LOCKE The Broken Consort. Suites from Tripla concordia
Peter Holman writes perceptively in the booklet about the trajectory of Matthew Locke’s career from Exeter choirboy to musician at the court of Charles I, exile on the Continent and later to the wilds of Herefordshire, before finding himself reinstated as a composer at court in 1660. According to Holman, ‘the First Part of the Broken Consort, for two violins and bass viol, was written in 1661 for a group of the same name that had played contrapuntal music within the pre-war Private Music’ and cast in six groups of four movements unified by a common key – a Fantazie followed by three dances (Courante, Ayre and Saraband).
The Second Part is thought to have been composed a little later, is more loosely conceived (Pavans instead of Fantazies and a varied selection of dances to follow) and may have been left unfinished, lacking, as it does, a final suite to make a set of six. Holman believes that Locke abandoned the project when the first were not well received at court, being thought old-fashioned; and, indeed, the Broken Consort itself was dissolved in 1662 and replaced by the Twenty-Four Violins, who provided the king with dance music in the French style. Locke’s Tripla Concordia (1677) for the same combination of instruments was, perhaps, a belated riposte. The two suites included on this CD begin with Pavans that mimic French overtures and follow with fashionable dances of the day such as the Hornpipe in the G major Suite. Performed here with the ease one might expect of an ensemble formed for this purpose more than a quarter of a century ago, the Locke Consort do not disappoint. They sympathetically gauge and shift between tempi, give due weight within phrases to the chromatic inflections and syncopated motifs, and engage in friendly imitative banter among themselves, always stylishly supported by the theorbist Fred Jacobs (listen, for example, to the G minor Suite from the Tripla Concordia). Of particular delight are the final suite of the First Part – note the slow, upward chromatic suspensions of the Fantazie and the deliciously varied echo effects in the Courante, Ayre and Saraband – and the Country Dance from the Tripla Concordia (disc 1, tr 30), in which Locke conjures up the sound of a braying donkey. Delightful and unpretentious.