Newly discovered manuscripts prompt virtuoso performances

Paul V. Miller: The Undiscovered Viola d’Amore

Paul V. Miller: The Undiscovered Viola d’Amore

The Strad Issue: October 2023

Description: Newly discovered manuscripts prompt virtuoso performances

Musicians: Paul V. Miller (viola d’amore) Chatham Baroque

Works: Anon: Partitas: B minor; G major. Götz and Fuchs: 26 Galanteries – excerpts. Heinichen: Trio Sonata in F major

Catalogue number: CENTAUR CRC4025

This fascinating recording draws on two recently discovered collections of music for viola d’amore. Manuscript HS4806 from the library at Göttweig Abbey in Lower Austria includes 24 anonymous partitas written around 1700 in a style reminiscent of Biber’s violin compositions. About a century later, a series of 26 unaccompanied pieces by the Moravia-based virtuosos Josef Fuchs and Franz Götz was compiled in a manuscript now preserved at the National Museum in Prague. Despite its apparently lightweight title – Galanteries – and straightforward musical language, the latter collection requires an uncommon degree of virtuosity from the performer. In their own way, they might be compared to the capriccios of Locatelli or indeed Paganini!

Paul V. Miller is just such a virtuoso, taking the intricate double-stopping with disarming ease and dead-on intonation – even when tackling an E flat minor piece on an instrument tuned in D major! The closely balanced recording even seems to catch the resonance of the instrument’s sympathetic strings, particularly in Götz’s haunting Flagioletto Solo, a tour de force to be played almost exclusively in harmonics, which ring freely in Miller’s hands. The Göttweig partitas and Heinichen’s slightly later Trio Sonata don’t demand comparable technical feats but feature stumbling blocks of their own, each of them requiring a different tuning based on the piece’s key. Here Chatham Baroque joins in for a colourful realisation of the continuo parts, its violinist Andrew Fouts effectively sharing the limelight with Miller in the trio.