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viola pomposa ?

~ Ben Conover

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That looks suspiciously like one of David Rivinus' violas. I don't know if there is anything that we can hand-on-heart call a viola pomposa, but the five stringyness of it seems to be parallel - and possibly the same thing - as the viola da spalla, which has kind of the same problems. Sigismund Kujiken has been making that instrument his mission with the same repertoire in mind.

, (Five strings on this one:
)... I just don't know. At the very least they prove that a good musician can play just about anything. At least this one has some historic precidents. In Haken's case there is no connection between what he is playing and anything from the past. He's just having a blast playing Bach on a very resonant new instrument - good on him!
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It's probably considered important because Bach is supposed to have invented it (and composed for it) together with the maker Johann Christian Hoffmann of Leipzig. There is one of Hoffmanns "pomposa" in the museum there:


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In Haken's case there is no connection between what he is playing and anything from the past. He's just having a blast playing Bach on a very resonant new instrument - good on him!

A 1/16th size Suzuki cello is just the size of Carleen Hutchins' vertical viola. I would think that a very young kid starting on cello might want to use Viola strings. And it could be played for a long time, until a half size with octave lower strings was needed. I don't think hers has the higher ribs, but the idea does not present a problem.

I think the vertical viola with the extra string would be an excellent idea. Or just use four and cello fingering.

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Ben - actually Jacob had the answer spot on! I was just providing fluff... but it raises a question - the viola pomposa is to Bach what the Quinte is to Lully and the viola da spalla is to... well, apparently Bach as well... crikey these definitions are confusing before the upright viola and 1/16 cello fall into the game. ... I think I want to hide under a rock.

If I wasn't so conservative, I really think I could fall in love with those modern asymmetric violas. :rolleyes:

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Fot those wishing an encompassing knowledge of the viola pomposa at least as great as mine, :-) wander to http://octavivo.org/historical.html

It won't take long, believe me!

The Carleen Hutchins vertical alto is about 500 mm in body length. A 1/8 size cello is a little larger, and the Suzuki-size 1/10 cello is a little smaller. Pardon me if I get just a bit frosted about the comments that it would make a great instrument for a child cellist to start on. It would make an even better instrument for a child alto player to start on. A fine instrument in its own right and more than worthy of a lifetime of study. There are already any number of midget-sized cellos available for young cellists.

Footnote: I've had a few reports that the above link is dead. Don't know why. Copy and paste it into your browser window and it should work.

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  • 1 year later...


Viola Pomposa

Josef Klee Date: 19th century

Geography: Leitmeritz, Bohemia

Medium: Wood

Dimensions: Total length: 78.2

Classification: Chordophone-Bowed

Credit Line: The Crosby Brown Collection


How many of these bangin' instruments exist pre-1900? The hips to waist ratio is out of control.

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The word doesn't translate all that well directly into English, does it?


pomposo (fastoso, sfarzoso) sumptuous, luxurious, stately, lavish, opulent 

pomposo (persona: borioso, tronfio) pompous, arrogant, self-important, pretentious, bombastic, pretentious

pomposo (stile: ampolloso, magniloquente) grandiose, swollen, bloated, flamboyant 

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- or there's the "Quinte" of the 17th century French court orchestra!


Thanks Jacob for the Hoffmann link!


Fascinating to see this at last - thanks Ben! (I missed them when they came to England)

But I can't help asking, why in heaven's name did they go to all the effort and expense of re-creating a 17th century instrument, only to set it up with 18th century strings and bridge... <sigh> 

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