The Viola da Gamba was one of the predominant instruments of the Renaissance and Baroque periods in Western Europe. "Viola da gamba" literally means viola of the leg. The viola da gamba (or viol) is a fretted instrument with from five to seven strings and is played with an underhand bow grip, compared to the overhand grip of the violin family. The viola da gamba is a family of instruments with ranges corresponding to the human voice - treble, alto, tenor, bass, and great bass.
A right a Treble Viola da Gamba.
The pardessus de viole (pronounced pahr-deh-sue de vee-ole) is the soprano-most member of the viola da gamba family. Whereas the viola da gamba saw its beginnings around 1480 in Italy and later spread throughout Western Europe, the pardessus did not appear on the scene until around 1700, and its popularity was limited to France only. The pardessus was considered primarily an instrument for a lady of nobility. Mmes. Sophie, Adelaide, and Victorie (the daughters of Louis XV) played the pardessus. A lady could smile while playing the pardessus, as compared to a violin, which in addition to calling attention to the bosom, contorted the face and upper body while being played. The pardessus did not touch the skin, which was taboo for women. It was considered dangerous to let objects touch a woman's face or neck, as a man could have put an aphrodisiac on the object. Another added bonus for the pardessus was that it did not spoil the line of a lady's dress while being played.
There are only a few professionals in the world who play the lirone (pronounced lee-roh-nay). The instrument was played throughout Italy in the late 16th through the 17th centuries. It is a bowed string instrument that is held similar to a cello, and it has anywhere from nine to fourten strings, with three or four strings played at a time. The lirone was used to highlight emotional peaks in music and was considered ideal for dramatic laments. The lirone is a uniquely "Catholic" instrument and was especially favored among the Jesuits. It was brought into the church to attract parishioners. An instrument called a lira was described in Greek and Roman mythology, and later Italian interpretation of this instrument was the lirone or its treble counterpart the lira.
The new harmonic language of the Baroque period called for a fuller chromatic range of notes. Whereas earlier harps only played diatonic notes (white keys on the piano), chromatic notes (black notes on the piano) were now necessary. The Baroque triple harp has two identical diatonic rows of strings on the outside, with an inside row of chromatic notes.
The theorbo is a bass lute, which has a neck that extends outward approximately four feet to accommodate the long, deep-sounding bass strings. The purpose of the theorbo is to reinforce the bass, whereas the function of the lirone is to enrich the harmonies. The composer Giulio Caccini said that the theorbo was the perfect instrument to accompany the voice.
At left, Michael Leopold plays a theorbo.
Unlike the normal church organ, the chamber organ is smaller in scale, with its pipes housed in its own cabinet. The chamber organ is used for small venues (chambers) to accompany instruments and voices in intimate settings.
The harpsichord almost needs no introduction. It is a keyboard instrument with strings that are plucked by plectra (like feathers), as compared to the piano, where the strings are hit by hammers.
The bandora and cittern are both plucked instruments strung with steel and brass wire. The cittern, the older of the two instruments, usually had four sets of strings and was a very popular instrument for accompanying ballads and other folk tunes. It was commonly pictured on babershop walls for patrons to entertain themselves as they waited. However, there is also a large body of "classical" music for it, as well. The bandora (or pandora) was a latecomer to the scene. It was invented by the viol maker, John Rose in the "fourth year of Queen Elizabeth's reign" and remained primarily an English instrument. For all practical purposes, it is a bass guitar with seven sets of strings, but the particular scalloped shape makes it a lovely instrument to look at. As a bass it is most commonly used with other instruments, but it does have a small solo repertoire closely related to that of the lute.
The Renaissance lute is a plucked string instrument that usually has anywhere from six to ten sets of strings. The lute was the most popular instrument during the 16th century, and there is a large body of music that was published for it during the Renaissance. The origins of the lute can be traced to the Arabic instrument, the ud.
The Renaissance transverse flute and the recorder are members of two different flute families that existed together throughout the Renaissance period. In the broken consort repertoire the Renaissance flute was generally the preferred instrument. It had a large range of 2 1/2 octaves and could be called on to play tenor, alto, or soprano lines. The bass flute was also a popular instrument, especially for use in flute consorts.
The Baroque transverse flute is made of wood and has an embouchure hole and seven tone holes - the last one covered by a key. It is held across the body and the player uses his fingers to make the notes of the scale. It is made with a conical bore (one end larger than the other), wherease the modern flute has a cylindrical bore (visualize a paper towel roll). The 18th-century flute has no key system, and its notes vary in timbre and volume throughout the range - each note having its own character and personality.
At left, Kim Pineda plays a baroque flute.
A cross between a recorder and a trumpet, the cornetto is one of the few western instruments that has changed very little since its beginnings in the 15th century. It evolved from a hollowed-out animal horn wiht perhaps one or two finger holes to a hand-carved wooden "replica" with seven finger holes and a small cup-shaped mouthpiece, making the instrument fully chromatic. The Golden Age of the cornetto was roughly from 1500-1650. During these years, the cornetto thrived in Italy and Germany, often paired with voices, strings, and trombones. The technical demands of the instrument often resulted in cornetto players being among the highest paid musicians. Perhaps the cornetto's greatest attribute is its vocal quality.
At right, Kiri Tollaksen plays a cornetto.
With its history tracing back to the Middle Ages, the Recorder has undergone several changes in appearance and importance throughout the centuries. Characteristic for this early wind instrument are eight finger holes, including one thumbhole, as well as a block of wood set into the shaped mouthpiece, creating the place for tone production. The German and French names for the instrument Blockflöte and flûte á bec reflect this feature. Developing from a one-piece body with cylindrical bore and single holes as seen in medieval iconography, the recorder became popular as a consort instrument during the Renaissance, forming a small ensemble of differently sized recorders from great bass to garklein (one octave above the soprano). By the 16th century, the recorder also began its development into a solo instrument. The first instructional treatise in Western music history was dedicated to the recorder in 1535 (“La Fontegara” by Silvestro Ganassi), which also gives examples of divisions, similar to those found in Diego Ortiz’s “Tratado de glosas” (1553). A substantial portion of recorder music was composed during the Baroque period. 18th century instruments have a conical bore, some double holes, a wider range, and often a more ornamented design than earlier models. The recorder fell out of use towards the end of the 18th century, and experienced its revival along with the rise of historical performance practice in the 20th century.
The Sackbut is the predecessor to the modern-day trombone. The word “sackbut” derives from the ancient French words sacquer (to remove) and bouter (to shove), which describe the manner the instrument is played with its slide. The sackbut was referred to as a tromba or trombone in Italy, a posaune in Germany, a sacbut, sagbut, shagbolt, and shakbusshe in England, and a sacqueboute in France. The sackbut evolved from a form of the slide trumpet possibly around 1400, when it was realized that it would be easier to move a double slide (which the modern trombone has) instead of moving the entire instrument over one length of tubing. The sackbut is a family of instruments, with the standard sizes of alto, tenor, and bass. The sackbut is a versatile instrument that can function in loud and soft band settings for indoor and outdoor events. It blends well with viols and voices in sacred, indoor settings and shawms and drums for outdoor festivities. The theorist Mersenne wrote in 1636 that the sackbut “should be blown by a skillful musician so that it may not imitate the sounds of the trumpet, but rather assimilate itself to the sweetness of the human voice, lest it should emit a warlike rather than a peaceful sound.”
At right is a Dulcian (middle) and two sackbuts. The Dulcian (also called Curtal or Korthol) is the Renaissance predecessor of the modern bassoon.
|About Us||2012-13 Season||Director Pappano||Season Tickets!||Past Seasons||Period Instruments||Audio Samples||Press Room||Workshops||Home|