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A chronicle of a 1738 private party featuring a viola pomposa!
By J. A. Hiller
From Johann Adam Hiller “Lebensbeschreibungen berühmter Musikgelehrten und Tonkünstler, neuerer Zeit. Erster Theil, Leipzig 1784” (Biographies of famous music scholars and musicians of modern times. First part, Leipzig 1784):
During the carnival of 1738, [Franz] Benda traveled to Dresden at the invitation of the concertmaster [Johann Georg] Pisendel, who maintained a friendly correspondence with him [...]. One day [Silvius Leopold] Weiss invited Messrs. Benda and Pisendel to lunch and secretly had Benda's violin case brought over. In the afternoon, he was asked to play a solo on the violin, which Pisendel accompanied with the Viola pomposa*).
*) This instrument is tuned like a cello but has one more string on top. It is slightly larger than a viola and is attached with a strap so that it can be held in front of the chest and on the arm. The former violin maker in Leipzig Hofmann made a few of them, based on Joh. Seb. Bachs.
J. A. Hiller (Görlitz 1728 - Leipzig 1804) was a composer, flautist, singer and music teacher. He is considered to be the creator of the German Singspiel (German comic opera), and he was the first kapellmeister of the Gewandhaus concert hall and orchestra in Leipzig (1781/1784), and lately, from 1789 to 1801, he became cantor at the Thomaskirche, conducting the Thomanerchor, a position filled by Johann Sebastian Bach before.
The description of the viola pomposa was published by Hiller in almost identical wording, although without mentioning Hoffmann and Bach, in 1766 (“Wöchentliche Nachrichten und Anmerkungen die Musik betreffend” from December 16, 1766). The wording is again almost identical to those of Mattheson and Walther referring to the violoncello (and viola bassa and viola di spala).
News from da Spalla world
If you are in Indiana, you should go and listen listen to the BWV 115 cantata performed on Violoncello da Spalla by Koji Otsuki with the Bach Collegium Fort Wayne. At this link, info and reserve your tickets.
Updates from our workshop
We are both back at work now. One big cello and two tiny cute Violoncello da Spalla are on the bench!
We are taking a week off from next Friday, so possibly you won’t hear from us for two fridays in a row. Maybe we will send some news and pics from our holiday. We hope for some relax before the long winter, and we are going to Sardinia!
Featured video of the week:
Beautiful Sarabande by Toshihiko Amano (you can also listen to the complete suite, this is only a chapter of a longer video)