The renaissance violins of Ensemble Braccio made a distinctive impression at the Polifonia Italiana festival in Antwerp alongside the viols which predominated. Strung with high tension sheep gut, they are different from baroque, classical or modern violins. The light bows are curved outward and strung with black horse hair, which gives the music incisive attacks and lush sustains. The original name viola da braccio (viol of the arm) tells us that the treble instruments were played on the "breast position", resting on the biceps of the relaxed arm, giving the instrument a full and resonant tone, as well as the possibility for the split-second articulation necessary for ornaments. The bass instrument is played standing, which gives the player the same energy of movement as his colleagues. All of the music on this attractive CD is reflective of the 16th and early 17th-century violin band repertory which upset the governors of San Rocco in Venice, who found it "more lascivious than devotional"!
The music is all attractive and makes for undemanding listening. The CD is well recorded (Renswoude NL, 2003) and presented with useful photos of the instruments. For fullest information go to Ensemble Braccio's website. Purchase and hear sound samples at http://www.ensbraccio.com/fortinbras/fort3.html.
Copyright © 2004, Peter Grahame Woolf