George Grove.

A dictionary of music and musicians (A.D. 1450-1889) by eminent writers, English and foreign : with illustrations and woodcuts (Volume 4) online

. (page 63 of 194)
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trings. The sympathetic strings, of fine steel
ir brass, pass through small holes drilled in the
ow^er part of the bridge, and under the finger-
)oard : their number varies from seven to four-
een. They are tuned to a diatonic or chromatic
cale. We give the ordinary tuning of the
[ut strings. The sympathetic
trings, tuned to the scale of D,
iiatonic or chromatic, are some-
imes screwed up by peg-s similar
o those of the gut strings: but
he better plan is to attach tliera
wrest-pins driven into the sides
f the peg-box. [See Violin.] [E. J.P.""

t had originally 6 strings, tuned as follows : —
rhe sixth string was generally
iropped in the last century, and
he instrument thus approxi-
aated in compass to the com-
aon Viola or Tenor Violin,
ehich has now superseded it.
t was sometimes called Viola
la Spalla. [See Violin.] [E.J.P.]





A name sometimes

-='^ — ,f^ —

VIOLA DA GAMBA. TheBassViol. [See
Viol, Violin.] (2) Under the incorrect title of
Viol di Gamba it designates an organ stop of 8 ft.
pitch, with open pipes, in the choir organ. Con-
sidering its imitative aims, it is troubled with
a most inappropriate slowness of speech, and
in the lower octaves can hardly be used
alone. [VV.Pa.]

VIOLA DA SPALLA {i.e. Shoulder Viol).
[See Viola da Braccio.] [E.J.P.]

VIOLA DI BORDONE. [See Barytone.]

FAGOTTO (Bassoon Viol).

given to the Viola Bas-


VIOLA POMPOSA. A small Violoncello
with an additional treble string, tuned thus : —

n It was invented by Sebastian

/K 1^^= Bach, and is probably identical

iJ ^ with the ' Violoncello piccolo '

„ of his scores. The sixth of

his solos for the Violoncello
was written for this instru-
ment. [Seep. 281 &.] [E.J.P.]

VIOLET. A name sometimes given to the
Viola d'Amore. L. Mozart calls the Viola
d' Amore with chromatic sympathetic ap]3aratus
the ' Violet ' : a singular denomination,
for, as in the case of the Corno Inglese, the
instrument appears never to have been made,
and seldom used, in this country. [E.J. P.]

VIOLETTA. The French version of 'La
Traviata,' by M. E. Duprez ; produced at the
Theatre Lyrique, Oct. 27, 1864. [G.]

VIOLETTA MARINA. A name found oc-
casionally in the scores of Handel and his con-
temporaries, probably to designate the Viola
d'Amore. [See Viola d'Amore, Violin.] [E.J.P.]

VIOLIN (Fiddle), Viol, Viola, Violone, Vio-
loncello. Portable instruments of different
sizes, constructed on the common principle of a
resonant wooden box, pierced with two sound-
holes, and fitted with a bridge, over which several
gut strings attached to a tailpiece are stretched
by means of pegs. The strings are stopped with
the left hand on a fingerboard, and set in vibra-
tion with a bow held in the right. Being the
only instruments with strings in common orches-
tral use, they are usually called ' stringed instru-
ments,' and collectively 'the strings': but the
German name ' bowed instruments ' is more ac-
curate.' They have been developed by the appli-
cation of the bow to the Greek lyie and mono-
chord ; and their common name (Viol, Violin,
Fiddle) is derived from the Latin name by which
a small sort of lyre appears to have been known
throughout the Roman empire. The Latin name
for any kind of string is 'fides,' of which the
diminutive is 'fidicula' : and by a grammatical
figure which substitutes the part for the whole,

1 A German authoritj insists that the true name is 'Bon-string



these terms came to designate the lyre itself,
just as we now speak of the quartet of fiddles
collectively as 'the strings.' In the deriva-


tive tongues the diminutive assumed various
forms, wliicli may be divided into two groups,
thus : —

Latin FidSS, a string


Law Latin.)





Old French.)

Fideille »


(also. Vitula, Vidula,
Videila. Figelia. &c.)






(Frencli Viole,
English Viol)















Fr. Violon ^





The Violin is the most popular and useful
of all portable insLruments, and indeed of all
instruments except the pianoforte, and it has
considerable importance as being the principal
instrument in the orchestra, the main body of
which is composed of violins, in their three sizes
of trebles, altos or tenors, and basses. It is
nearer to the human voice in quality, compass,
and facility of execution than any other instru-
ment ; few are simpler in construction, and none
is so cheap or so easily mastered, provided the
learner sets rightly about it. In addition to the
popularity which it enjoys on these accounts, the
fiddle exercises an unique charm over the mind
from the continuity of its existence and useful-
ness. Most people are aware that ' an old fiddle
is better than a new one.' This, as will appear
further on, is not absolutely true ; although
probably the majority of the fiddles in use are
not new, very many being one, two, and even
three hundred years old. A violin, if it be only
well-made to begin with, can by timel3? and
judicious rehabilitation, be made to last practi-
cally for ever, or at least to outlast the lifetime
of any particular possessor : and few things are
more fascinating than putting an old disused
Violin through this process, and reawakening its
musical capacities. The Violin thus enjoys a
sort of mysterious immortality, the effect of
which is often enhanced by the groundless idea

1 The form Fideille is not found, so far as the writer knows. In
literature, its place having been early taken by the decayed form
■ vielle ' : but its past existence is demonstrable by analogy. Brachet
(Graramaire Historique de la Langue Francaise, p. 28.5) gives the fol-
lowing instances of the French forms assumed by Latin words in
-iculus, -a. -um : Abeiile (apicuia). Orieil (orticulum). Sommeil (.som-
niculus). P^rilTpericulura). Oreille (auricula). Corneille (cornicula),
Ouaille(ovicula). Vermeil (vermiculus). Aiguille (acicula). From this
list, to which may be added Corbeille (corbicula). we may safely con-
clude that Kidicula became in the oldest French • fideille,' which lorm
was transmitted with verv little alteration to Anglo-Saxon and Old
High German, while in France Itself it became by phonetic decay
• Vielle.*

J ■ Violon ■ is the old French dlminul Ive of ' Viole,' and exactly eaul-
valent to • Violino.'

that no good fiddles have been made since the ;
golden age of the Cremona makers, which l]
terminated 120 years ago, and that the secretsll
of violin-making are lost. In connexion with this,
a good deal of enthusiasm has been lavished by
connoisseurs on the beauty of design and varnish
of the old Cremona Violins, and even in some
useful and reputable works on this subject this
enthusiasm has been carried to a point where it
can only be described as silly and grotesque. A
fiddle, after all, even a Stradivari, is not a work
of pure art, like a piece of painting or sculpture:
it is as merely a machine as a watch, a gun.
or a plough. Its main excellences are purely
mechanical, and though most good fiddles are
also well-designed and handsome, not a few are
decidedly ugly. Leopold Mozart, in his Violin'
School, has some pertinent remarks on this
fallacy. To choose a fiddle for its outward
symmetry and varnish, he says, is like choosing
a singing bird for its fine feathers.

Instruments more or less corresponding to
our fiddle have been in use from very early times,
and their origin has been the subject o{ much
speculation. Eowed instruments have long been
in use among various Oriental peoples : and this
fact, interpreted by the fallacy that all inventions
have their ultimate origin in the East, has led
many to ascribe an Oriental origin to our boweC
instruments. Strict examination compels us tc
reject this view. The harp and lyre were bor
rowed by the Greeks from Egypt, probably, like
the alphabet, through Phoenicia : but here th(
debt of Europe to the stringed instrument makers
of the East begins and ends. The Arabic anc
Hindoo instruments from which F^ti.s anc
others deduce tlie Violin, evidently belong to i
totally di.stinct family. Their resonant box con
sists of a small drum, perforated by a stick, th(
top of which serves as a fingerboard, while th<
lower end is rested on the ground during per




orrnatice. Now it can be shown that until the
5th century no European bowed instrument,
xcept the Marine Trumpet, which is a direct
lescendant of the Greek monochord, was rested
m the ground during performance. [See Teomba
klAKiNA.] All were played overhand, and were
ested on or against the upper part of the per-
ormer's body. This alone, independently of all
aconsistericies of construction, distinguishes them
roui the Rebab and the Ravanastram, and
trengthejis our conviction of their affinity with
he Lyre. Most Eastern bowed instruments
ppear to be rude imitations of those of Europe ;
,nd the development of the latter is so clearly
raceable that it is superfluous to seek their origin
Isewhere. The fiddle has developed out of the
yre and monochord, just as our music has de-
eloped out of the diatonic scale which the Greeks
[educed from the use of those instruments.

Though the plurality of strings of our bowed
Qstruments, and even their common name ' are
lorrowed from the lyre, their principal parts, the
longated resonant box with its soundholes, the
ingerboard, and the moveable bridge, come from
he monochord. As early as the legendary age
if Pythagoras the Greeks obtained the intervals
(f the scale by cutting off the aliquot parts of
he monochord by means of a moveable bridge.
?or this the pressure of the finger was an
•bvious substitute : and practical use of the
nonochord in training the voice must have early



suggested the discovery that its tones could be
prolonged by rubbing, instead of plucking them
with the plectrum or finger.-^ The lyre suggested
plurality of strings, and furnished a model of
manageable size. Given the lyre and the mono-
chord, the fiddle must evidently have been de-
veloped sooner or later : and we now know that
as early as the 3rd
Fifi. 1. ^i^^^^Hk century B.C. an in-

strument something
between the tv/o, and
curiously reminding
us of the stringed
instruments of the
middle ages, was used
in the Greek colonies
in Sicily. Fig. 1 re-
presents a specimen
carved on a Greek
sarcophagus now used
as a font in the Ca-
thedral of Girgenti.
A bas-relief in the
Louvre shows an-
other spechnen of the same instrument.*

The resemblance between this antique instru-
ment and the rebec and lute is noteworthy ; and
it possibly represents that particular form of
lyre which was denominated 'Eidicula.'

The following genealogical table may assist
the reader's memory : — ■





Marine Trumpet

Troubadour Fiddle
Viol (Viola da Gamba, Violone or common Double Bass)

a, L:

lyra, Lirone

Viol d'Amore

The Cewth [see that article], which appears to
je a survival of the normal pattern of the small
Roman Lyre in a remote part of the Empire, is
m obvious link between the musical instru-
nents of antiquity and those of modern Europe.^
When and by whom the bow was applied to
;hese instruments we cannot tell. But certainly
^ong before the 13th century, various modifica-
;ions of them, some plucked with the fingers or
jlectrum, othei-s sounded with a bow, were in use
ihroughout Europe under the names of Fiddle,
Drowd, Rotte, Geige (Gigue, Jig), and Rebec
(Ribeb, Ribible). About the 13th century an
improved instrument appeared in the south of
Europe concurrently with that remarkable musi-
cal and literary movement which is associated
with the Troubadours. This instrument was
called * Viole ' or * Vielle ' ; but it is convenient
to assign it the name of Guitar-Fiddle> reserving
the term Viol for the later instrument with
cornerblocks which is permanently associated
with the name. The Guitar-Fiddle, which was

1 Fiddle, t. e. fldicula, = lyre.

2 The similarity between some ancient Welsh airs and the Greek
modes suggests that these airs may be remnants of the popular
music, of Greek origin, which spread with the sway of Kome over
Western Europe.

Violin (Tenor Violin, Violoncello or Bass Violin)

intended to accompany the voice, was larger than
its predecessors, increased size being made pos-
sible by giving it a waist, so as to permit the
bow to reach the strings. It may be described
as a rude Guitar, Hurdygurdy, and Viol in one ;
for we find the same instrument, in different
instances sometimes plucked, sometimes bowed,
and sometimes played with the wheel. When
modified and developed for plucking it became
the Spanish guitar, for playing with the wheel,
the Vielle or Hurdygurdy, and for bowing, the
Viol. The Viol was employed, as the Guitar-
Fiddle had been, to support the voice : and the
development of choral singing led to the con-
struction of viols of various pitches. In the
fifteenth century we first meet with experiments
in constructing bowed instruments of different
sizes, corresponding to the various human voices.
Cornerblocks, which mark the transition from
the Guitar-Fiddle to the Viol, were probably
invented to facilitate the construction of the larger
fiddles. Their use prepared a great advance in the

8 If the finger be slightly rosined a continuous tone can be pro-
duced. The Glass Harmonica is an example in which the finger
performs the functions of a bow.

» Carl Engel, ' The Early History of the Violin Famlly.'p. 111. •



art of fidc11e-tnal<ing : for thes' increased both the
tension of the resonant box, and the transmission
of the vibration of the strings. The construction
of instruments with cornerblocks, in various
sizes, was contemporary with the great develop-
ment of polyphonic choral music in Germany
and the Netherlands in the 15th century :
and by the beginning of the next century, the
Treble or Discant Viol, Tenor, Bass Viol, and
Double Bass or Violone, were well established
both in those countries and in North Italy.

The 'Violin' model, which differs from the
Viol in having shallower sides, with an arched
instead of a flat back, and square shoulders, and
in being composed in all its parts of curved or
arched pieces of wood, glued together in a state
of tension on the blocks, first appears in Italy
towards the middle of the i6th century. It
completely revolutionised the fiddle-maker's art,
driving out of use first the Discant Viol, then
the Tenor, and last of all the Bass Viol. The
Double Bass, alone, which remains a Viol pure
and simple, has resisted the inroads of the Violin
model in all save thesoundholes. The substitu-
tion of the Violin for the Viol in all its sizes
except the largest, is due to the louder tone of
the former instrument, and it accords with a
general principle underlying the whole history
of musical instruments, which may be stated as
the ' survival of the loudest.' The vibrations
of the Viol were insufficient to meet the growing
demand for power. As a means to tiiis end.
Viols were constructed double-strung in fifths
and octaves [see Lyre], and also with sympa-
thetic strings of metal, constituting the family
of the Viola d'amore and Barytone. [See vol. i.
p. 146.] But in the last century the Violin
effected a complete rout of all its competitors,
and its model was finally adopted for the Tenor
and Bass, and sometimes even for the Double-
Bass, although for the last-named instrument the
Viol model is still generally used in this country.
The Viol Double Bass has survived partly be-
cause it is much easier to make, partly because
from this particular instrument a penetrating,
rather than powerful, tone is required. The
Violin extinguished the Discant Viol in Italy
and Germany in the 1 7th century, in France and
England in the iSth. England held out longest
for the Bass Viol or Viola da Gamba, for this
instrument continued to be manufactured and
plaj'ed in this country to nearly the end of the
last century, when it had everywhere else become
practically extinct. The models now in use for
our bowed instruments have scarcely changed at
all since the time of Stradivari (16S0-1 730) : and
his models varied only in the design of certain
details from those in use a century earlier.

The Violin, as we have it, is therefore about
three centuries old. Of all musical instruments
it is the only one that has survived unchanged
throughout modern musical history. The lutes,
the univer.sal companions of bowed instruments
until a century and a half ago, have disap-
peared as completely as the spinet and the harp-
sichord. Wind instruments of all kinds have


been completely revolutionised, but the Violin
has remained for three hundred years the same :
and it is probably destined to remain so while
music exists, for though numberless attempts
have been made to improve it they have been
all abandoned.

The model of the Violin, which the experience
of centuries and the ingenuity of many genera-
tions of mechanics thus wrought out, appears at
first sight eccentric and capricious. It might be
thought that any sort of resonant box, and any
sort of frame strong enough to hold the strings,
would equally answer the purpose. The fact
however is, that every minute detail has its
use and meaning. Suppose, for instance, the
fiddle were made with straight sides. In this
case, unless either the resonant box is so much
narrowed as to spoil the tone, or the bridge is
considerably heightened, with the same result,
the bow could not reach the outer strings. Sup-
pose, again, it were made of the same general
outline, but without cornerblocks, like a guitar.
In this case the vibrations would be more nu-
merous, and their force would be consequently
less ; the tone would be thin, as may be proved
with one of the many guitar-shaped fiddles
which have been occasionally made in all
periods. Suppose it made with a flat back
like the Viol : in this case, though the tone
might be improved in the high treble, it would
be deficient in depth in the middle and bass,
unless indeed it were made considerably larger
and deeper. If the curves of the various parts or
the shape and position of the bridge and sound-
holes are materially altered, the capacity for
vibration is injured, and the tone deteriorates in
consequence. If the body of the instrument is
lengthened at the expense of the fingerboard, the
player's left hand iscramped: if the whole length
is increased the instrument becomes too largo to
be conveniently handled. Probably every struc-
tural alteration that could be suggested has been
at some time tried and dismissed. The whole
design of the fiddle has been settled gradually
in strict accordance with the requirements of
tone and execution.

Tlie total normal length of the violin has been
determined by the length of the average human
arm bent at a convenient angle. The length of
the handle or neck has been determined by the
space necessary for the average human hand to
manipulate the fingerboard; and since 'shifting'
on all the strings has become general this length
has increased. The length of the resonant box
is the first of these measurements less the second.
Its central or smallest breadth is determined by
the requirements of bowing, as applied to a bridge
of sufficient breadth and height to set the in-
instrument properly in vibration. The other
breadths and lengths are determined by the ne-
cessity of allowing a sufficient vibrating length
for the strings, while keeping the bridge in the
centre, i.e. on a line dividing the superficial area
of the belly into two equal parts, or nearly so.
The tongue, so to speak, of the violin, that which
corresponds to the reed of a wind instrument, is


e bridge ; and the action of the bridge depends
)on the soundpost. The soundpost is a slender
lindrical block, fixed at both ends, performing
e double function of transmitting certain vibra-
)n8 from the belly to the back and of making a
■m base for one foot of the bridge. The bridge
a true reed ; its treble foot is rigid, and rests
L that part of the belly which is made rigid by
e soundpost. Its bass foot rests on that part of
e belly which has a free vibration, augmented
id regulated by the bass bar: and it is through
is foot that the vibration of the strings is com-
unicated to the belly, and thereby to the mass
air in the fiddle. The treble foot of the bridge

therefore the centre of vibration : the vibra-
)nal impulse is communicated by the bass foot
sne, and undulates round the treble foot in
:cles, its intensity being modified by the thick-
.sses and curves of the belly and by the incisions
lied the soundholes.

The steps by which this instrument, at once so
nple and so complex, has been produced, are
3ily traced : its intermediate forms can be
idied in artistic monuments, and some of them
en still exist. Old stringed instruments have
aerallydied hard: and very primitive ones have
lintained their place side by side with the im-
3ved ones founded upon them. Thus the Marine
umpet, which is the oldest bowed instrument,
d represents the earliest development of the
onochord, long continued in use concurrently
th instruments of a more advanced kind, and is
t yet quite obsolete. [See Tromba Makina.]

Guitar-shaped Violin, which is directly de-
eded from the Fidel of the Troubadours, lias
en made and used in all ages. Similarly the
sbec long continued in use side by side with
e violin.^ The Viola da Gamba has never been
mpletely effaced by the Violoncello. But per-
ps the most singular survival of all is the
elsh Crwth, which is simply the small lyre,
introduced by the Romans into Celtic Britain,
apted by some slight modifications for use as
lowed instrument. In tracing the history of
inged instruments it is necessary to beware of
iuming that the same name always designates
e same instrument. ' Violino' and ' Violon,' for
stance, were at first commonly employed to
note the Tenor. [See Tenor Violin.] ' Violon-
llo ' is literally the ' little violone ' or bass
)1. The Violone itself, as its augmentative
•mination implies, was a ' big Viola,' and
iginally designated the Bass Viol. When the
)uble Bass-Viol became common, the name
18 transferred to this larger instrument. It
en became necessary to find a new name for
e small Bass, and hence the diminntive name
''ioloncello.' When our modern Violoncello,
lich is properly the 'Bass Violin,' came into
e, the original name and the functions of this
lall Violone were transferred together to the

See the article Rebec. In that article the author erroneously
ted that no specimen of the Rebec was kno^n to exist, an error
red by M. Vidal (Instruments k Archet, vol. i. p. 18) and by M.
}uquet 'Catalogue Raisonn^ des instruments du Conservatoire.'
2 (' Impossible d'en retrouver un seul aiijourd'hui '). In the
hibition of Ancient Musical Instruments at Milan in 1881 no less
in six genuine specimens were exhibited.



new instrument, which still retains them. 'Vielle,'
now appropriated to the hurdy-gurdy, denoted in
the 13th century the instrument which we
have called the Guitar-Fiddle. ' Fiddle,' ' Crwth,'
'Geige,' and 'Eibeca,' all now frequently em-
ployed in various languages to designate the
modern violin, are properly the names of dis-
tinct instruments, all now obsolete. 'Lyre' has
been employed at diff^erent times to designate
all sorts of bowed instruments. 'Viola,' which
seems to have been the original Provengal name
of the guitar-fiddle, and afterwards designated
Viols of all sizes, is now appropriated to the
Tenor Violin. But it is needless to multiply
instances. No rational account of the develop-
ment of instruments can be obtained from the
use of names. For this purpose we must examine
the instruments themselves when they exist :
when they have perished we must have recourse
to artistic representations, which, however im-
perfect, are all we have to rely on before about
1550, a century later than the earliest develop-
ment of bowed instruments as a class by them-

Online LibraryGeorge GroveA dictionary of music and musicians (A.D. 1450-1889) by eminent writers, English and foreign : with illustrations and woodcuts (Volume 4) → online text (page 63 of 194)