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Renaissance viola


bryan
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Ok, from what I have read and researched, the violin and viola were first introduced in the renaissance era in the mid- 1500's. There were not be be confused with the viol de gamba as they were seperate instruments and used together for some time. Does anyone have any resources of where one could find viola music that was written in this era?

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Hi Bryan! You can get some information in a book in 2 volumes that is called "Viola History" or the "History of Viola".

Are you talking about solo viola music of the mid 1500? If so, I think it will be difficult to find, but you will find lots of transcriptions, I think.

Another curiosity is that viola music of that time was written sometimes in two parts: one for the the contralto viola and other for the viola tenore, a very large instrument, as the so called Viola Medicea made by Stradivari and now in a museum in Florence.

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Sadly, solo viola music did not really get started until 1770. In the sixteenth century the viola, was generally of two different sizes (Alto = c.16" and Tenor c.17.5"+), played two different parts accordingly, and was used only as a ripieno or accompanying instrument in larger chamber works. It was squeezed out of a great deal of chamber music from the late 17th century with the golden age of the Baroque Trio (2 violons, cello, & keyboard). Most everything 'Baroque' in which the viola plays a solo role (with the notable exceptions of Telemann's Concertos and their role in Bach's Brandenburgs) is an early 20th century transcription. Don't go there! Its advent as an important solo and chamber instrument was heralded by the dawn of the Quartet. Whether as a result of this, or as a parallel 'fad', a suprising amount of quality solo and small chamber works featuring viola were produced between 1770 and 1820: the real 'golden age' of the viola. If you have an early music ensemble in your area you could play with then the 16th century viola could be interesting. Otherwise it is much more rewarding to explore the early classical period (when a gut strung instrument is still very appropriate!).

Riley's The History of the Viola (get volume I, do not bother with volume II) is the best thing that is available on viola history. BUT be aware that it is full of innacuracies, gaps, and just plain old mediocre scholarship. I am currently writing an article correcting some of its errors concerning early Viola sonatas...

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Thanks all. It is a shame but it seems that the viola is and was mostly in the shodows. I wish there were an early music group in my area but there's not. I will look up those books to further knowledge my lacking brain:) Transcriptions would probably be the best for me to try to find. Perhaps I could transpose some early recorder music on my own.

tradfiddle - I would be very interested in reading your corrected version of Riley's book if you wouldn't mind when you have finished . . .

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Quote:

Its not a corrected version of the entire book - merely an update/correction on his views concerning the first published viola sonatas... However I would be pleased to send you a text file of it when complete in a few days...


Much appreciated, thanks!

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I think one thing the viola was used for was to play the tenor part in four-part choir pieces, which were often performed with strings playing colla parte (or am I making this up? I hope not).

Some early viola sonatas that you might like, although they're Baroque, are the Stockholmer Sonatas by Ariosti. I've played one of them and tried the others, and while they're not as straightforward as the Telemann concerto, they're interesting and fun to play.

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Um... Ariosti's sonatas are all for the viola d'amore aren't they? I had a chance to play an original (18th c.) viola d'amore last weekend for the first time. All those strings !!! (not to mention the sympathetic ones). To stand a chance of bowing properly on the instrument you have to stay very near the bridge...

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Tradfiddle, you're right -- but if anyone has a period viola and no authentic music to play, then I'd say play the Ariosti sonatas anyway and have fun! I've only performed them on my modern viola, but I've tried some movements on my Baroque viola and realised that they would be fine there too (only it's really hard to play the double stops in tune ...).

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