Marissen arranges the book in three chapters preceded by a shortish introduction and followed by appendices containing observations on early copies of the Sixth Brandenburg Concerto and Bach's notation of the bass viol
parts in the dedication score of the same concerto.
The four sets of pieces divide roughly into three groups: the partitas for two viols and continuo that require intermediate skills; the sonatas for two viols and the partitas for solo bass viol with optional continuo that range from intermediate to advanced difficulty; and the four sonatas with continuo, by far the most advanced works in the set, that make extraordinary demands on the performer.
For the faster sections, Buxtehude uses variations on a ground bass, fugues, and occasional dance-forms such as the gigue and aria, generating variety with solo sections for the violin and bass viol in several of the sonatas.
Suites for Two Treble Viols (or Violins), Bass Viol, and Organ.
Lawes followed the same pattern, as did Hingeston for his suites for two violins, bass viol, and organ (edited by Charteris), and two of the suites for five viols (edited by Dornenburg).
Only on two brief occasions do the editors offer any discussion of the musical style of all this music: in his introduction to the fantasia-suites for three viols, Dornenburg compares Hingeston's trios "favorably in number, style, and musical quality" to the Fantasia of Three Parts by his teacher Gibbons; and in both introductions to his editions, Charteris finds the style suggesting that the suites for two treble viols or violins were composed during the Commonwealth period, probably written for Oliver Cromwell and performed by violinists Mell and Hudson together with organist Hingeston and one of Cromwell's bass viol players.
Lefkowitz was also the first to recognize that most of the pieces exist in two different scorings: a so-called fold version' for two trebles, tenor viol, bass viol and thorough bass, and a `new version' whose instrumentation is made explicit by Lawes in his autograph score-book--`Two Violins, 2 Base Violls and 2 Theorboes'.
Fortunately we do not have to rely on Lowe's `parchment bookes' as a main source for either version of the suites they contained, for soon after his note was written the two partbooks to which he refers containing his tenor part for the `old' version as well as both bass viol parts for the `new' version--were given up for lost
Unlike Monteverdi (who specifies violins, harps and cornetts) and Gluck (harp), he entrusts the accompaniment to obbligato (bass) viols, which are at times required to double-stop, while a third bass viol and harpsichord provide continuo support.
Agnew is, moreover, superbly supported by the three bass viol players Philippe Pierlot, Anne-Marie Lasla and Kaori Uemura: no viol player--and certainly no Charpentier lover--should be without this recording.
tenor) part of this version lies low and is sometimes crudely written (in places one would be more than happy not to hear too much of it) and looks suspiciously like a botched reduction of the elegant tenor-register passages from the two bass viol
parts of the `new' version.
Both parts can be played on either a tenor or a bass viol, so that no practical issue is involved.
Sir Henry himself is playing bass viol at position V.