You are on page 1of 19

Baroque Instruments

The Baroque Cello and Its Performance
Marc Vanscheeuwijck

The instrument we now call a cello (or violoncello) apparently developed during the first decades of the 16th century from a combination of various string instruments of popular European origin (especially the rebecs) and the vielle. Although nothing precludes our
hypothesizing that the bass of the violins appeared at the same time
as the other members of that family, the earliest evidence of its
existence is to be found in the treatises of Agricola,1 Gerle,2
Lanfranco,3 and Jambe de Fer.4 Also significant is a fresco (154042) attributed to Giulio Cesare Luini in Varallo Sesia in northern
Italy, in which an early cello is represented (see Fig. 1).

1

Martin Agricola, Musica instrumentalis deudsch (Wittenberg, 1529;
enlarged 5th ed., 1545), f. XLVIr., f. XLVIIIr., and f. LVr..
2

Hans Gerle, Musica teusch (Nuremberg, 1532; enlarged 3rd ed., 1546),
A4r.,Blr., and H4v.
3

Giovanni Maria Lanfranco, Scintilte di musica (Brescia, 1533), 142.

4

Philibert Jambe de Fer, Epitome musical des tons (Lyons, 1556), 61-62.

. Luini (?) Varallo Sesia (VC). C.The Baroque Cello and Its Performance 79 Figure 1: G. detail of the fresco. Cappella della Madonna di Loreto in Roccapietra. Assumption of the Virgin (1540-42).

violone da braccio. Syntagma musicum. Italian terminology such as Bassa Viola. De Organographia (WolfenbtHtel. violon de chelle. some violinmakers still made larger types. In France the name Basse de violon was more uniformly used until c.& a Tre Con la parte di Violoncello a beneplacito. or Bassette. Pars III. Versuch einer grundlichen Violinschule (Augsburg. In the 18th century. and bassetto viola indicated the instrument of the bass part. Before that date. Viola da Spalla. Das Neu-Eroffhete Orchestre (Hamburg. a lower and differently shaped bridge. Tome I. §23. n ' Michael Praetorius. and usually no end-pin.7 or Violoncello was adopted.9 ^ See.5 In a similar way violoncello was adopted in England at the beginning of the 18th century to replace the bass violin. or basset. fig.. however. 6 Johann Mattheson. Jean-Baptiste Se"bastien Brtival in various chamber and orchestral works. 1618). Shape and measurements of the resonance box were not standardized until around 1707-1710. a thinner sound post. Before that time instrument-makers made mostly larger cellos (77-80cm). then we encounter the terms violoncel(le). 1710. Bassetl. . if any was specified. 1713-21). when the Italian term (and instrument) appeared.80 Marc Vanscheeuwijck The baroque cello differed in form only slightly from the modern instrument: it had a shorter and slightly more upright neck. IV. and indeed for quite a long time after. " Leopold Mozart. In German-speaking countries the situation is more confused. a shorter and thinner bass-bar. Op. The term "Violoncello" was first used in Italy in 1665 in a printed edition of Giulio Cesare Arresti's Sonate A 2. as well as such translations as Bas-Geig de braccio? Violonzell. 1756).6 Bass Viol de Braccio. for example. violoncino. XXI. such terms as basso da braccio. violone. (petite) basse des Italiens. when Antonio Stradivari decided on a medium length of 75-76cm. a shorter fingerboard. 8 Idem.

and 11 (1994). seemed more suitable to ensemble playing. especially when violone is mentioned. the instrument was played seated or standing and was held between the legs of the player on the floor or on a stool. 184-5. as it was for the other violins as well. 177-83. 1636). 5-12 for further details and sources on the violin family in the 16th century. in which another tuning C-G-d-a (described by Gerle in 1532).12 The most acute problem during most of the 17th century is the choice of instrument in Italian and German music. and Pedro Cerone. whereas the lower tuning was kept in use on the large English and French Basse de violon (see Fig. Response faite a un curieux (Paris.11 Tuned in fifths (generally if-F-c-g). 1-31. 1592). 2). Harmonic universelle (Paris. 1640). and fingering was purely diatonic. * * See Peter Holman. 1J According to Andr6 Maugars.The Baroque Cello and Its Performance 81 The Sixteenth Century No parts written specifically for bass violin survive. 12 See Marin Mersenne. c. but from iconographical sources and written indications10 it is possible to reconstruct that the instrument was used exclusively in popular contexts (in contrast to the more noble instruments of the viola da gamba family) such as processions and dance music for weddings. village parties. Prattica di musica (Venice. Four and Twenty Fiddlers: the Violin at the English Court 1540-1690 (Oxford: Clarendon Press." Musica antiqua 10 (1993). Since the instrument needed to be partly supported by the left hand. Lodovico Zacconi. The Seventeenth Century The first documented use of the basso da braccio was in Monteverdi's Orfeo in 1607. El melopeo y maestro (Naples. Bowing technique was rudimentary. "De viool in de 16de eeuw (I & II). IV. etc. and Karel Moens. fairs. 1613). and both underhand and overhand grips appear in iconographical sources. Epitome. In general this term was used to refer to the whole viola da gamba family in Italy during the 16th century. . In Italy as well as in Germany (Praetorius) this last tuning became standard. the fingers were placed obliquely on the strings. 1993). Toward the second decade of the 17th century the viols went out of fashion in Italy. or supported with a strap over the shoulder (in processions).13 except for 10 Jambe de Fer.

01 lapieces de Mufiftcf>raf>resfour cefuier. la Taille.ncantmoins il en fane plufieurs pourfaircvnConcertcntier. &la Cinquiefmc panic font fcmblablcs au Dcffus M N. O la maniereienfatre des Concerts. Harmonie universelle (Paris. IV. M. e'eft pourquoyiemctsicyttoisfiguresdesViolonscniaille douce. ii hue . afindcreprcfcntertoureslcsparties enfemblcjCar la Haute-contre. done l'atchcc cftOP. 184. 1636).commceftccluydes 24 Violons diiB^oy. E N C O R E qpel'onpuiflcquelqucsfoistouchcr deux chordes dc Violon enmefmctempspour fiiircvn accord . Mersenne.82 Marc Vanscheeuwijck Figure 2. PROPOSITION IIII. ExfU^uerUfigHre & ftftenduede tomes let parties des Violent.

in church music) or even a third type of instrument. 25 (Venice. and a violone in contrabasso. but that in other cases it can be a double bass viol (e. and gradually superseded the large cello (first in Bologna and later in Rome and elsewhere). The term violone was then used exclusively for a 16' instrument of the viola da gamba family. Conclusioni net suono deU'organo (Bologna.The Baroque Cello and Its Performance 83 the lowest instruments. violone could even refer to a regular bass viol (D-Gc-e-a-d'). 64-99. 173-6. perhaps Banchieri's violone da gamba (Gj-C-F-A-d-g)11 or Praetorius's Gross Quint-Bass (F-C-G-d-a). The Performance of the Basso Continuo in Italian Baroque Music (Ann Arbor. Banchieri14 describes the basso viola or violone de gamba. 43. and L'Organo suonarino. Alfred Planyavsky. op. 5). 'Terminology for the Bass Violin in 17th Century Italy. tuned DrGrC-E-A-d. tuned Gj-C-F-A-d-g. 3. "From Violone to Violoncello: a Question of Strings?. Syntagma. ^ Tharald Borgir. 1987). 217-31." Early Music 5 (1977).1* (See Figs. giving the instrument a clearer tone—the shorter type called violoncino offered more satisfying sound performances. In a few cases.15 Thanks to a Bolognese invention of the 1660s. "Corelli's Heritage: the Early Bass Violin in Italy. because of their lesser sound qualities. 1611). 1° Praetorius.or three-string double bass. Large ' ^ Adriano Banchieri. The question is: is the violone a bass (8') or a double bass (16') instrument? Bonta suggests that between 1610 and 1680. Der Barockkontrabass Violone (Salzburg. 5-42." Studi corelliani 4 (1986). 1609). Moreover. 26. ' 5 Stephen Bonta. has demonstrated that this interesting theory cannot be maintained as a general rule. 1989). however.16 A possible solution could be to accept that in some cases violone can indicate a large bass violin (especially in chamber music and most often in Rome)." Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society 3 (1977).g. required a bigger instrument.. Recent research. 4. it now seems that bass parts were only rarely—except in large-scale church music—doubled on the lower octave (16') during the 16th and most of the 17th century. II. "What Exactly Is a Violone." Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society 4 (1978). . the violone was a large cello strung with four gut strings which. from then on it was named violoncello. 1? See also Francis Baines. 53-54. the silver-wired gut strings—thinner strings with a higher tension. whereas contrabbasso designated a cello-shaped four.

Gtiue. E.liordonc in C j Tcnorttn F. AC<KU 4 11. L'organo suonarino Op. Banchieri. 1 liifTtiin G. i.Tenoftin D. Raflo i fcurilone ] 'I tit MvusiiUu t RafTo in D. M«nlna in A. Ttmr &• Alto. Grauc. 25 (Venice. I .iopr*aea». TCIKJW in PA-ori(la.6. 1 Baflb 4 Mcizina 1 Kordane V J 4 1. ^ain b.Faiub. I La in I).Graur. [43]. . 1 Qoi cm rail Liutodafci cgrdc. . i Ujff-i i Bordnnc .\tuto i.aMi"A.T LIV T O . A.i. 1611).Tia in A Comtrto di Violate da PRIMA VIOLt r r o t Bifloio G. i Mciiaiu. t amcf in A. t Bidoin0A>rauifsinioi Bwdonc inG. j Ttnorc in C^r Mezzana in E.MtM. anco VIOL1NO JM CONCERTO ET SOLO. .ACUCS. Crane.£. O N E .Bordoncin COr*ue j 10 Tciiorc '11 f.^0!inC. Ati!to.Camo n D.lOLrt. Giaue.84 Marc Vanscheeuwijck Figure 3.j. 1 ReinG. Qurentra II Liuta con fcrrima. ' a i i i o JHG. A.Grauifiimo.t'jnollc.'iiaoa 6 Canto b O Q-icllacOTdaG GraiiiCsihxttftttadi fojirsi. Meiianclla.Sopr'acuto. RZGOLA PER ACCORDARE S T K O M E N T l DA C O K D E B V D E L L A T H Infiemccon.CantDoucroOctaualotto Organo Suonarino 0 a . SASSO G. noncffjndofoprili IillituraOrgamcalideue intendei t "n'Oit-iua ("tlo it G.'mollc. Blflb 1 Bordone j 1 (r. 1'Organo oucr'Arjiicoido.inA.orr ttiol* Soprani.Acutils ^ 1 Ballo * Tcriore j Men an a 4 Canto C H 1 T A R . Acute MtveaneH* in O.Acuto < inCcomcpiace 7 j Tc'iorc J Mcinatli* A } M-. Mo/ana 4 Canto Second* & j. tBordpnc in G. Canto in G. l l l i D . Vide. .Acuto.Mi.Suft'acuto. }.+ Canto In E.Tcnorc in C.Griuifjimo a.ACUto J 11 Mczianellain D. choTiriquatro taili riii-fimurtttla TaPnura. 4.4-Metunl in A. p k l M A V. 8 Baflo in G.tirnic i. 4.Cr*ue » 9. 7 Settinu in F. Concerto di yiole dn Qatnbd.Cf«ut. Tenor r in U. t-Oito 1 Ttnorc Second*ffi^. VUltttc. \.Teiiart& . f . j Mci'.

Illustration XXI. M. Praetorius. t € 0 . 2KectjrcDifc*nt-©{|g.JDifcant-0«g cm Quart Bas-Odgdcbracio.'J8diM q>of<bm / <3tlfl<n cm Octar ^ 4. Tcnor-@ 8 © i h | 3. *. Syntagma musicum.The Baroque Cello and Its Performance 85 Figure 4. j . 1619). 7. j . De organographia (Wolfenbiittel.

oDet E. Once the bass violin was more regularly played in theaters and churches.t>ie eictDte in«A. Musiche sacre. The small bass violin (called violoncino or violoncello. allowing more mobility to the left hand and thus some greater virtuosity (e. 'ofunffttinfid t>ieftrf)f<tei>D<rQiNntjnfjg. 199. Before the introduction of wirewound strings. P. Speer.. or Colonna's and Perti's masses and psalms. and Giuseppe Jacchini (all musicians in S. XDie voixb einBafs . Op. and less in processions or in dance music. the support of the thumb was no longer necessary to carry the instrument. proves a clear distinction between the three instruments. 1641. I. D.g. 1610). Grundrichtiger Unterricht der musikalischen Kunst oder Vierfaches musikalisches Kleeblatt (Ulm. and contrabbasso in the partbooks of Gabrielli's and Torelli's concertos. referring in the first place to a 16' or 12' five. DtcanDcrc intf ticjfe c . Giovanni Battista degl'Antonii.Violon gefftmmec/ unb w»i* vitl &*u et Qaiten ? fnBaft-Violon bat oudj fed)* <5ait«t/ roirD Qhtt auffolgtntitSBeifegfitimiiwt: t>itgt6b(leunQ<ifli ligaittntommt in?contra tkffe G. The juxtaposition of violoncello. n)iemfo(9(n&«Q)otfltllunaiu«i:f(l)en/ un& nit Did 5Bufr fint). Figure 5. Petronio) wrote their first solo Ricercari and sonatas. the larger cello might actually have been used less often than small double basses.n/fovi(lbat(O(©aitauct@itt Bafs.or sixstringed and fretted viola da gamba instrument. 1687/97). Cavalli. when Bolognese composers such as Giovanni Battista Vitali. Milan.bit t>riite ins titffc F. Domenico Gabrielli. The introduction of the wirewound bass strings particularly affected the development of that instrument. Sonate.86 Marc Vanscheeuwijck bass viols and bass violins were more frequently played at real pitch without transposition.Violons jji^t/ dn&tre/ brim/ J vittbtt/ fflnffte/ . Q}on tintm BASS-VIOLON. in order to add depth and volume rather than a lower octave. 1660). violone. this could explain the generalized application of the term violone. the terms being synonymous) could have been used for more soloistic bass parts. Cima's 2 Sonate in the Concerti ecclesiastici. supported by a full continuo (Fontana. Freschi. the violone part in G. 1656.

but Mersenne unequivocally indicates the similarity in technique for all the instruments of the violin family: fingering is still diatonic (0-1-2-3). 21 Gasparo Zannetti. 19 Mersenne." in other words a sort of a flattement. 1645). ms. As he states that they "are the same for the cello as for the violin" (p. Regola pier] suonare il Violoncello da Spalla. 22 Bartolomeo Bismantova."20 whereas he recommends "to soften the string by slightly shaking the finger closest to the one that holds the note on the string.21 in which regular musical notation on staves is juxtaposed with tablatures for the four instruments of the violin family. [120]). In Italy the earliest indication is to be found in Zannetti. the author provides some interesting bowing rules. Example 1. The dot over the note indicates v.IV. appendix to Compendio musicale (Ferrara. and bowing is overhand. The dot under the note n . 20 Ibid. 185. which we can deduce from Mersenne's instruction that "on every first note of a measure. Bismantova [112-115]. the bow should be pulled downwards. 1677). . 182. // Scolaro (Milan.22 In this last treatise."19 His note on trills is also very useful: "One should use as many bow strokes as the trilling finger hits the string..The Baroque Cello and Its Performance 87 No fingering methods from the 17th century are available. we notice the rigorously observed rule of downbow on the downbeat. Conclusions on technique are identical to Mersenne's and also to Bismantova's.

where underhand bowgrip was still in use following the example of the viol players.v n v n rv v n Georg Muffat.88 Marc Vanscheeuwijck • • mmm m * * In the same period Muffat23 explains the difference in bowing used by the Italians and by Lully in France." . "Preface: Plectrum. Florilegium Secundum (Passau. 'rifflirnlffffftpTTnTTflT i y n ^ v 1 n v n n / v n ^ n n vvrw n v 23 n v n. 1698). de la maniere de tenir PArchelet.

Joseph Friedrich B. 2° See Giovanni Battista Martini..24 the music itself— again. e Violoncello solo.e. 1732). . Giuseppe Jacchini was particularly famous for the way he accompanied singers in their recitatives: he seems to have made broad use of chord and melodic ornamentations in his continuo parts. Pars III. to their technique. Gabrielli. e. 1776). slurs. 15. was according to Corrette. tremolos.The Baroque Cello and Its Performance 89 Although theoretical works still suggest a completely diatonic fingering up to the beginning of the 18th century. are not realizable). fast scales. op. 8-9. 28 Johann Mattheson. double stops. and a half tone apart from each other. C. 1 (Bologna. This allowed these first violoncello players to introduce frequent position shifts. arpeggios. The Modem Musick-master (London. i. after the introduction of the wirewound strings in Bologna— indicates a much more advanced technique. ^ ' Luigi Taglietti. no documentary evidence is left from the 17th century. 1697). this way of tuning the instrument became more marginal. Methode theorique et pratique pour apprendre en peu de terns le violoncelle dans sa perfection (Paris. Museum musicum (Schwabisch Hall. 1731). c-e-g. but he obviously is referring to the violoncello piccolo (C~G-d-a-e') or violoncello mezzo which was used in Germany—i. the modern cello-technique. although a performance of Gabrielli's 7 Ricercari will be easier on a cello tuned C-G-d-g (otherwise many chords. Later on. chords. 2 > . §22. Serie Cronologica de' Principi dell'Accademia de' Filarmonici di Bologna (Bologna. Mattheson28 mentions five-string cellos. virtuoso ornamentation. III. batteries.g. The hybrid diatonicchromatic fingering technique. 42. 1741). more passages in the high range (e'-c"). Majer. 285. and skipping over two strings.Michel Corrette.25 introduced in France by Giovanni Bononcini (in Paris in 1733). Tome I. §7. S. Orchestre. Bach wrote for the in- 24 peter Prelleur. since it was designated as scordaturaP On the use of five-string cellos. or even his predecessors in San Petronio (Giovanni Battista Vitali and Petronio Franceschini) might have been one of the first cellists to make a generalized use of the new technique in which the four fingers were put perpendicularly on the string. Suonate Da Camera A' Tre due Violini. who had studied the instrument with his father Giovanni Maria and with Domenico Gabrielli in Bologna.26 By the end of the century tuning was almost standardized to C-G-da. e nelfine due Sonate a Violoncello solo.

since that would dampen the sound. . 1740). ^" Hubert Le Blanc. See that the instrument does not touch the ground.32 For the bow grip. The cello must be placed between the calves of the legs. 8) recommends three different violin-related ways.90 Marc Vanscheeuwijck strument in six of his cantatas and in the Sixth Suite in D-Major (BWV 1012). 32 See R. 3 ' Corrette. "A Wider Role for the Tenor Violin?. even if cellists like Martin Berteau (originally a viol player) kept using the underhand grip (see Fig. Crome. M&thode. 7). Defense de la Basse de viole contre les Entreprises du Violon et les Pretentions du Violoncel (Amsterdam. It generated an important controversy. although some theorists recommend it for beginners. . In France the introduction of the new violoncello (as opposed to the old basse de violon) was a real threat to the existence of the bass viol. 6 as opposed to Fig. p." Galpin Society Journal 47 (1994).29 The Eighteenth Century Very soon after the innovations made by the first cellists in Bologna. other Italian musicians popularized the instrument elsewhere in Italy and throughout the rest of Europe. Corrette (see Fig. 29 See also Agnes Kory. c. 9). Hold the neck with the left hand and slant it a little to the left side and hold the bow in the right hand. Corrette first describes how to hold the instrument (see Fig. culminating in the publication of Le Blanc's pamphlet. Article 1. 1765). No endpin is to be used. In this earliest systematic treatise on how to play the cello. The Compleat Tutor for the Violoncello (London.30 which was promptly answered by Corrette's cello method (1741). 7. 123-53.

M. . Methode theorique et pratique pour apprendre en peu de terns le violoncelle dans saperfection (Paris.The Baroque Cello and Its Performance 91 Figure 6. tiumic fne^o l^-irnc a. frontispiece. 1741). nos CoTuxrtf • . Corrette.to.

P. Ghezzi. II virtuoso del Sig. 1720 . L.92 Marc Vanscheeuwijck Figure 7. Rome ca.r de Bacqueville Drawing.

II. ifec&nde masu£s~c.L • e£ le petit d&tgt a cote du SoivJif. OnpexU U t&xir &Tt4 c&Jfer"&rUeJ: la.ettf. Ce*f trouf/a&r rut (li^f&renteK? de cclle avec haueHeari a pliuf t^/arce: Cos* pattr jotier du l / l de l^ H>fc<. e^in & 3* masues*ede Usur LL4rcheteJt de. tpo . pouvr le •£. pr-e-rruere tfiti edb la* phut u^itte cl&J itaUesuf . &ft de poorer £uuf<rc le %*• 3*.'. le pouce *stir le crtn. itftf Attir le o<ruf v< s cz*. nau^j-e &• l. rruu/i <Jroite . y. Cnanitre H.. 8).The Baroque Cello and Its Performance 93 Figure 8.<rtir le c. F -et lepetit douptpose\rttr le f vut czvid It. e-t lepottce cUj*rou*f fed ?a.JC.et^'. Methode (Ch.e**t de poorer le %e.dn^t} cote'de la. De la tnancere de tentr etconauu~e uirchei. ABCV H I JT rerulre Ldrchet de la.dasuj Is b'ti** df~<ntpo''tirerdttJon. Corrette. 3* <f. lepoi/ce deo<rottu le crin.

Pietro Sterlichi sonator di Violoncello bravo. Lat.94 Marc Vanscheeuwijck Figure 9. Rome 1742 (I-Rvat. il quale e stato in Spagna per molto tempo fatto da me Cav. Ottob. S. P. 3118. Ghezzi.) . 162r. Drawing. f. Ghezzi ildi 10 Xbre 1742. vol. L.

. Instructions de musique. c. for example."35 which also implies that the bass note was rarely played in its full written length. Principes ou VApplication de Viotoncelle par tous les Tons (Amsterdam. 35 Ibid. Chapter XII.. the cello was still largely used as a continuo string bass. I (1736) the use of the thumb is indispensable (range C-a "). 1760?). a I'usage du Violoncello (The Hague. This technique was certainly used by virtuoso cellists before 1740. Baumgartner34 writes that in a recitative the bass note should be "relatively loud" and the other chord notes should be "slightly touched. but Corrette does not really recommend it. • " Jean Baumgartner. still showing an old diatonic system (0-1-2-4).The Baroque Cello and Its Performance 95 Corrette describes fingering in chapters IV to VI. Moreover. since it is also the standard viol fingering! Totally new is his description of the thumb position. especially in recitatives. If Quantz still forbids cellists in 1752 to embellish or to play chords in a bass part. Thus the practice of playing chords. it certainly means that most of them did so whenever they could. Salvatore Lanzetti. according to the tradition initiated half a century earlier by Jacchini. 10). 1774). although he mentions "another Position" (in chapter XIV). • " Cf. theorique et pratique. which is the modern 0-1-2-3-4 chromatic fingering. a technique which he himself later codified in his undated Principes. This system was used by the Italians (see Fig. In an appendix he gives a method concerning how to play chords on the cello. in Lanzetti's Sonatas Op.33 Developed more and more as a solo instrument during the 18th century. c. even when reading only the figured bass. is certainly something that modern baroque cellists should do.

(pi£ sedpariisasut ale corrune dasM lautre _ £c J tdctotxrcra. ChapUrcXIV.96 Marc Vanscheeuwijck Figure 10. ne cfcflered'avec cellc ftte runu? vesi fa k C/taptfreoprecedent e e yue. XIV.UderrU-timd'apr&r. &mttt:lepetitdtngto. Methode (Ch.cette •e- -n e OHO TT a '3 4 ^ jf Ce4*&ytUjioucsitdu-lH0WTi.CtIt '' la. Contenasit une cuure 1 U Ce#cposition. * p d fe Zd d . A duriton. Corrette. dasuj ia. <z. carnme.— -' a i Z 3 antck netre. —/f~ J>: at: Jhs.du}iance dtciKdriftdun.Jt^ po>ri£i£m. M. 42). ^g- 34 3* '.leseconddotytcAzntpattsi/airc..n£peuz>ejitpr t t e i £ i U e 4 t t & t t c { k d 2 ? JX. cuxsi>f t'atUre pouttum.