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The Consort

David J Golby

Volume 67, Summer 2011

Maurice Webster
Complete Consort Music for violins,
viols or wind instruments;
3- and 4-part dances
Edition HH, HH251.FSP, Bicester, 2010
(pbk, 30)
ISMN 979 708092 03 2

This new publication by Edition HH displays the pioneering zeal and musicological credentials which we have come to expect from this publisher's growing catalogue. Maurice Webster (fl.1612-1635), an English musician who was probably born in Germany, served as a royal lutenist in England from 1623 to 1635. This edition of his complete consort music (including a four-part reconstruction, with editorial Treble 2 and Tenor parts, of a two-part pavan) constitutes almost all of his surviving compositions.

The extremely detailed and very well-referenced editors' Preface (in English and German), comparable to a journal article in itself, discusses the composer, the music, performance and sources, and provides an excellent introduction to this repertoire and its context. In one of the most fascinating sections, it is suggested (p.vi) that Webster may have been responsible for introducing the SSTB, or 'string quartet' idiom to the English court when he arrived from Germany in the 1620s. Although probably composed with violins in mind, there is certainly a wide range of performance options for these pieces, working with the basic SSB and SSTB textures. The editors assert that 'most of the pieces will also work without continuo' (p.viii), increasing the possibilities still further.

Particularly noteworthy and characterful are the three 'echo almans' and the 'Mascarada', in the style of a Jacobean court masque dance. All of the pieces in the collection are naturally quite short within the conventional structures, and the edition is admirably clear and consistent in its indication of accidentals, metre and tempo changes, dynamics, and cadential and other trills. No attempt has been made to suggest bowings or other forms of articulation in either score or parts, leaving the pages as uncluttered as possible.

Here one finds a blend of the scholarly and the modern practical needs of the performer and student that many, more famous publishing houses would do well to emulate. This is exemplified by the offer of an alternative version of the tenor part (using treble clef) as a free download. These traits, in combination with the involvement of editors such as Peter Holman, one of this country's most esteemed scholar-performers, put Edition HH at the forefront of the publication of neglected repertoire.

We are grateful to theThe Consort for permission to reproduce this review.

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