Introduction, Part One

The History of the Viola da Gamba


The history of the Violoncello and Violoncello playing is connected in its early stages up to a certain point with that of the Viola da Gamba and its forerunner, "the Basso di Viola," of the Sixteenth century. This last-named instrument formed the bass in the string quartets of that time, to which also belonged, according to the Italian designation, the " Discant-Viola " or " Violetta," as well as the " Viola d'Alta " and "di Tenore." In Germany these instruments were called Diskant, Alto, Tenor, and Bass viols. The terms Viola and Violin (In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the name "Geige" violin, then in ,ordinary use, must not be confounded with the violin of our time. This term was not applied to the more modern instrument until later.) were at that time consequently synonymous. From the foregoing remarks it will be perceived that it is a question not of one kind, but of a whole family of stringed instruments. Descriptions and illustrations of them are found in the following music-authors of the sixteenth century.

SEBASTIAN VIRDUNG : " Musica getutscht," 1511; HANS JUDENKUNIG: "Ain schone kunstliche Vunderwaisung," u.s.w., 1523 ; MARTIN AGRICOLA: " Musica instrumentalis deutsch, 1528, HANS GERLE Musica Teusch " (Teutsch), 1532; OTTOMAR LUSCINIUS: (Nachtgall), " Musurgia seu praxis Musicae," 1536; and GANASSI DEL FONTEGO: " Regola Rubertina," 1542. Agricola's and Gerle's works appeared in various editions. The work of the former, as well as Luscinius' "Musurgia," are partly reproductions of Virdung's " Musica getutscht."

According to the descriptions of the-above-named authors, violas or violins were of two kinds. (A more detailed account of the above stringed instruments and their precursors is contained in my work, 11 The Violin and its Masters," Second Edition (Leipsic: Breitkopf and Hiirtel), and 11 History of Instrumental Music in the Sixteenth Century" (Berlin: Brachvogel and Ranft), therefore a repetition of what is there said is unnecessary.)

Some of them had no bridge, others, on the contrary were provided with One. For the object before us' the last only claim our consideration, of which, as well as of the bridgeless violins, there were four different examples. The alto and the tenor were the, same size, but of different methods of tuning. The so-called violas (fiddles) were provided with six strings which were called, like the six lute chords, Great Bumhardt (Bombarte), middle ditto (tenor); small ditto, (counter-tenor); middle string (great mean); vocal string (small mean); and quint string (treble). The "Great Bumbardt " was left out in those instruments provided with five strings only. In Italy the six strings were called : Basso, Bordone, Tenore, Mezzanella or Mezzana, Sottanella or Sotana, and Canto. In France, according to Mersennus - Sixie8me, Cinquiesme, Quatriesme, Troisiesme, Seconde, and Chanterelle. The same author gives for the violas the names: Dessus," " Haut Contre," " Taille," and " Basse Contre."

In Judenkunig's and Hans Gerle's works are found the accompanying illustrations of stringed instruments provided with a bridge. Their identity is unmistakable, though they differ from each other in many peculiarities of form. Both instruments represent the so-called "big fiddle" (The , big fiddle " of the sixteenth century must not be confounded with the stringed instrument of that time, of which the pitch answered to our modern Contra-basso, and in Italy was already called 11 Violone," as appeaxs from Laufranco's 11 Sointille," 1533. ) or "Basso di Viola." The tuning was that of the lute, which, as an older stringed instrument, served in this respect as its model. Only in regard to the pitch did any difference exist. Judenkunig makes it thus:-

Hans Gerle, on the contrary, writes it thus:-

Here the pitch of the second is a fifth lower than the first. Judenkunig's pitch represents the tenor and that of Gerle the bass. Agricola says in his " Musica instrumentalis," regarding the height of pitch for the lute:

And in Hans Neusiedler's Lute-book (1535) it is said: " He who wishes to learn how to tune the lute, let him draw'up the Quint string, not too high, and not too low, a medium height, as much as the strings will bear." Similar instructions are to be found in Gerle's " Musica Teutsch."

The capability of tension of the Quint string was consequently the guide for the pitch in tuning the lute-beyond this there was as yet no normal piteh-and in stringed instruments it was in every case so maintained. In playing with wind instruments the stringed instruments had, therefore, to adapt the pitch to them.

The " great violins " were, in the first half of the sixteenth century at least, according to all appearance played in two ways. From the drawing in Judenkiinig's treatise, a mode of handling is seen which requires no further explanation. That the handling of the " great violin " represented by Judenkiinig without any explanation is treated of as not exceptional appears also from the accompanying vignette of another publication of that period.

The bass viol performing with the two lutists represents the same position and manner of playing as the woodcut in Judenkiinig's treatise, with the sole difference that he is holding his instrument in the left hand, whereas the peg-box

of the instrument, bent sharply backwards, of Judenkiinig's player rests on his shoulder. It is very evident that in both cases scarcely more could be executed than the simplest bass accompaniment. More, however, was eventually to be produced according to the treatment of the " great violin " prescribed by Gerle. He says regarding it: " When you have according to my instructions 'beschriben' (noted), (The word 11 beschriben " refers to the letters which, for the convenience of the player, it was the custom to mark for the fingers on the fingerboard.) tuned and drawn up the violin, and wish to begin playing, proceed thus: Take the neck of the instrument in the left hand and the bow in the right, sit down and press the viola between the legs, that you may not strike it with the bow, and take care when you play that you draw the bow directly and evenly over the strings neither too far from nor too near the bridge (The artist who drew the sketches of the instrument for Gerle's "Musica Teutsch" has left out the bridge in the great viola: see below:)

on which the strings lie, and that you do not draw the bow over two strings at once, but only over that which is placed under the figuring in the Tablature, and this must be especially attended to."

It appears, according to Gerle's instructions, that the instrument of which he speaks was a so-called "Knee violin" -in Italian, " Viola da gamba." It seems, however, that in the sixteenth century this description was not in common use. Hans Gerle, a native of Nuremberg, born about 1500, had already received important consideration during the first twenty years of the sixteenth century, not only as a skilful performer, but also as a maker of lutes and viols. Yet the making of these- instruments, and especially of viols, had already been carried on at a much earlier period by others. The oldest fiddle or viola maker of whom we have any mention is a certain Kerlino, who, according to Fetis' account, lived and worked in Brescia. It is most probable that he was a German, or at least of German extraction, for the name Kerl, in every kind of variation, both as a common and individual or family name, had been constantly in use among the German races. In the German dictionary of the Brothers Grimm are indicated the various forms of the name " Kerl " : Kerle, formerly Karle ; Kerls, Kerles, Kerlis, Kerli, Kerlin, Kerel, Kaerl, Kerdel, and Kirl. They are of German origin, and are derived from middle or low German, whereas the Anglo-Saxon equivalents are " Carl," or "Ceorl."

Originally the word " Kerl " (kerle), according to Grimm, was synonymous with "Mann" (man), and also with Ehemann (husband). But it was also used as a family or tribal name, as is proved from the names Jacob de Kerle (sixteenth century), Joh. Kaspar von KerlI (also written Kerl, Kherl, Cherle), born 1628, and Vitus Kerle (in the eighteenth century). Also at the present time it is a family name. We need only mention G. H. Bruno Kerl, Professor of the Royal Berg Academy at Berlin.

Another form of " Kerl," Kerlin, was, according to Grimm, used in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Who can doubt then that the Brescian instrument maker Kerlino was of German origin? (Other authorities, however, say he was a Breton-Fetis, Casimir Colomb.) He was, evidently, originally called Kerl or Kerlin, to which name was added by the Italians either the diminutive syllable " ino " or the vowel " o." It cannot be of Italian origin, for the Italian has no " k."

Fetis informs us that Kerlino must be considered as the founder of the school of Brescian viola makers which, as the oldest in Italy from the middle of the sixteenth century, attained such a great reputation, through Gaspar da Salo and his reputed pupil, Giov. Paolo Maggini. If what appears so extremely probable has any real foundation, to a German, or, at least, to a man of German extraction, must be justly conceded the merit of having, in a measure, been the originator of the art of Italian stringed instrument making which later on developed to the highest point.

Further, we learn from Fetis that in the year 1804 a Parisian iolin maker, named Koliker, was in possession of a violin which had been previously described by the French writer on music, de Ia Borde, containing the inscription: "JOAN. KERLINO, ANN. 1449," and which originally had been a " Viola da braccio." Doubtless this remarkable instrument exists at the present time. Fetis, who saw it himself, describes its quality of tone as "agreeably soft and faintly subdued." Among the composers who wrote for the viola, we must mention Giov. Battista Bonometti, born at Bergamo about the end of the sixteenth century. In 1615 he caused to be published in Vienna a collection of trios for two violas and a bass.

After Kerlino there appeared in North Italy as noted lute and viola makers the monk Pietro Dardelli, in Mantua about 1500; Gaspard Duiffopruggar, in Bologna, 1510; Venturi Linarolli (Linelli), in Venice, 1520; Peregrino Zanetto, in Brescia in 1580; and Morglato Morella, in Venice, 1550. Amongst these G. Duiffopruggar is evidently of German birth (The name Duiffopruggar doubtless came from the same source as the surname Tieffenbrucker, still existing in South Germany), and remarkable as having, as far as we can see, made the first violins.

This artist was in 1515 summoned to France by King Francis I.; he at first lived in Paris and then at Lyons. He made some excellent Bass viols (Gambas), of which two fine specimens are extant in France. A similar bass viol was represented by Raphael in his painting of St. Cecilia. This splendid picture, in the Pinacothek at Bologna, existed in 1515.

After Duiffopruggar, Andreas Amati (1520 to about 1580), the founder of the Cremona school, distinguished himself in the making of violas (as well as violins). His instruments obtained such a great reputation that Charles IX. of France, an enthusiastic amateur of music, bad twenty-four violins, six tenors, and eight basses made by him. Amongst the latter there were several bass viols, like the viola da gamba. The instruments made for Charles IX. by Andrea Amati were every one of them destroyed during the French Revolution of 1792. (Mr. Heron Allen in his "Violin Making, &c.," page 74, says that two were recovered.)

Contemporaneously with Andreas Amati the manufacture of stringed instruments was vigorously carried on by Gaspard da Salo, in Brescia.

In Germany, from the second half of the sixteenth century, LAUXMIN POSSEN, in 1550, at Schongau, subsequently instrument maker for the Hofkapelle at Munich; JOH. KOHL, who at the same time worked at Munich and in 1599 was appointed Court instrument maker there, and also JOACHIM TIELKE were successively celebrated. The latter lived, as Gerber informs us, at Hamburg from about 1660 to 1730, and even made lutes of real ivory and ebony, the necks of which were inlaid with gold and silver and mother-of-pearl, but one especially with nine pegs of the most beautiful tortoiseshell. Tielke, however, made also violins and excellent gambas. One of these, a costly instrument which was formerly in the possession of the Elector Joh. Wilhelm of the Palatinate (The same Prince to whom Corelli dedicated his "Concerti Grossi," published in 1712), was brought from Mannheim to the Duke of Maxburg's Museum at Munich, and thence into the Royal Bavarian National Museum, where it is preserved as a treasure of rare value. The peg-box, the fingerboard, the tail-piece, the sides, and the back are all decorated with designs of flowers, foliage, and tendrils, as well as symbolical and allegorical representations taken from mythology, the subjects representing for the most part love and music. These decorations and designs are inlaid work in tortoiseshell, ivory, ebony, mother-ofpearl and silver. (Herr Obernetter, of Munich, has taken two beautiful photographs of this richly decorated instrument, which reproduce with great accuracy all its peculiarities. As far as I know they can still be purchased.)

Another valuable specimen of a gamba made by Tielke in the year 1701, which belonged to the famous cello virtuoso, F. Servais, has been described and represented by A. J. Hipkins, of Edinburgh, in his lately published work, "Musical Instruments: Historic, Rare and Unique."

(Here may be mentioned also a third magnificent gamba, that of Vincenzo Ruger, said to have been made in Cremona in 1702. It is distinguished not only for its beautiful exterior in every respect, but also by an extraordinarily sonorous and unusually fine quality of tone, which combines the resonant character of the gamba with that of the violoncello. The latter circumstance is attributed to the fact that the back, which is usually flat in the ordinary gamba, is arched in this one. This instrument, which has been lately purchased by the Prussian Government for the Berlin Museum, was formerly in the possession of Herr Paul de Wit, in Leipsic. The account of instrument making published by him contains (Vol. VI., No. 21) a description and illustration of the gamba in question.)

During the second half of the sixteenth century there must have been a considerable multiplication of the different kinds of violas then in use, and especially of the bass viol, for Michael Pratorius mentions in his "Syntagma musicum," which appeared in 1614-1620, the following examples :

1. Very large Bass Viol with four strings (corresponding to the modern Contrabasso).

2. Great Bass Viol de Gamba in three different tunings, with five and also six strings (also like the Contrabasso).

3. Small Bass Viol de Gamba, five different examples with six, four, and three strings (answering in tone, in some measure, to the modern Violoncello).

4. Tenor and Alto Viol de Gamba, in two different pitches, with six, five, four, and three strings (answering partly to the Violoncello and partly to the modern Tenor).

5. Cant Viol de Garnba (Violetta piccola), four different kinds with six, five, four, and three strings (the tone also partly answering to the Tenor and partly to the Violin).

6. Viol Bastarda, in five different pitches, with six strings (the tone corresponding to that of the Cello).

7. Viola de Braccio, four different examples, with five and four strings (corresponding in tone partly to the Violoncello and partly to that of the Tenor).

Moreover, Pratorius mentions, under the heading " Viole de Braccio Viols," the Discant Viol " (our modern Violin), the small " Discant Viol (tuned a fourth higher than our Violin), and two " very small Viols with three strings," of which the lowest string of the first is a ninth and of the second an octave higher than the G String of the Violin.

Of the multitude of these different kinds of Viols then in use, which later on by manifold improvements were gradually reduced to a smaller number, until they resulted in the modern Violin and Tenor, as well as the Violoncello and Contrabasso, we must keep in view, for the object of the present work, the "Viola da Gamba" only, which must be regarded as the precursor of the violoncello. Pratorius gives a sketch (annexed) of the so-named instrument.

A comparison of these gambas with the sketches of viols by Judenkunig and Gerle shows what substantial alterations the stringed instrument in question underwent in the course of the second half of the sixteenth century. The neck had assumed a more modern and more convenient form for the technique of the left hand and the sounding-board had acquired more elegant and attractive outlines. At the same time the sound-holes, corresponding to the curves of the belly, were turned round and placed in a position more agreeable to the eye.

Pratorius expresses himself regarding the Viola da Gamba as follows: " Violas, viols, and violuntzes (Violantzes is synonymous with the old French instrument, violonsse. Vide Grimm's Dictionary of the German Language.) are of two kinds- 1. Viole de gamba; 2. Viole de braccio (or de brazzio)-and the former is so called from having been held between the legs ; for gamba is an Italian word and means a leg; le gambe, the legs. And since they have much larger bodies and, on account of the length of the neck, have strings of a much longer tension, they produce a mellower resonance than others, 'di braccio,' which are held on the arm. The two kinds are distinguished by town musicians: the viole de gamba by the name of violas: the viole 'di braccio' (among which PrMorius includes violins) by the name of fiddles or pollish fiddles. . . .

"The Violes de Gamba have six strings and are tuned in fourths and in the middle a third, exactly like the six-stringed lute. Englishmen when they play them alone sometimes tune them a fourth, sometimes a fifth lower, so that the lowest strings are tunedthe bass to D, the tenor and alto to A, and the canto to E. On other occasions each one (reckoning by the chamber-pitch) (The Kammerthon or chamber-pitch, as distinguished from the obsolete "Chorton" or choir-pitch, which formerly prevailed in German churches, was a tone, or even more, higher than the secular pitch.) a fifth lower-as, for example, the bass to G G, the tenor and alto to D, the canto to A ; and tuning in this manner produces much more agreeable, grander, and more majestic harmonies than when the instruments are at the usual pitch."

What Pratorius says regarding the mode and way of English viol-tuning is supplemented by Mersennus in his " Harmonie Universelle " (1636-37). This author says: " Il faut remarquer que les Anglois ioiient ordinairement leurs pi6ces un ton plus bas que les Frangais, afin d'entendre Pharmonie plus douce et plus charmante, et cons6quemment que leur sixiesme chorde a vuide fait le C sol au lieu que la nostre fait le D re sol."

The pitch then in England was a varying one, though the series of intervals borrowed from the lute, to which the gamba like the bass viol was tuned, were those which commonly prevailed.

In other respects, Mersennus gives no more explicit directions for the handling of the Viola da Gamba than Pratorius. He does not use this name for the instrument in question, but calls it "Basse de Viol." The French designation, " Viole de jambe," corresponding to the Italian name, appears consequently to have been in vogue later and to have been generally little used.

Like Gerle's "great fiddle" (Basso di Viola), the Viola da Gamba had also as a rule seven frets on the fingerboard like the lute, for fixing the tones and semitones.

The gamba was played in various ways, and used for a variety of musical purposes, as a solo instrument, as well as in orchestral performances, and as an accompaniment to singing. The way in which it was valued during the first half of the seventeenth century as an obbligato accompaniment to singing, may be seen from the preface to Heinrich Schiltz's "Historia of the joyful and victorious resurrection of our only Saviour," and so on, published in 1623. It is there said, after Schutz has named the instruments which are to accompany the parts of the Evangelists: "But when it can be done it is better that the organ and everything else should be left out and instead of these only four Viole di Gamba (which must also be present), should be used to accompany the parts of the Evangelists."

"It will, however, be necessary that the four viols should be thoroughly 'practised' with the part of the Evangelist in the following manner : The Evangelist takes his part to himself, and recites it straight through without any fixed time, just as it seems correct to him, but not holding longer on one syllable than is customary in ordinary slow and distinct speaking. The violas must not mark any particular time, but only pay attention to the words recited by the Evangelist, and to their parts written below the 'falso-bordone' and so doing they cannot go wrong. A viola may also 'passegiren' amongst the others, as is usual with the falso-bordone (Faburden," according to Mr. Niecks), and this gives a good effect."

It appears from the explanation that the gambas were used to support the harmonies of recitatives. The " passegiren " suggested by Schutz of one of the accompanying violas was nothing else than the usual improvised ornamental colorature or diminuendos used at that time and up to the eighteenth century. (Concerning this, see my "History of Instrumental Music" in the Century, page 107.)

For solo playing gambas were used not only for the execution of monotone-viz., compositions of one part only; but also for several parts, and especially for double-stops and chords.

The oldest French gambist of whom we have any account is a certain Granier. Gerber says, concerning him, that he had been "in the service of Queen Margaret of France," and died, about 1600, in Paris, and that he was the greatest artist of his time on the gamba.

Concerning the artistic use of violas, amongst which, as already said, gambas were included, Mersennus writes as follows: " Encore que les Violes soient capables de toutes sortes de musique, et que les exemples que j'ay donne (sic) pour le concert (By the word concert, Mersennus means concerted piece), des violons lour puissent servir, neantmoins elles demandent des pieces, plus tristes et plus graves, et dont la mesure soit plus longue et plus tardiue; do la vient qu'elles sont plus propres pour accompagner les voix. Or l'on pout jouer toutes sortes de pieces non seulement A cinq parties, comme l'on fait ordinairement sur les Violons, mais a six, a sept, a douze et a tout autant de parties que I'on veut."

At the beginning of the above-quoted passage it is remarked, that violas were used for every kind of music, but the use of these instruments for solo playing is not expressly mentioned. In another passage of his work Mersennus says, b.owever, with regard to gamba playing and the French performers of his time :-

" Personne en France n'6gale Maugars et Hottman, hommes tr6s habiles dans cet art : ils excellent dans les diminutions et par leurs traits d'archet incomparables de delicatesse et de suavete. Il n'y a rien dans Pharmonie qu'ils ne savent exprimer avec perfection, surtout lorsqu'une autre personne les accompagne sur le clavicorde. Mais le premier execute seul et A la fois deux, trois ou plusieurs parties sur la basse de viole avec tant d'ornements et un prestesse de doigts dont il parait si peu se preoccuper, qu'on Wavait rien entendu de pareil auparavant par ceux qui jouaient de la viole ou meme de tout autre instrument . . . ."

It is here clearly expressed that solo playing on the gamba, and notably in several parts, was much cultivated and highly appreciated.

The Maugars (Maugars is called in the "Historiettes de Tellemant des R&ux," as Fetis informs us, the " greatest fool that had ever lived." His "Reponse faite A un curieux " (completely unprejudiced, although somewhat conceited) in no way agrees with this. it is easy to discover that Maugars was not liked by his countrymen, because he openly declared that French music was far behind the Italian. On that account he had incurred the displeasure of French artists. The Parisian musician, Corrette, in the eighteenth century, was guilty of the same offence. He had been candid enough to say to the French that the standard of French violin playing of the eighteenth century was, compared to the Italian, in a disorganised condition. In retaliation they called his pupils scornfully "lea anachoretes" ("lea fines i Corette ")) here mentioned by Mersennus expresses himself regarding his own performances as a gamba player in his " "eponse fait a un curieux. sur le sentiment de la Musique d'Italie ecrite a Rome le premier Octobre, 1639," which was published either at the end of 1639 or the beginning of 1640. After having spoken of his intercourse with the artistic family Baroni during his residence in Rome, he relates : -

" In this worthy house, at the solicitation of these gifted people, I was induced for the first time to exhibit in Rome the talent with which God had endowed me. It happened in the presence of ten or twelve of the most experienced people of Italy, who, after they had listened to me attentively, bestowed on me some eulogiums ; not, however, quite ungrudgiingly.

" In order to test me further the Signora Leonora (Baroni) induced me to leave my viola at her house, and begged me to return the following day. This I did, and as it was reported to me by a friend that it was said I played studied things very well, on the second occasion I gave them so many kinds of preludes and fantasias that they really granted me more appreciation than the first time. The respect, however, of these worthy people did not succeed in winning over the experts, who were somewhat over-refined and reticent to concede applause to a foreigner. It was told me they acknowledged that I played very well alone, and that they had never heard such harmoni6ed viola playing, but they doubted if I were capable of extemporising a theme and playing variations on it. You know, sir, that in this I am not a little successful. The same words had been told me on the eve of St. Louis'day in the French church, while I was listening to the fine music then being performed there. This determined me on the next day; excited thereto by the name of Saint Louis, as well as for the honour of the nation and the thirty-three cardinals who were present and taking part in the Mass, to ascend into the gallery. When I had been greeted with applause, I was given fifteen to twenty notes, in order to make myself heard after the third Kyrie with the accompaniment of a small organ. This subject I treated with such infinite variety that great satisfaction was shown, and the cardinals caused me to be invited to play again after the Agnus Dei.

" I considered myself very fortunate that I had been able to afford this little pleasure to so distinguished a company. I was given another somewhat more cheerful theme than the first, which I treated with so many variations and such a diversity of movements that they were extremely astonished, and immediately came to me in order to requite me with eulogiums. On account of the friendship which you cherish for me, my dear sir, I am convinced you will not accuse me of vanity in this digression. I have only made it in order that you may know that if a Frenchman desires to gain a reputation in Rome he must be well armed; and so much the more because it is thought here that we are not capable of improvising on a given theme. In fact, whoever plays an instrument deserves no extraordinary consideration, unless he shows himself equal to such a demand, especially for the viola-to play on which, by reason of its few strings and the consequent difficulty of playing in parts, is always a thankless task-it is necessary to possess some individual talent in order to be inspired by a subject and expand into beautiful inventions as well as agreeable variations. The capacity to do this requires two real and innate qualifications-viz., a lively and strong imagination and skilful execution, in order promptly to carry out one's ideas." (I give this and the following quotations from Maugars' writings, according to my translations in the monthly parts of the "History of Music," published in the year 1878.)

The unlimited tribute of praise which Mersennus pays to the performances of Maugars, renders credible the remarkable account given by himself. Maugarsgamba playing excited in Rome the greatest consideration, because at that time neither there nor anywhere else in Italywas there any prominent artist for that instrument. " As regards viola playing, Maugars declares there is no one in Italy who is distinguished for it, and in Rome it is very little cultivated. This has greatly astonished me, as formerly they had a certain Horace of Parma who performed wonderfully on this instrument, and left behind him some excellent compositions, which some of our musicians cleverly made use of for other instruments besides those for which they were composed. The father of the great Italian, Ferabosco, was the first to make them known to the English, who from that time have excelled all other nations."

From the last words it is to be inferred that gamba playing in England was much in vogue at the time of Maugars. The Ferabosco (Ferrabosco)-with the christian name of Alfonsomentioned by him, who first made the English acquainted with this art, can be no other than the composer of that name referred to by Fetis as born in Italy about 1515. He settle(I in London about 1540, and about the year 1587 appears to have been in the service, as " gentilumo," of the Duke of Savoy. (The English writers on music affirm that the well-known composer, Ferabosco, who was born at Greenwich in the second half of the sixteenth century, and who was also called Alfonso, was the son of the above Ferabosco, with which the remarks of Maugars agree. Fetis doubts the truth of the assertion made by the English writers on music. The younger Ferabosco appears also to have been a gamba player, for he published, in the year 1609, in London, "Lessons for one, two, and three viols." He died in 1665.)

Amongst English gambists of distinction must be named Thomas Robinson, Tobias Hume, William Brade, and John Jenkins. Probably they were all pupils of the elder Ferabosco.

Concerning THOMAS ROBINSON, who was born in the second half of the sixteenth century, and lived and worked in the beginning of the seventeenth in London, nothing further is known than that f~ published a curious work under the title, " The Schoole of Musicke : the perfect method of true fingerincy the Lute, Pandora, Orpharion, and Viol da gamba. London, 1603."

His contemporary, TOBIAS HUME, was an officer in the English army, and spent much of his time in Sweden. He was reputed one of the cleverest gambists of that period; he caused to be published, in 1605, a work with the following title: "The first part of Ayres, French, Pollish, and others together, some in Tabliture and some in Pricke song. With Pauines, Galliards, and Almaines for the Viole di gamba, and other Musicall Conceites for two Basse-viols, expressing five partes, with pleasant Reportes one from the other; and also for two Leero-Viols, and also for the LeeroViole with two Treble Viols, or two with one Treble. Lastly, for the Leero-Viole to play alone; and some Songes to bee sung to the Viole with the Lute, or better with the Viole alone. Also an Invention for two to play upon one Viole. Composed by Tobias Hume, gentleman. Printed by John Windet Loud, dwelling at the sign of the Cross Keyes, at Powles Wharfe, 1605." It is evident that the composition of arrangements for two instruments, which might also be played on one only, was no invention of the Salzburg violinist, Joh. Hein. Biber. (See my work "The Violin and its Masters," Part ii., p. 203.) In 1607 he published another work, under the title "Captain Hume's Poeticall Musicke, principally made for two basse viols yet so contrived that it may be plaied eight severall waies upoil sundry instruments with much facilitie. London." This work, of which the British Museum possesses a copy, was dedicated to Anne of Denmark. He was received into the Charterhouse as a poor brother in 1629, and known as " Captain Hume." His mind seems to have given way, and he died there on April 16, 1645.

WILLIAM BRADE flourished about 1615, and spent much of his life out of England. He was appointed violist to the Duke of Holstein-Gottorp and of the city of Hamburg at the beginning of the seventeenth century. In 1619 he seems to have been Capellmeister to the Margrave of Brandenburg and went subsequently to Berlin. He was esteemed a good performer on the gamba, and published in 1609, 1614, and 1621 a number of Paduans or Pavans, Gaillards, Canzonets, Volts, Courantes, in five and six parts (Berlin, 1621). A great confusion exists regarding the bibliography of his works, authorities differ as to their titles. They are of unusual interest, as containing many English airs, some of which are mentioned by Shakespeare. He is said to have died at Frankfort in 1647.

JOHN JENKINS, born at Maidstone in 1592, was one of the most celebrated composers of music for viols. In early life he made choice of music as a profession, and was appointed musician in ordinary to Charles I. He lived in the family of Sir Hamon l'Estrange and instructed his sons in music. In 1660 be gave lessons to the sons of Lord North at a salary of one pound a quarter! Roger North in his autobiography calls him, "that eminent master of his time, Mr. Jenkins, not conceited nor morose, but much a gentleman." He was appointed musician to Charles II., and spent the last years of his life with Sir Philip Wodehouse, at Kimberley, in Norfolk, where he died on October 27, 1678. He had for his time extraordinary capacity on the lute, viol, and several bowed instruments, and wrote a great number of compositions for viols, which were not printed ; but in 1660 he published "Twelve Sonatas for two violins and a bass, with a thoroughbass for the organ or theorbo" (London, 1660), the first of the kind produced by an Englishman. Indeed he is credited with having been the earliest English composer of instrumental music. Most of his compositions he called Rants or Fancies. He also wrote music for "Theophila, or Love's Sacrifice; a Divine Poem, by Edward Benlowes, Esq., Several parts thereof set to fit Aires by Mr. Jenkins" (London, 1652). Many of his MSS. exist at Christchurch, Oxford. Hawkins reports that it was said of him, "he was a little man, but had a great soul."

THOMAS SIMPSON is another Englishman who stands out conspicuously as a violist and gamba player; in 1615 he was appointed violist in the serviep of the Prince of HolsteinSchaumberg. He published: Opusculum, Neuer Pavanen, Gaillards, Couranten und Volts (Frankfurt, 1610) ; besides Pavanen, Volts und Gaillards (Frankfurt, 1611), and a "TafelConsort," containing all kinds of cheerful songes for four Instruments and a Thorough-Bass (Hamburg, 1621).

JOHN COOPER, born about 1570, was a most distinguished performer on, and good composer for the Viol da Gamba. In his youth he travelled in Italy, and returned with the Italianised name of Coperario. He was master to the children of James I., who was himself not only very musical, but had an excellent judgment on music. He is said to have played eight different instruments, amongst them especially well the harp. Two of Cooper's pupils were the celebrated musicians, William and Henry Lawes. The elder, William, besides his other numerous compositions, wrote his "Great Consort," consisting of six Suites for two treble viols, two theorbos, and two bass-viols. Charles I was also Cooper's pupil and played the gamba well, since he was able to perform the organ fantasias of his master on that instrument. Cooper published a great number of compositions, and among them were many for the Gamba. He died during the Protectorate.

By far the most eminent English gamba player was CHRISTOPHER SYMPSON (or Simpson) (His name was usually written Sympson, but he sometimes himself spelled it Simpson.), who was born at the beginning of the seventeenth century, and died in London between 1667 and 1670. He was a follower of Charles I., and served as a soldier in the army commanded by the Duke of Newcastle against the Parliament. After the defeat of the Royalists, Sir Rob. Bolles, an important adherent of this party, granted him a refuge in his house and entrusted to him the education of his son, John Bolles, who was noted as a very clever musical dilettante and player on the gamba; be died in Rome, 1676, where his mortal remains were laid in the Pantheon. Christopher Sympson is the author of several noteworthy instruction books on music, of which we shall mention only those relating to the viol da gamba. The first of them has the title, "The Division-violist, or the Introduction to the playing upon a ground. Divided in two parts-the first, directing the hands, with other preparative instructions; the second, laying open the manner and method of playing, or composing division to a ground. London: John Playford. 1659." (This seems to have been the title of the first edition, a copy of which is in the possession of Messrs. Hill, of New Bond Street.) The title of the second of Sympson's works referred to for the gamba is "A brief Introduction to the Skill of Music." In two books. The first contains the grounds and rules of music. The second, instructions for the viol and also for the treble violin. (This work contains, besides the viola tutor, an introduction to violin playing. It is the first attempt at a violin school.) The third edition enlarged. To which is added a third book, entituled 'The Art of Descant or Composing Music in Parts,' by Dr. Thom. Campion, (Thomas Campion was a physician, poet, and musician in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and an authority on music. He published two books of Ayres, and various other pieces, besides the above.) with annotations thereon by Mr. Ch. Simpson. London, 1660."


Introduction, Part Two

Front Page

Presented by Cello Heaven