From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The viola d'amore (Italian: love viol) is a 7- or 6-stringed musical instrument with sympathetic strings used chiefly in the baroque period. It is played under the chin in the same manner as the violin.
Structure and sound
The viola d'amore shares many features of the viol family. Like viols, it has a flat back and intricately carved head at the top of the peg box, but unlike viols, it is unfretted, and played much like a violin, being held horizontally under the chin. It is about the same size as the modern viola.
The viola d'amore usually has seven playing strings, which are sounded by drawing a bow across them, just as with a violin. In addition, it has seven sympathetic strings located below the main strings and the fingerboard which are not played directly but vibrate in sympathy with the notes played. A common variation is six playing strings, and instruments exist with as many as fourteen sympathetic strings alone. Despite the fact that the sympathetic strings are now thought of as the most characteristic element of the instrument, it is thought that some early examples may have lacked them.
Largely thanks to the sympathetic strings, the viola d'amore has a particularly sweet and warm sound. Leopold Mozart, writing in his Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule, said that the instrument sounded "especially charming in the stillness of the evening."
The viola d'amore was normally tuned specifically for the piece it was to play - cf. scordatura. Towards the end of the 18th century the standard tuning became: A, d, a, d', f#', a', d''
The instrument was especially popular in the late 17th century, although a specialised viola d'amore player would have been highly unusual, since it was customary for professional musicians to play a number of instruments, especially within the family of the musician's main instrument. Later, the instrument fell from use, as the volume and power of the violin family became preferred over the delicacy and sweetness of the viol family. However, there has been renewed interest in the viola d'amore in the last century. The viola players Henri Casadesus and Paul Hindemith both played the viola d'amore in the early 20th century, and the film composer Bernard Herrmann made use of it in several scores. It may be noted that, like instruments of the violin family, the modern viola d'amore was altered slightly in structure from the baroque version.
The viola d'amore can regularly be heard today in musical ensembles that specialise in historically accurate performances of Baroque music on authentic instruments.
Some works from the baroque period
- Heinrich Biber: Harmonia artificiosa - ariosa
- Antonio Vivaldi: Vivaldi was particularly known for using the viola d'amore for different music. While he has written five concertos (one for viola d'amore and lute) specifically for the viola d'amore, there have been viola d'amore cadenzas in his other works and repertoire. In both Nisi Dominus he wrote (RV 608 and RV 807), a cadenza is apparent in the movement Gloria Patri, and another cadenza is found in his opera Tito Manlio, in the aria Tu dormi in tante pene.
- Johann Sebastian Bach: used in aria no.19 of the Johannes Passion and in some cantatas
- Jean-Marie Leclair : trio sonata for flute, viola d'amore and continuo
- Attilio Ariosti : some divertissements, used also in cantatas
- Joseph Haydn : divertimento for viola d'amore, violin and violoncello
- Georg Philipp Telemann: Concerto in E major for flute, oboe d'amore, viola d'amore, strings and continuo
- Carl Stamitz: 3 solo concertos, a sonata in D major for viola d'amore and violin or viola, various other sonatas, and a quartet.
- Joseph Leopold Eybler: Quintet I D major for viola d'amore, violin, viola cello violone.
- Joseph Leopold Eybler: Quintet II D major for viola d'amore, violin, viola cello and violone.
- Franz Anton Hoffmeister: Quartet E flat major (D major) for viola d'amore, 2 violins and cello.
- Carlo Martinides: Divertimento D major for viola d'amore, violin, viola and cello.
Some modern works
- Henri Casadesus (1879-1947) : Concerto for viola d'amore and strings
- Paul Hindemith (1895-1963) : Small sonata for viola d'amore
- Frank Martin (1890-1974) : Sonata da chiesa for viola d'amore and organ
The viola d'amore is also used in:
- 'Les Huguenots' by Giacomo Meyerbeer (1836)
- 'Le jongleur de Notre-Dame' by Jules Massenet (1901)
- 'Madame Butterfly' by Giacomo Puccini (1904)
- 'Palestrina' by Hans Pfitzner (1912)
- 'Katya Kabanova' by Leo Janáček (1919) - the viola d'amore represents the title character.
- viola d'amore.com - The hidden world of the viola d'amore
- viola d'amore society of America
- Orpheon Foundation, Vienna, Austria - Collection of historical instruments. Website includes pictures and details of some violas d'amore
- violadamore_e.htm - Editio Alto
Categories: Bowed instruments | String instruments | Early musical instruments