Roy Marks, THE VIOL No 1, Winter 2005-6 (Viola da Gamba Society of Great Britain):

An impressive supporting cast has helped in the tasteful, scholarly and practically-presented publicationthis year of six anonymous 'early classical sonatas'. Taken from a French manuscript written around the middle of the 18th century, a title '... de viole avec la basse continue', penciled at the head of a 'heavily damaged' first page (any original title having being lost) has here been sibstituted by, 'for two bass viols', and, indeed, the range and chord patterns of both parts (and probably the choice of clefs) leave no doubt that two seven-string bass viols were in the composer's mind. Yet, while there are occasional moments of pure duet when the seond part rises with imitative counterpoint, relentless double-stopping or purely florid showmanship, to a plane somewhat higher that mere accompaniment, there are times, particularly in the earlier pieces, when I feel the texture too thin to be doing without the additional support of a basse continue, either in the form of theorbist or keyboard player, or at the very least a gambist mire adventurously creative than myself.

Working through the three volumes, the demands on both players increase; and the problem in the second viol part switches from passages being too thin to passages too thick. Tediously repetitious low thirds and octave Gs, Ds and As require a delecate touch; and passages of double-stopping that are occasionally pleasantly baffling and, at times, without deadening intervening strings, amusingly impossible, demand a good harmonic awareness to pull off effectivly.

The music itself, of course, has everything one would expect from the title the editors have chosen: the pieces are structured into movements, each full of colour, dynamics and modulations above a comfortably predictable harmonic rythm. But the writing is so skilful that several big names have been mooted, gainsaying the expectation of quality one might associate, at such a late date, with anonymous autorship. Written in those euphoric times when many were acknowledging debt to no other god but mankind, there is, amongst its endless inventiveness, a conceited frivolity and a sensitive and delicate gracefulness that, ironically, is particularly well suited to an instrument that still retains some of the qualities one associates with viols of one- and two-hundred years earlier. Moreover, while obviously the work of someone intimately acquainted with the instrument, there is never the feeling of unstructured meandering that I often get with French player.composers: it is only unfortunate that, judging from its technical demands, it is music of a player of some considerable ability.

Despite the curious bland, almost schoolby-like, appearence of the manuscript, these sonatas are as shallow and dazzling as a fairground sideshow and decidedly not for the English amateur who, through a quiet passion for the music, has take-up the viol late in life. Rather, with all the razzmatazz of Las Vegas, they are for those who began building a string-playing technique in early childhood, who have perhaps come resigned to the viol, but who are still sufficiently resentful of their own shortcomings to enjoy a challenge.