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 65 of 194)
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its true place in the middle of the soundholes.

The Bridge, the most important part of the
voicing apparatus, and in reality the tongue of


the fiddle, was perfected last. [See SteadI
VARI.] The plan of cutting a small arch in thi
moveable block of the monochord, so as ti
check the vibration as little as possible, i
probably of Greek origin, and in the Marine
Trumpet the bridge, which has only one strinj
to support, can be made proportionately small, ant
its vibrating function more perfect. [See Troiib.
Marina.] The polychord instruments of th
Middle Ages required a more massive support
but the bridge-like character was always main
tained, the pattern being from time to tim
modified so as to produce the maximum of vibra
tion without loss of strength. The soundpos
beneath the treble foot of the bridge is of ur
certain antiquity. At first, it would seem, th;
expedient was tried of lengthening one foot (j
the bridge, and passing it through the sounc
hole, so as to rest on the centre block of tb
back : this primitive bridge and soundpost i
one have been found in existing specimens <
the Crwth. The superior effect of a separal
soundpost, supporting the bridge and augmeni
ing the vibration, must soon have been di
covered : and many early pictures of fiddl«
with bridges leave no doubt that it was extei
sively in use. [See Soundpost.]

The scale of the larger mediteval viols mab
it probable that the vibration of the belly undi
the bass strings was regulated by a Bass-ba
Cross-bars were early employed to strengths
the back of the viol and the belly of the lut(
and observations of their effect on the vibrati(
possibly suggested the use of a longitudinal hi
for the viol. The bass-bar is at least as old :
the invention of corner blocks, and probab
older. Concurrently with the development of tl
Viol in its larger sizes, we find a characterisl
change in the head or peg-box, which complete'
transformed the physiognomy of the instrumei
The medieval peg-box was invariably flat, li
that of the Guitar, the pegs being inserted
right angles to the face of the instrument ; e
figures 2, 4, c, 6, and 7, from the last of whi
the reader will at once understand how this foi
of peg-box facilitated the addition of bourdoi
though it afforded but a weak and imperfi
means of straining the strings to their due ti
sion and keeping them in their proper pla
When the invention of the larger viols sup
seded Bourdons, the flat peg-box gave place
the modern one, which bends back so that t
strings form an obtuse angle in crossing the m
the pegs are transverse instead of perpendicj
and have a support in each side of the box ; thi
sive force is applied directly instead of obliqiie
in the direction of the fiddle's length. The 1
of the improved peg-box was often surmouni
by a human or animals head. This, howev
obliged the fiddle-maker to have recourse to 1
artist for the completion of his work. A vol
was therefore substituted, the well-known 'sen
of the fiddle, on the curves of which accc
plished fiddle-makers employed the same ta
and skill which they displayed in the cur'
lines and surface of the body.






Aliont the en^ of the 15th century we find the
ol with the distinctive features above indicated
lly developed, in its three principal sizes, Dis-
,nt, Tenor, and Bass, in general use. They
id at first sometimes four, sometimes five, and
metimes six strings, which were tuned by
urths, a single major third being interpolated
the five and six stringed instruments, in order
preserve the same tonality in the open notes,
bis device was borrowed from the Lute. The
ced number of six strings, and the settled
ning by fourths with a major third in the
iddle, is proved to be at least as old as 1542
r a method published in that year at Venice.'
lie tuning is as follows :


-ry rp

The relative tuning of the Viols is evidently
jrived from the parts of contemporary vocal
usic : and the early concerted music written for
le Viols is always within the compass of the
ilative voices. It seems, in fact, to have been
itirely based upon vocal music. As early as
539 we have vocal compositions professedly
lapted to be either played or sung (^buone da
mtare et sonare).^

This parallelism between the parts of vocal
id stringed music explains why in early theo-
itical works we hear little or nothing about the
'ouble Bass. We may however assume that it
as employed as a sub-bass in octaves to the
Dice and Bass Viol. Strung with three, four,
ve, and even six strings, the lowest would by
iialogy be tuned a fourth lower than those of
le Bass Viol, as at (a) ; and this is in fact the
ming of the modern Double Bass. The tuning
)r completely strung instruments was probably
3 at (b), but the highest strings would bo inef-


;ctive, and liable to break, and they could have
een of little use in playing a sub-bass : and as
be pressure of useless strings impairs the reso-
ance of the instrument, it may be assumed that
he upper strings came to be gradually nban-
oned. The trio of viols, tuned as prescribed
>y the 'Eegola Rubertina' of 1B4^, continued
a. use unaltered for a centm-y and a half as the
lasis of chamber-music : for Playford's ' Intro-
lUctinn to the Skill of Musick' gives the same
uning without alteration. We may therefore
ake the duration of the school of pure six-
tringed viol music as about a hundred and fifty
ears (1550 -1700). During the latter part of

1 Kef ola Eubertina. che insegiia a sonar di Viola d'arco tastada. da
ylvestro Ganas'ii del Fontego. (Kiihlmann. (iesch. der Bugen-
nstrumente. p. 202.) 2 ' Ant for viols and voyce' ' is frequently

jund on the title-pages of the English madrigals of the 17th century.

this period the Violin and Tenor Violin came
steadily into use for orchestral purposes in sub-
stitution for the Treble and Tenor Viols, and the
invention of the Violoncello or Bass Violin com-
pleted the substitution of the new model for the
old. The trio of viols was in fact rather a theo-
retical than a practical musical apparatus : and
its two highest members had but little signifi-
cance apart from the The Treble or Dis-
cant Viol, feeble and delicate in tone, though
employed in concerted music, never took the
place of the more powerful Eebec and Geige,
which continued in popular use until they were
ultimately driven from the field by the Violin.
The Tenor Viol laboured under a great disad-
vantage. Being too large and too clumsy to be
played fiddlewise, it became the practice to rest
the lower part of the instrument on the knee,
and its shoulder upon the arm, the left hand being
elevated at the height of the head. It was then
bowed underhand, the bow passing obliquely over
the strings. This difficulty must have tended to
check its musical usefulness: and as the lowest
string of both the Discant and Tenor Viol was
little used, it was at length omitted, and makers
were thus enabled to construct Tenor Viols of
more manageable size. The German and French
Treble and Tenor Viols of late manufacture have
only five strings, the lowest in each, as in the
Violin and Tenor, being G and C respectively.
The Treble and Tenor Viols thus gradually ap-
proximated in size and tuning to the Violin and
Tenor, by which they were ultimately effaced.
The five-stringed Treble Viol survived longest
in France, where it was called 'Quinton' or
'Pardessus de Viole': and from the very nu-
merous specimens which were sent forth in the
last century from the workshops of Guersan and
Fig. 10. other Parisian makers, there

can be no doubt that it was
a fashionable instrument, in
fact probably a musical toy for
ladies of quality. The stop
being an inch shorter than
that of the Violin, and the tun-
ing by fourths and a third en-
tirely obviating the necessity
of employing the fourth finger,
it is easily played by small
and comparatively unpractised
hands. The back and ribs of
Guersan'sQuintons are usually
built up of parallel staves of
sycamore and cedar, a method
which not only makes the tone
extremely soft and resonant,
but combined with fine finish
and elegantly carved scrolls
gives them a most picturesque
appearance. Tlie illustration
is from a specimen in the
writer's possession.

The development of the Viola d'Amore, which
i.^ briefly described below, probably prevented
the use of the common TencrViol, without sym-
pathetic strings, as a solo instrument. Built large





enough to give a resonant note on the lowest
open string, C, the fivestringed Tennr Viol is
undoubtedly a difficult insti'uinent to manage:
but after some practice it may be commanded by
a player witli an arm of sufficient length. The
best have thick whole backs, cut slabwise or on
the flat, instead of on the cross, and the flaming-
sword soundhole, which I'lc - H.
the German makers pre-
ferred, seems to favour
the development of tone.
The tone is rich and
penetrating : and the
writer has heard the
five-stringed Tenor Viol
played in concerted
music with good effect.
The illustration repre-
sents one made in 1 746
by Elsler of Mainz. [See
Tenor Violin.]

The Bass Viol alone,
of the original Viol
family, developed into
an instrument having
important musical qua-
lities of its own, and
secured a noticeable
place inmnsical historv
under its Italian nanu
of Viola da Gamba.
This is no doubt due t •
its long-continued us'
as an orchestral bass,
and to its similarity in
tuning to the Theorbo Lute. In the latter
quarter of the 16th century, and throughout
the 17th, while the Violin and the Tenor were
taking the place of the higher Viols, the Bass
Viol maintained its place, and afforded a wide
field to a considei-able school of players and
composers, principally in England, France, and
the Low Countries. It was the first bowed in-
strument to receive treatment commensurate to its
capacities, a circumstance which is accoimted
for by the fact that its tuning is practically
identical with that of the lute, and that both in-
struments were practised by the same players.
Throughout the 1 7th century, the Viola da Gamba
closely followed in the wake of the lute, anil
the two reached their highest development at
the hands of French composei's in the early part
of the 1 8th century. The command of the
six-stringed finger-board which the lutenists
had attained through two centuries of incessant
practice was in fact communicated by them to
bowed instruments through the medium of the
Bass Viol. By the middle of the 17th century,
before anything having any pretensions to
musical value had been wiitten for the Violin,
and still less for the Violoncello, many species of
composition had been brought to a considerable
degree of perfection on the Lute, and this de-
velopment of the Lute was directly communi-
cated to the Viola da Gamba. Tiie great mass
of Viola da Gamba chamber-music of the 17th

century which still exists in manuscript, is evi-
dently adapted from lute music. The Corrente,'
Chaconne, Pavane, Gig, Galliiird, and Almaine,
were favourite measures for both : the Prelude,
in which the capacity of the instrument for
modulation was displayed, was also much the-
same ; but the Viol was especially employed in
the ' Division on a Ground,' which was the
delight of English musicians in the 17th century.
So completely was this the case that in Symp-
son's well-known Method for the Viola da Gamba
the instrument is named the ' Division Viol.'
It was made in three sizes, that used for division
being of medium size : the largest size was used
for the ' Concert Bass,' played in combination
with other Viols : a size sni;dler than the Divi-
sion Viol was used for Lyra or Tablature playing,
in which the composer varied the tuning of the
Villi, and employed tablature instead of staff
notation for the convenience of the player.

Occasionally the tuning of the Division Viol
itself was varied : the two favourite ' scordature '
of the English players, usually called the ' Harp-
way' tunings, from the facilities they afforded
for arpeggios, were as follows : ■

liarp-way sharp. Ilarp-way flat.

___-?- l2g-

-?-^ — o y' is>

The following 'harp-way' tunings have been,
noticed by the writer in old German composi-
tions for the instrument : —

(i) Sharp.

(2) Flat.

(3) Sl'-ii-p.


The use of these tunings greatly increases the
resonance of the Viola da Gamba, and facilitates
execution in thirds on the upper strings : but the
writer is unacquainted with any instance of their
use, or of the use of any other scordatura, by the
classical writers for the instrument. The great
writer for the Viola da Gamba was De Caix
D'Hervelois, who flourished early in the last
century: but there were many others of less
note. The writings of De Caix, like those of
Bach, occasionally require the seventh string,
tuned to Double Bass A, a fourth below the
sixth string. Tliis was added towards the end
of the 17th century, by a French violist named
Marais. [See Scoudatura.]

The latest development of the Viol was the
construction of instruments with sympathetic
strings of metal. These date from the i6th cen-
tury: their properties are scientifically discussed
in the 2nd Book of Bacon's 'Natural History'
(1620-1625). The fancifuln;ime'd'Amore,' given
to these instruments, relates not to any special
aptitude for expressing amorous accents, but to
the sympathetic vibration of the open metallic
strings, stretched over the btlly, to the tones of
those which pass over the fingerboard. They
were made in several sizes. Even Kits are
found made with sympathetic strings (Sordino




imore) : the next largest size was called
e Violino d'Amore, and in its later type was
STlolin rather than a Viol. It usually has peg-
les for five sympathetic strings : there exists
rery curious one by Stradivari, guitar-shaped.^
le Tenor size became more generally known

the Viola d'Amore, an instrument in very
neral use in Italy and Germany in the ijtli
d iSth centuries. The instrument is invaria-
<f made with 'flaming-sword' soundholes, and
;8n has a * rose ' under the finger-board. The
mpathetic strings, of fine bra-s or steel wire,
3 attached by loops at the bottom to small
3ry pegs fi.xed in the bottom block above the
il-piu ; they are then carried through small
les drilled in the lower part of the bridge,
der the finger-board, which is hollowed for the
rpose, and over an ivory nut immediately below
6 upper nut, into the peg-box. In the earlier
itruments the sympathetic strings are worked

pegs similar to those of the gut-strings : but
s later plan was to attach them to small wrest-
18 driven vertically into the sides of the peg-
X, and tune them with a key, a preferable
sthod in all respects. The sympathetic appa-
;us was of two species, the diatonic and the
romatic, the former consisting of six or seven,
J latter of twelve or more strings. In the former
3cies the strings are tuned to the diatonic
de, the lowest note being usually D, and the
;ervals being adapted by flattening or sharp-
ing to the key of the piece in performance.

the chromatic description this is unnecessary,
ixe being twelve strings, one for each semitone

the scale, so that every note played on the
itrument has its sympathetic augmentation,
metimes a double set (24) of sympathetic
ings was employed. In the classical age of
s instrument, the time of Bach and Vivaldi,
was tuned by fourths and a third like the
lor viol. Following the example of the Viola

Gamba, a seventh string was added about

2 beginning of the last century, and ultimately

3 so-called 'harp-way' tuning of the Lute and
ola da Gamba came to be generally adopted,
lich was ultimately modified thus :

Flat. Sharp.

K— g-



The latter tuning was most employed, and is
ed in the weU-known obligate part in Meyer-
er's ' Huguenots.' The Viola d'Amore is a sin-
larly beautiful and attractive instrument, but
e inherent difiiculties of execution are not
sily surmounted, and as every f(,rte note pro-
ces a perfect shower of concoids and har-
mics, aU notes which will not tear a major

Sow in the possession of F. Johns. Esq. The iDstrument was
bably tuned lilte the ordinary violin, and the five s.vmpaihetic
iig» tuned to c. d, e. f, and g, ilie sjmpa;heLic tuning being Imw-
r varied tu suit the key.

Fig. 12.

third require to be very lightly touched. The
illustration represents a diatonic Viola d'Amore
dated 1757, by Hauch of Mannheim.

The ' English Violet '
mentioned by Mozart and
Albrechtsberger is identi-
cal with the Viola d'Amore :
the former applies the name
to the chromatic Viola
d'Amore, to which he as-
signs fourteen sympathetic
strings, the latter to a
common Viola d'Amore
having six instead of seven
strings. Why the Germans
called it ' English ' is a
mystery, for the writer has
never met with nor heard
of a true Viola d'Amore of
English make. The ' Vio-
Itjtta Marina,' employed by
Handel in the air ' Gia
I'ebio miociglio' (Orlando),
and having a compass as
low as tenor E, appears
ako to be simply the Viola

The Viola da Gamba
with sympathetic strings
was at first known as the Viola Bastarda, but
after undergoing considerable mechanical im-
provements in the sympathetic apparatus, it be-
came the well-known Barytone, the favourite
instrument of the musical epicures of the last
century. [See Barytone.] The seventh string
added to the Viola da Gamba by Marais was
usually employed in the Barytone. The sympa-
thetic apparatus of the Barytone is set in a
separate metal frame, and has an independent

The disuse of instruments with sympathetic
strings is easily explained. They added little or
nothing to the existing means of producing
masses of musical sound. They were essentially
solo instruments, and were seldom employed in
the orchestra. Nothing but continuous use in
professional hands in the orchestra will keep a
musical instrument from going out of fashion :
and it invariably happens that the disuse of in-
struments in the orchestra only shortly precedes
their disuse in chamber music. The practical ex-
tinction of these instruments is to be regretted.
Originally invented as a means of augmenting
the tone of the Viol, they acquired a character
entirely unique, and are undoubtedly capable of
further development.

The early employment of the Violin and Tenor
Violin in the orchestra left the Treble and Tenor
Viols exclusively in the hanils of amateurs, who
only slowly relinquished them. The pure school
of concerted viol-playing seems to have held its
ground longest in England : the 'Fantasies' of
Gibbons,^ and those of many other composers,
which repose in manuscript in the libraries,

2 Edited by Eimbault for ihe Musical Antiquarian Society. The
Preface is full of iuterestiug iufuraialiou as to viol music.





sufficiently indicate the extent to which tlie art
was cultivated. In performance, the pai-ts were
usually doubled, i. e. there were six playere, two
to each part, who all played in the fortes : the
piano passages were played hy three only. To
accompany voic°s, tbeorboes were added in the
liass, and violins in the treble : but the English
violists of tlie 17th century long regarded the
violin as an unwelcome intruder. Its compara-
tively harsh tone offended their ear by destroy-
ing the delicate balance of the viol concert :
Mace denominates it ' the scolding violin,' nnd
complains that it out-tops everything." ^Yllen
tlie 'sharp violin,' as Dryden calls it, was making
its way into music in England, it had already been
nearly a century in use on the continent. The
model had been developed in Italy : the treble
violin had first come into general use in France.

Of the viol family the most important seems
originally to have been the Tenor. This agrees
with the general plan of mediaeval music, in
which the tenor sustains the cantus or melody,
the trebles and basses being merely accompani-
ments. The violin appaiently originated in
the desire to produce a more manageable and
])0werful instrument for the leading part. The
(reige and Rebec were yet in use: perhaps the
contrast between their harsher tone and the
softness of the discant viol may have suggested
the construction of a viol with a convex back
modelled like the belly. But the extreme un-
handiness of the tenor viol is probably the true
key to the change. It was impossible to play
artistically when supported on the knee, and too
laige to be held under the chin. At first, it
would appear that violin-makers made it handier
in the latter respect by cutting away the bottom,
exactly as the top was sloped away to the neck :
and viols thus sloped at the bottom are still
extant. The more effective expedient of assimi-
lating the back to the belly not only reduced
the depth at the edges but rendered it easier to
retain in position. The first instrument to which
we find the name Violino appUed was the tenor,
and the common violin, as a diminutive of this,
was the ' Violino piccolo.' [See Tenor Violin.]

However the idea of assimilating the model
of the back to that of the belly may have ori-
ginated, it must have been quickly discovered
that its effect was to double the tone. The
result of making the instrument with a back
correlative to the belly, and connected with the
latter by the sides and soundpost, was to pro-
duce a repetition of the vibrations in the back,
partly by transmission through the ribs, blocks,
and soundpost, but probably in a greater degree
by the concussion of the air enclosed in the
instrument. The force whicii on the viol pro-
duced the higher and dissonant harmonics ex-
pended itself in the violin in reproducing the
lower and consonant harmonics by means of the
back. [See Harmonics.]

The invention of the Violin is commonly as-
signed to Gaspar Duiffoprugcar. of Bologna, and
placed early in the i6th century: and it has

> Music's Monument, p. 233.

been stated there still exist three jipt, is evi-
lins of Duiffoj)rugcar's w >rk, dated "; Corrente,'
The name is obviously a corrupl Almaine,
existed in the i6th century in '.le Prelude,
lute -makers of the Tyrolese nfument for
briicker ;'•' and as some of them li much the
following century it is possible that \a\'^d m' n ^
have made violins. But the authentic Hhe'tT
any date in a violin before 1520 is queiary. S
able. No instrument of the violin patternap- I
can be fairly assigned to a date earlier thanba a
middle of the i6th century is in existence, aol.' n( ^^
is scarcely credible that the violin could have ^n^ |j
so common between 1511 and 15 19, seeing thau jti
we find no mention of it in contemporary musical j
handbooks which minutely describe the stringed! j^
instruments of the period. In default of any 3,
better evidence, the writer agrees with Mr.
Charles Reade (quoted in Mr. Hart's book, ' The j.
Violin,' p. 68) that no true violin was mac
anterior to the second half of the i6th century,'
the ]ieriod of Gaspar di Salo and Andreas Amati.
The earliest date in any instrument of the violin
pattern which the writer has seen, is in a tenor
by Peregrino Zanetto (the younger) of Brescia,
15S0. It is, however, certain that tenors and vio-
lins were common about this time, and they were
chiefly made in the large towns of Lombardy,
Bologna, Brescia, and Ciemona. The trade had
early^ centred in the last-named city, which for
two centuries continued to be the metropolis of
violin -making; and the fame of the Cremona
violin quickly penetrated into other lands. In
1572 the accounts of Charles IX. of France show
a payment of 50 livres to one of the king's musi-
cians to buj' him a Cremona violin.*

The difficulty of ascertaining the precise anti-
quity of the Violin is complicated by the fact
that the two essential points in which it differs
from the Viol, (i) the four strings tuned by
fifths, and (2) the modelled back, apparently
came into use at different times. We know from
early musical treatises that the three-stringed
Rebec and some four-stringed Viols were tuned
by fifths : and the fact that the modelled back
was in use anterior to the production of the true
violin is revealed to us by a very early five-
stringed Viol with two Bourdons, now in the
Historical Loan Collection at the Inventions
Exhibition. This unique instrument, while it
has the primitive peg-box with seven vertical
pegs, has a modelled back and violin sound
holes : and it only needs the four strings tunec

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 65 of 194)