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World's First Viola Joke


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And a slam on the Gamba: I have an original edition, from 1825, of the three volume set of “anecdotes of music and musicians“ by one Thomas Busby. Very interesting, though his exotic English takes a bit of getting used to. He included this little story about Friedrich Abel, the famous Gamba player. It made me laugh.

“Abel, The composer in Germany, who had been the musical tutor of the lady destined to be the queen consort of George III, And who came to England in the suite of that princess, was remarkably attached to the viol da gamba, his performance on which excelled that every other professor; but who’s tones are so wiry, thin, and grating, that even his exquisite execution could not render it gratifying to any ears but his own.
It happened one day, at a dinner given by a certain titled amateur, that the powers and characters of the different musical instruments formed the subject of conversation: It was suggested by the noble host, that everyone present should name his favorite. In compliance with the proposal, one mentioned the organ, another the violin, another the flute, another the violoncello, Another the horn, et Cetera et Cetera, when Abel, after expecting, with impatience, but in vain, to hear his own beloved viol da gamba Included in the catalog, was unable to any longer endure his mortification; and, with feelings of ungovernable umbrage, Suddenly started from his seat, and quitted the room.”

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