…and those that got it just right!
Right or wrong… depending on what we want to see! But for sure all these personalities were no fools!
Even if we still didn’t find the perfect tutorial from 1724, explaining us how to play Violoncello da Spalla the correct way, there are some treatises that come to comfort us.
The first that comes to mind is Mattheson.
Johann Mattheson was a singer and composer who also played violin, and in his “Das neu-eröffnete Orchestre”, Hamburg 1713, writes:
The excellent violoncello, the bass viol and the viola da spalla are small violin basses (when compared with the bigger 5 or 6 stringed instruments) on which it is possible to obtain, with less fatigue than on the bigger instruments, fast notes, variations and mannerisms.
The viola da spalla in particular is very effective in accompaniment because it can speak clearly and purely. A bass cannot be expressed in a way more distinct and clear than on this instrument.
It is tight on the chest with a strap and at the same time thrown on the right shoulder. This way, there is nothing that limits or prevent its resonance.
This is quite a good description of how it is played, and of its use in the continuo group. Coming from a composer who had his operas published and performed, and who was also close friend with G. F. Händel.
In 1741, Joseph Friedrich Bernhardt Caspar Majer publishes in Nuremberg his “Neu-eröffneter theoretisch- und pracktischer Music-Saal”:
A bassoon viola is hold on the arm and handled like a viola, even the tuning is in the same way but all one octave lower, so with stronger (bigger) strings. Its range, fingerings and sillabation (notes) is like the French bass violin, or violoncello.
And, to stick to that bassoon definition, here is Leopold Mozart in his Violinschule 1756:
The bassoon violin is someway different from viola in size and tuning, and it is common use employing it in the bass parts.
The violoncello is today also played between legs
1758, in Erfurt, Jakob Adlung, “Anleitung zu der musikalischen Gelahrtheit”:
The violoncello is also called viola da spalla
This, just to close the circle.
In this little tour, one may be surprised that we never encountered the therm viola pomposa. Or, maybe you heard that viola apomposa was a later invention. In fact, both of this statements are truth! But we’ll get in it another time.
Updates from our workshop
This week was all about gluing linings and cleaning up the outline, bringing the ribs to the desired heights, just after having decided which the desired height is checking on the monochord. So not a lot to show, but work is going on.
I’m busy preparing a talk I will give for the Women in Lutherie Conference, at the end of this month. Check it out, you can book your seat at this link.
Featured video of the week
I’m not sure this sharing is authorized, but here are the 6 Bach Suites by Sigiswald Kuijken. The first recording ever on Violoncello da Spalla.