italian music over its greatest and most influential 200 year period, beginning from the 12th through the 14th Century. It seems Knox however decided to emphasize his virtuosity over bringing to the listener a true representation of the progression of this wonderful period of music. His technique assuridly cannot be questioned, however the modern discordancy he brings to many of the pieces is truly annoying and to my ears does the composers no favors. I note that Knox is known for playing the more contemporary music of the 20th Century and only wish that he would have given the masters of the earlier music their due on this recording as well.

birddog (no, not a musician but a discerning listener)
0 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9ae83fcc) out of 5 stars Three Stars 10 Aug. 2014
By Leslie Shields - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
1 of 14 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9834c954) out of 5 stars not what I expected 12 Jun. 2013
By Sarah Haman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I heard this album on NPR - or a piece of it. I was not expecting the album to be like it actually was.
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