Richard Campbell 60th Birthday Celebration
Tregye Festival Players, Newe Vialles, Peter Harvey
Guildhall School of Music & Drama. 25 February 2016
It was a mark of the respect that the viola da gamba player, Richard Campbell, is held that so many people came to the Guildhall School of Music & Drama to celebrate his 60th birthday. The evening also marked the presentation to the Guildhall School of a Lirone and a Bandorra from Richard’s own collection, both to be made available to any young musician for study and performance. The choice of two such unusual instruments was a nice reflection of Richard’s wide-ranging musical interests.
The Bandorra is a curiously shaped instrument, looking something like a wo
bbly-sided guitar or lute. The front also looks curious, with an angled bridge and nut – the two raised edges at the top and bottom of the instrument that the strings are either attached to (the bridge) or pass over (the nut). It is generally thought of as a bass version of the cittern, its wire stringing producing a pleasing twang. The Lirone is another oddly shaped instrument, looking superficially like a bass viola da gamba, but constructed, and sounding, very different. The flat bridge and fingerboard allow chords to be played with all the notes sounding together, rather than played arpeggio as on a gamba or cello. It was used as a continuo instrument, the gut strings producing a sensuously mellow tone that was used by the likes of Monteverdi in Italy.
Both instruments were played during the evening, the Bandorra by Arngeir Hanksson, with two of the pieces that Anthony Holborne wrote for the instrument. The Lirone was demonstrated by Liam Byrne, accompanying a vocal piece by Monteverdi. The instrumental grouping that Richard Campbell is best known for is the viol consort, and the four members of Newe Vialles, most of whom had been taught by Richard, played a Fantasia by John Bull and a new piece (frm| 2) by Richard’s son, Jocelyn Campbell, the latter an evocative and ethereal piece that made full use of the many sound possibilities of the viola da gamba, few of which were orthodox. Interspersed into this very new sound world were isolated extracts from Bach’s music.
The rest of the evening’s music was contributed by the Tregye Festival Players, the orchestra of the festival in Cornwall that Richard Campbell ran in the 1980s and 90s, but with players that looked very similar to current members of one of London’s most enlightened period instrument orchestras. They opened with Corelli’s Concerto Grosso (Op6/4), with soloists Alison Bury, Henrietta Wayne and Jonathan Rees (violins and cello). They later performed two Bach works, the Aria Es is Vollbracht (“It is finished”), not the one from the St John Passion, but from the lesser-known Cantata 159. They concluded with the Cantata Ich habe genug (“I’ve had enough” or “I am content”), both works featuring the leading baritone, Peter Harvey and oboist James Eastaway.
The choice of these two works was very touching and apt, perhaps most notably the words of Ich habe genug. The opening aria and recitative both start and finish with the words “I’ve had enough”. The second aria is the gorgeous lullaby Schlummert ein (“Rest in sleep . . . World, I am staying here no longer . . . there, I shall behold sweet peace, calm rest“). It is followed by a recitative that ends with the words “I have said my farewells, World, goodnight“ (the same two words that conclude Es is Vollbracht) and finishes with the uplifting and joyfully heartfelt plea for an “escape from all the distress that still binds me in this world“.
The only element of real sadness was that Richard was not there to appreciate the occasion. His life had been full of twists and turns. Rather sensibly turning away from a potential career as a Latin teacher, his most famous musical contribution came through the viol consort Fretwork. He also played with many other period instrument groups – and with Elvis Costello, Kate Bush and Robbie Williams.
He died in March 2011. Obituaries can be found at the Fretwork website here.