The Viola d'Amore - its heritage reconsidered

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The origins of the viola d’amore – identified as the addition of sympathetic strings to a viol – has, as a research field remained largely untouched since the work of Harry Danks was published in 1976. First identified by John Evelyn in 1679, the viola d’amore of today has dimensions similar to that of the treble viol; however, the viola d’amore may not just be a viol with sympathetic strings, but the hybrid of a treble viol and englische violet. A new interpretation of the evidence – presented here – shows that it can be suggested the modern viola d’amore has predominantly descended from the baryton, countering the belief that the instrument has come directly from the treble viol. The discovery of octave-barytons in European collections has highlighted a reordering of development, with the englische violet placed chronologically before the modern viola d’amore, instead of after. It is also possible that during the late seventeenth century, a period of transition occurred from the old wire strung viola d’amore (a wire strung treble viol) to the modern instrument (a gut strung treble viol with sympathetic strings), with both instruments coexisting, and that the viola d’amore name was applicable to both. Through examination of an englische violet by Alletsee, it is arguable that this instrument was played in the manner of a small viol and not under the chin, further supporting the theory that the englische violet is a small baryton.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-147
Number of pages9
JournalThe Galpin Society journal
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013


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