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Consort of Fower parts, Suite No. 3 in F Major

Matthew Locke (1621/2-1677)

Consort of Fower parts, Suite No. 3 in F Major

This work presents six suites for a consort of four viols (2 trebles, tenor and bass) by Locke and a single suite for three. His highly inventive, if idiosyncratic, consort music shows the composer at his rebellious best - presenting somewhat Zany experiments in tone colour and instrumental texture that would heavily influence the Purcell when he came to pen his own Fantzias. The Consort of Fower Parts consists of 24 movements divided into six suites. Each suite begins with a Fantasia which is followed by a series of popular dances - Courante, Ayre and Sarabande in each case, with the exception of the opening suite where a Galliard replaces the courante. The consort of Fower Parts was probably written in the mid-1950's, but obviously thought highly enough of these pieces, regarding them as works-in-progress for around 20 years, revising them a good many times. Some of these movements are not always easy to listen to on first hearing despite a harmonic language that is more than pleasing and an approach to melody that is full of his testy, 'straight-between-the-eyes' with and character. The main stumbling-block with Locke - which also makes him so challenging to interpret - is that he exposes and develops his musical ideas in extremely concentrated bursts of energy. We're dealing here with a darting and mercurial spirit, someone who has little patience with more conventional notions of musical time and pacing. A phrase has been heard only a few times, passing from one viol to the next in imitation, when the composer decides to put a lid on the musical argument, and with a sharp and final sweep of the hand, dismisses it as out of the question. But no sooner has he done so than he pins another idea to the target and takes aim. One could easily charge Locke with being capricious were it not for his ability to bind his ideas into a satisfying whole. It also helps that he is a master at crafting grandiloquent closing gestures, and who cannot forgive a composer who can assert so definitively that a wonderful piece of music is complete. With a flourish, he seems to say "thank you and goodnight - Matthew Locke was here".

Laurence Dreyfus

Martin Ross

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