Affluent homes might have a so-called chest of viols , which would contain one or more instruments of each size. Gamba ensembles, called consorts , were common in the 16th and 17th centuries, when they performed vocal music consort songs or verse anthems as well as that written specifically for instruments. Only the treble, tenor, and bass sizes were regular members of the viol consort, which consisted of three, four, five, or six instruments.
The last music for viol consorts before their modern revival was probably written in the early s by Henry Purcell. Perhaps even more common than the pure consort of viols was the mixed or broken consort also called Morley consort. Broken consorts combined a mixture of different instruments—a small band, essentially—usually comprising a gathering of social amateurs and typically including such instruments as a bass viol, a lute or orpharion a wire-strung lute, metal-fretted, flat-backed, and festoon-shaped , a cittern , a treble viol or violin , as time progressed , sometimes an early keyboard instrument virginal , spinet , or harpsichord , and whatever other instruments or players or singers might be available at the moment.
The single most common and ubiquitous pairing of all was always and everywhere the lute and bass viol: for centuries, the inseparable duo.
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The bass viola da gamba remained in use into the 18th century as a solo instrument and to complement the harpsichord in basso continuo. It was a favorite instrument of Louis XIV and acquired associations of both courtliness and "Frenchness" in contrast to the Italianate violin. Georg Philipp Telemann published his Twelve Fantasias for Viola da Gamba solo in , when the instrument was already becoming out of fashion.
However, viols fell out of use as concert halls grew larger and the louder and more penetrating tone of the violin family became more popular. In the 20th century, the viola da gamba and its repertoire were revived by early music enthusiasts, an early proponent being Arnold Dolmetsch. The treble viol in d and the even smaller pardessus de viole in g often with only five strings were also popular instruments in the 18th century, especially in France.
It was also common to play music for violins or flutes or unspecified top parts on small viols. Historic viols survive in relatively great number, though very few remain in original condition. They can often be found in collections of historic musical instruments at museums and universities. Here are some of the extant historic viols at The Metropolitan Museum of Art :. Subject matter depicts amateur social music making, featuring lute, bass viol, and singers, with part books spread around the table.
This is also representative of one kind of broken consort, albeit with minimal instrumentation.
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Portrait of Carl Friedrich Abel , composer and viol master—German-born but residing in England most of his life—posed with his viola da gamba. By Thomas Gainsborough , c.
In the 20th and early 21st century, the viol is attracting ever more interest, particularly among amateur players and early music enthusiasts and societies, and in conservatories and music schools. This may be due to the increased availability of reasonably priced instruments from companies using more automated production techniques, coupled with the greater accessibility of early music editions and historic treatises. The viol is also regarded as a suitable instrument for adult learners; Percy Scholes wrote that the viol repertoire "belongs to an age that demanded musicianship more often than virtuosity.
The first was Viola da Gamba Society of Great Britain, which was established in the United Kingdom in and has a worldwide membership. The Viola da Gamba Society of America followed in , and with over members in North America and around the world remains the largest organization dedicated to the instrument. Since then, similar societies have been organized in several other nations.
In the s, the now defunct Guitar and Lute Workshop in Honolulu, Hawaii generated resurgent interest in the viol and traditional luthierie methods within the western United States. A notable youth viol group is the Gateshead Viol Ensemble. It consists of young players between the ages of 7 and 18 and is quite well known in the north east of England.
It gives young people the opportunity to learn the viol and gives concerts in the North East and abroad. Ensembles like these show that the viol is making a comeback. A living museum of historical musical instruments was created at the University of Vienna as a center for the revival of the instrument. More than instruments, including approximately 50 historical viola da gambas in playable condition, are the property of this new concept of museum: the Orpheon Foundation Museum of Historical Instruments.
All the instruments of this museum are played by the Orpheon Baroque Orchestra, the Orpheon consort, or by musicians who receive an instrument for a permanent loan. The instruments can be seen during temporary exhibitions. The feature film Tous les matins du monde All the Mornings of the World by Alain Corneau , based on the lives of Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe and Marin Marais , prominently featured these composers' music for the viola da gamba and brought viol music to new audiences. The film's bestselling soundtrack features performances by Jordi Savall , one of the best-known modern viola da gamba players.
The Baltimore Consort specializes in Renaissance song mostly English with broken consort including viols. A number of contemporary composers have written for viol, and a number of soloists and ensembles have commissioned new music for viol. The Viola da Gamba Society of America has also been a potent force fostering new compositions for the viol. More critically, the Society sponsors the Leo M.
Traynor Competition for new music for viols. The competition was first held in and currently takes place every four to five years since.
The competition is specifically for consort music for three to six viol that, like the repertoire of the Renaissance, is accessible to accomplished amateurs. The Palazzo Strozzi in Florence commissioned composer Bruce Adolphe to create a work based on Bronzino poems, and the piece, "Of Art and Onions: Homage to Bronzino", features a prominent viola da gamba part. Levine, among others. Composer Henry Vega has written pieces for the Viol: "Ssolo," developed at the Institute for Sonology and performed by Karin Preslmayr, as well as for Netherlands based ensemble The Roentgen Connection in with "Slow slower" for recorder, viola da gamba, harpsichord and computer.
Since the late s, numerous instrument makers, including Eric Jensen, Francois Danger, Jan Goorissen, and Jonathan Wilson, have experimented with the design and construction of electric viols. Like other acoustic instruments to which pickups or microphones have been added, electric viols are plugged into an instrument amplifier or a PA system , which makes them sound louder. As well, given that amplifiers and PA systems are electronic components, this gives the performer the ability to change the tone and sound of the instrument by adding effects units such as reverb or changing the tone with a graphic equalizer.
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An equalizer can be used to shape the sound of an electric viol to suit a performance space, or to create unusual new sounds. They have met with varying degrees of ergonomic and musical success. In the early 21st century, the Ruby Gamba, a seven-string electric viola da gamba,  was developed by Ruby Instruments of Arnhem , the Netherlands. It has 21 tied nylon adjustable frets in keeping with the adjustable tied gut frets on traditional viols and has an effective playing range of more than six octaves.
The viola da gamba is occasionally confused with the viola , the alto member of the modern violin family and a standard member of both the symphony orchestra and string quartet.
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In the 15th century, the Italian word "viola" was a generic term used to refer to any bowed instrument, or fiddle. It is important to note that the word "viola" existed in Italy before the vihuela, or first viol, was brought from Spain. In Italy, "viola" was first applied to a braccio precursor to the modern violin, as described by Tinctoris De inventione et usu musice , c. Depending on the context, the unmodified "viola da braccio" most regularly denoted either an instrument from the violin family, or specifically the viola whose specific name was "alto de viola da braccio".
When Monteverdi called simply for "viole da braccio" in "Orfeo", the composer was requesting violas as well as treble and bass instruments. The full name of the viola, namely "alto de viola da braccio" , was finally shortened to "viola" in some languages e. English, Italian, Spanish once viols became less common, while other languages picked some other part of the phrase to designate the instrument, e.
Some other instruments have viola in their name, but are not a member of the viola da gamba family. These include the viola d'amore and the viola pomposa. Though the baryton does not have viola in its name, it is sometimes included in the viol family. Whether it is considered a member of this family is a matter of semantics. It is organologically closely related to the viola da gamba proper, but if we think of the family as the group of differently sized instruments that play together in consorts, the baryton would not be among this group.
The names viola Italy and vihuela Spain were essentially synonymous and interchangeable. According to viol historian Ian Woodfield, there is little evidence that the vihuela de arco was introduced to Italy before the s. The term "viola" was never used exclusively for viols in the 15th or 16th centuries.
In 16th century Italy, both "violas", —the early viols and violins—developed somewhat simultaneously. While violins, such as those of Amati, achieved their classic form before the first half of the century, the viol's form standardized later in the century at the hands of instrument makers in England. Viola da gamba, viola cum arculo , and vihuela de arco are some true alternative names for viols.
Both "vihuela" and "viola" were originally used in a fairly generic way, having included even early violins viola da braccio under their umbrella. It is common enough and justifiable today for modern players of the viola da gamba to call their instruments violas and likewise to call themselves violists.
That the "alto violin" eventually became known simply as the "viola" is not without historical context, yet the ambiguity of the name tends to cause some confusion. The violin, or violino , was originally the soprano viola da braccio , or violino da braccio.
Due to the popularity of the soprano violin, the entire consort eventually took on the name "violin family". Some other names for viols include viole or violle French. I can play piano as well, for basic accompagnament. The teaching includes a little music theory so that the student can have the basics necessary to the understanding of a score, without this one taking too much place during the lessons. The classes will take place at the student's home or at my home. David, 26 years old, student at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels in Master 2 offers private violin and viola lessons.
All levels are accepted! Courses include a little bit of musical theory to make sure the student has the basics to understand a score.
Races will happen at the house of the student or mine. I am a violinist from the United States is offering violin lessons to intermediate and advanced students in Bruxelles, Saint-Gilles.