Album Review: Mr De Machy Pieces de Violle/ Ng

Mr De Machy Pieces de Violle

Shaun Ng

A 415 Music

A recent recording by gambist Shaun Ng on the A 415 Music label, highlights the charms and versatility of the viola da gamba. Mr DE MACHY PIECES DE VIOLLE was released in December 2022  and is a collection of 4 suites for the solo viol by the Frenchman De Machy, known as Le Sieur de Machy.

Details about De Machy’s life are sketchy. We are unaware of his first name/s and his life span, beyond knowing that he was professionally active between about 1655 and 1700. He lived in Paris and studied from one of the notable pedagogues of the time, Nicola Hotman who also taught De Marchy’s more famous contemporary, Sainte-Colombe.

De Machy was a teacher, performer and composer whose legacy includes the Pièces de Violle en musique et en tablature, a collection of 8 suites of dances published in 1685, important for its meticulous documentation of bowing, fingering and ornamentation. Four of the suites are written out on staves and four in tablature, where fingering, rather than pitches are indicated.

For this recording, Ng plays a viola da gamba made in 2022 by Montreal luthier Francis Beaulieu after a 1683 instrument by Parisian luthier Michel Collichon. His bow was made in 2016 by Harry Grabenstein in Vermont.

One of the roles of the (bass) viol, wrote De Machy, was in “playing pièces d’harmonie” meaning that the chords provided their own harmonies rather than through accompanying instruments, even playing several polyphonic lines by itself. Playing at a pitch of a’=392Hz, Ng has selected four 4 of these suites, written in D minor and D major, G minor and G major.

The first two suites in D minor and D major are constructed in traditional style. The six short dance movements, Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Gigue, Gavotte and Menuet are introduced by an extended improvisatory Prelude. The second pair of suites in G minor and G major are slightly longer. The G minor suite has interpolated into its sequence two Doubles (variations); the Gavotte of the G major suite is in Rondeau form and it ends with a Chaconne rather than a Menuet.

Ng plies a highly specialised craft, creating the illusion of a small ensemble from a single instrument. He draws on the features of the era, playing the melodic lines as well as enriching the texture with double and triple stops, weaving ornamentation and arpeggiated chords in the style brisé.  Ng draws a on broad palette of colours and textures, singing and sobbing, growling and sighing, leaping between registers, rapidly crossing the strings to alternate between notes, and playing in polyphony. The phrasing is sensitive and his teasing of the tempi creates pleasing shapes. There are harmonies that engage and dissonances that challenge. Above all, these are dances, and the expressiveness of each characteristic dance rhythm with hemiolas, accents and other dance gestures never allow us to forget this.

The visual beauty of the 7-stringed, fretted viola da gamba which Ng plays in this recording, is evident from its the cover. Ng’s program notes provide interesting insights into the politics, rivalries, and technical arguments amongst the violists of the time.

Mr DE MACHY PIECES DE VIOLLE will appeal to students and to afficionados of the gamba and of the French baroque. It is also intrinsically calming and introspective to listen to and turns down the pace of life by several notches.

Shamistha de Soysa for SoundsLikeSydney©

Click here for our review of Shaun Ng’s album ROBERT DE VISÉE Pieces for Theorbo

Click here to listen or purchase.










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