The term violone (literally "large viol" in Italian, "-one" being the augmentative suffix, cf "minestrone" for "big soup") can refer to several
distinct large, bowed musical instruments which belong to either the viol or violin family. The violone is sometimes a fretted instrument, and may have six, five, four, or even only three strings. The violone is also not always a contrabass instrument. In modern parlance, one usually tries to clarify the 'type' of violone by adding a qualifier based on the tuning (such as "G
violone" or "D violone") or on geography (such as "Viennese violone"), or by using other terms that have a more precise connotation (such as "bass violin" or "violoncello" or "bass viol"). The
term violone may be used correctly to describe many different instruments, yet distinguishing among these types can be difficult, especially for those not familiar with the historical instruments
of the viol and violin families and their respective variations in tuning.
In modern usage, the term refers to the double bass viol, a bowed bass string instrument in early music groups performing Renaissance, Baroque and Classical era music on period instruments. Only a few players specialize in these
instruments. Some use contemporary reproductions rather than actual historical instruments.
Types of violoni
A G violone by Ernst Busch, in Berlin
More shots of the G violone by Ernst Busch, in Berlin
6-string G/A violone c1630 by Ernst Busch, in Stockholm
There are several different instruments that have historically been called by the name "violone". Some of these can be loosely described as 'cello-sized' instruments, and play their parts
sounding at the notated pitch (using organ terminology, we say those parts are played at '8 foot pitch').
Other types of violone are larger-bodied than the cello (sometimes as large or even larger than modern double basses) – most of those violoni sound their parts an octave below notated pitch (at
'16 foot pitch'), but some types are flexible about which octave they play in. Ultimately, however, it is not the size of the instrument that determines the type, but rather the tuning that is
utilized, which generally makes it possible to classify the instrument as a member of either the viol or violin family. Centuries ago, most players and composers were not precise in describing
the specific type of violone they had in mind when that name was written on the page. Modern historians acknowledge the importance of distinguishing specifically which instrument a composer
intended. Assigning specific names and classifying violoni as different types, as we are doing here, is a modern attempt to clarify things.
Loosely described, string instruments are made in families so that different sized members can play in different ranges, with treble instruments corresponding to the soprano and bass instruments
corresponding to the lowest vocal range (or even lower). Members of the violin family are the easiest to identify in this way: with the violin corresponding to the soprano, the viola to the alto,
violoncello to the tenor, and bass to the bass ranges of the human voice (historically, the violin family was made in more than just these 4 sizes: there were originally several sizes of violas,
as well as instruments smaller than the modern violin, for example). The viol family also comprises instruments in a multitude of sizes. In North America in the 21st century, we classify them as
'treble' viols (soprano), 'tenor' viols (alto range), 'bass' viols (tenor range) and 'great bass' viols or 'violoni' (bass range).
When we refer to the historical term 'violone,' we must include almost all the instruments of both the violin and viol families (plus some hybrids) that functioned as either tenor or bass members
of those families. As the name 'violone' really means (see below), truly, these are all large string instruments. It was not until relatively recently that players and scholars started to realize
that there were so many types of violoni and that not all of them functioned or sounded like double basses. Because of this, the classification of violoni according to tuning, family and function
makes it start to be possible to clarify composers' intentions at different times and places. The most important thing to remember is that different types of violoni sound (and often function)
quite differently from each other.
Cello-sized instruments that may be called violoni
Cello-sized instruments are typically the 'tenor' members of the viol or violin families, though in fact their upper compass allows them to play in the alto range, and their lower compass may
enable them to play in the bass (and even contra-bass) range. There are 3 types of instruments in this category:
- The bass viol. This is a 6-string member of the viol family, most often tuned in D.
- The bass violin. This was usually a 4-string member of the violin family, often slightly larger-bodied than the cello, and often tuned with each string a whole step lower than the cello
(lowest string is B♭).
- The violoncello. This one is still used today, and is also known as the cello, found in modern symphony orchestras. It has 4 strings, tuned (lowest to highest) C,G,D,A.
Slightly larger than cello-sized instruments that may be called violoni
- The great bass viol, also sometimes called the G violone or the A violone. This is the next largest viol after the bass viol, usually with 6 strings, and it can be tuned in A or G. It can
play lines at either 8' or 16' pitch, and there is a tremendous amount of music for it as a solo and chamber instrument (at 8'), as the bass member of the viol consort (at 8'), playing continuo
lines (usually at 8') and functioning as a double bass instrument in large ensembles (at 16').
Double bass-sized instruments that may be called violoni
There are a number of instruments in this category, but not all so easy to differentiate by name. One is a true member of the viol family, and the others have much in common with the violin, but
can't necessarily be described as genuine violin family instruments because their tunings, proportions and/or construction issues may be at odds with the other sizes.
- D violone. This is the largest member of the viol family, with 6 strings, tuned in D, a full octave lower than the bass viol.
- The Viennese violone was a hybrid instrument because it has many features of the viol family (frets, gamba shape, flat back), but as a 4 or 5 string instrument (with a D major tuning in 3rds
and 4ths), it doesn't have a true viol tuning. It played almost exclusively at 16', though it was used commonly as a chamber and solo instrument (even from the 17th century) and was the preferred
double bass instrument in the Viennese Classical period (c.1760–1820).
- Contrabass or double bass. These terms are again problematic from a historical perspective (often meaning something slightly different from a modern reader might expect), but here refer to 3
or 4 string instruments that (usually) do not have frets—of all the types of violoni, these are the ones that most closely resemble modern double basses. The strings may be tuned in 4ths (E,A,D,G
like most modern double basses) or in 5ths (C,G,D,A, a full octave lower than the cello), and if there are only 3 strings, the missing string is almost always the lowest one (i.e. A,D,G or
G,D,A). It may also be tuned in fifths (C,G,C).
Yet other types
Centuries ago, and even in modern days, there are players who changed or adapted their instruments in unique ways that can be difficult to summarize or generalize. In this category we might find
bass viols that are tuned in E (instead of D), or where the bottom string is tuned an extra step lower, to a low C. Or we might find a contrabass/double bass tuned in 4ths, but with a top string
a 4th higher than is now standard (C,G,D,A) or another contrabass/double bass tuned in 4ths but with its bottom string cranked down to a low D.
A violone or "great bass viol"; painting by Sir Peter Lely
, Dutch-born English Baroque era painter, c. 1640,
showing a large bass instrument of da braccio
corpus form, but with a very wide fingerboard, played with underhand bow grip, and without an endpin
Both the violin and viol families came into use in the Western world at approximately the same time (c.1480) and co-existed for many centuries. That being said, during the Renaissance and early
Baroque eras, the two families had different uses, and in particular, different social standings. Viols were primarily household instruments, played by well-to-do, educated members of society, as
a pleasant and cultured way of passing time. In contrast, violin family instruments were primarily used for social functions, performed on by professional players.
During this 'early' period, the largest member of the violin family in common use was a cello-sized instrument, but quite often tuned a whole step lower than the modern cello (G-C-F-B♭).
This isn't to say that there weren't larger sized violoni described in the violin family at that time, it's just that descriptions of those larger basses are fewer, and there are many different
tunings possible. Also, at this early period, there was minimal need for an instrument that would function at 16' doubling an 8' bass line. Human-sized members of the violin family were at first
used primarily for dramatic effect in operas (and other dramatic works), and later for similar dramatic effect in concerto grosso type 'orchestral' settings.
In contrast, large members of the viol family were much more common, and used from earliest times, playing their lines at 8' pitch. There is much evidence to show that Renaissance viol consorts
were made of lots of large-bodied instruments. Great bass viols (with both A and G tunings) are described in numerous treatises, and there is a lot of solo and chamber music that necessitates
their use because of its low compass. Some of this music is extremely virtuosic in nature (the viola bastarda pieces by Vincenzo Bonizzi, for example, exploit a 3 and 1/2 octave range).
It's also clear that both women and men played instruments of this size - the preface to Bonizzi's 1626 collection is dedicated to the 3 daughters of his Ferrarese patron, for example, and there
are also numerous paintings that depict women playing very large viol family instruments.
A very important technological advance occurred in the 1660s, centred in Bologna. This was the invention of wound ("overspun") strings. For bass instruments, this was hugely influential, because
it meant one could now obtain good sounding low strings (that were not rope-like in diameter) without having a very long string length. It's at exactly this time and geographical area that the
first use of the term "violoncello" comes into use, that what we now consider a 'standard' cello tuning (ADGC) becomes the norm, that a solo repertoire for the 'cello starts to appear, and that
the 'cello starts to replace the G or A violone as the preferred bowed continuo instrument (see the excellent articles by Stephen Bonta for more detailed information). These advances for the
'cello were likely the first seeds of decline for the G/A violone. However, it was also this time period that saw the growth of instrumental ensembles, and the beginning of a taste for 'concerti'
and 'symphonies.' For players/communities that had previously favoured G/A violoni as their main bowed basses, once the cello took over the 8' role, the larger bodied G/A violoni could be used as
16' doubling instruments. It's also from this time period (early 18th century) that most of the D violone tuning descriptions are documented. By this point, most of the other sized members of the
viol family had died out (with the exception of the bass viol, which was cherished as a solo and chamber instrument). The largest members of the viol family (G and D violoni) were used in some
regions even when other places had started to replace them with 3 and 4 string contrabasses/double basses. It is almost certainly for this reason that the modern double bass to this day is so
varied, and lacks a standard form, tuning or playing style. The modern double bass combines features of both the viol and violin families.
When use of the word "violone" began in the early sixteenth century, "viola" simply meant a bowed, stringed instrument, and did not specify viol or violin. Historically "violone" has
referred to any number of large fiddles, regardless of family.
The term violone is sometimes used to refer to the modern double bass, but most often nowadays implies a period instrument. As a period instrument, it can refer to any of the different
types that are described, above.
"Violone" is also the name given to a non-imitative string-tone pipe organ stop, constructed of either metal or wood, and found in the pedal division at 16' pitch (one octave below written pitch), or, more rarely, 32' (2
octaves below written pitch).
In modern terminology, the doublebass viol, the direct ancestor of the double bass. Historically, the term has embraced avariety of meanings: any viol, a large viol (in particular a low-pitched
viola da gamba),and even (in some Italian sources) the cello. The term is known as early as 1520. Theinstrument is classified in the Hornbostel-Sachs system as a bowed lute (or fiddle).
1. Italy. 2. Germany and other countries.
1. ITALY. In 16th-century Italy ‘violone’ was a generic term for the viol family (seeGanassi, Regola rubertina, 1542, and Ortiz, Trattado de glosas, 1553); itdistinguished the viol family from
the violins, which in some early sources are called’violette.’ By about 1600 ‘violone’ had come to stand for a large bass viol. Banchieri (Conclusioninel suono dell’organo, 1609, 2/1626) referred
to the ‘violone da gamba,’ tunedG’-C-F-A-d-g (a 5th below the normal six-string bass viol) and to a larger instrument,’violone del contrabasso,’ tuned D’-G’-C-E-A-d. Only the former instrument,
however, ismentioned in the second edition of Banchieri’s work, and this corresponds with thedescription and measurements given by Doni (Annotazioni sopra il Compendio de’ generi,1640). Banchieri
regarded this as the true bass of the viol consort; it was presumably theinstrument referred to by Agazzari (Del sonare sopra ‘l basso, 1607) as ideal forproviding a deep bass line (he may mean
at the lower octave), as well as close to the’great dooble base’ required by Orlando Gibbons in his fantasias, to judge by the rangerequired, where a slightly higher tuning is implied. The
violone was rarely used for solomusic though there exists a solo, unfinished toccata by Giuseppe Colombi (1635-94; I-MOeMus.F286), and it has occasional obbligato parts, for example in the sonata
‘La Casala’from Cazzati’s op. 35 (1665); but it was regularly called for in orchestral and sacredmusic and in sonatas, both church and chamber. It must, however, be doubtful whether theinstrument
named on some Italian title-pages as violone was not in fact simply the cello.In the op. 12 sonatas of G.M. Bononcini (i) (1678), for example, where the cello partdescends to B[flat]‘, a violone
is specified on the title-page; and in one edition (1709)of Corelli’s sonatas a violone is named although earlier editions prescribe the cello. InItaly at this period it seems that the term
‘violone’ was used loosely; the Vocabulariodegli Accademici della Crusca (Florence, 4/1729) defined violone as ‘a large viol, whichis also called “bass viol” and, when of smaller size,
“violoncello” ‘.References to the violone in Italian sources of 1700 to 1750 may thus sometimes be takento signify the cello.
2. GERMANY, AUSTRIA AND OTHER COUNTRIES. Praetorius, who cited Italiansources (including Agazzari) in Syntagma musicum, ii (2/1619), illustrated afive-string ‘Gross Contra-Bas-Geig’ (Table V) and
a six-string ‘Violon, Gross Violde-Gamba Basz’ (Table VI), both fretted and tuned in 4ths; the length of the latter hasbeen estimated at 114 cm (Bessaraboff; the smaller instrument is estimated
at 80 cm). Healso referred to the ‘Bas-Geig de bracio,’ later known as ‘violoncello.’ To avoidconfusion he emphasized the distinction between ‘Violonistam’ (bass player) and’Violinistam’ (violin
player). Schütz (Musicalische Exequien, 1636) referred tothe violone, or Gross Bassgeige, as ‘the most convenient, agreeable and best instrument togo with the concertato voice with the
accompaniment of a quiet organ’. Several Germanauthorities of the late 17th century and the early 18th give tunings that correspond withthe Italian. The earliest known instructions for the
instrument are by Johann JacobPrinner (Musicalischer Schlissl, 1677, MS in US-Wc), with the tuning F’-A’-D-F#-B.Georg Falck (Getreu und gründliche Anleitung, 1688), Daniel Speer (Grundrichtiger.
. . Unterricht, 2/1697), J. F. B. C. Majer (Museum musicum, 1732) and J. G.Walther (Musicalisches Lexicon, 1732) all give the tuning G’-C-F-A-d-g (Walther hasE rather than F for the third
string). J. P. Eisel (Musicus autodidactus,1738) gave G’-C-E-A-d-g for the ‘Basse Violon’ and, for a larger violone, a tuning a 4thlower; he also mentioned a four-string ‘violone grosso’ tuned in
5ths C’-G’-D-A. Janovska(Clavis ad musicam, 2/1715) cited the tuning G-A-d-g for the violone and an octavebelow that for the violone grosso. Among the composers who apparently
distinguishedbetween the violone and violone grosso are Schütz and Bach. Georg Muffat (preface to Florilegiumsecundum, 1698) stated that the instrument called ‘contrabasso’ in Italy went underthe
name ‘violone’ in Germany; he distinguished between this and the ‘Welsches Violoncino’or ‘Bassetl’ (the later cello). Walther noted with approval the old violone as preferableto the harsher bass
violin (cello); but Quantz (Versuch einer Anweisung die Flötetraversiere zu spielen, 1752) wrote of the so-called ‘German violone’ with five or sixstrings which ‘has justly been abandoned.’ By
Leopold Mozart’s time (1756) the doublebass, ‘commonly known as violone,’ usually had four or five strings but sometimes onlythree. Koch (Musikalisches Lexikon, 1802) referred to ‘violone’ as
meaning doublebass. Writing in England, both Pepusch (Rules, or a Short and Compleat Method forattaining to Play a Thorough Bass, c 1730) and Prelleur (The Modern Musick-master,1731)
unambiguously identified the violone as the double bass, as did Brossard (Dictionairede musique, 1703) in France, where the term ‘violone’ was not usual by this date.
I was asked to explain
the role of the violone and double bass in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (Eisenach 1685 - Leipzig 1750), starting from the concept of "baroque performance practice." In my personal
experience as a musician specializing in baroque repertoire, I feel that my job is not just to make a score with period instruments, using gut strings but try to understand what the author, for example Bach , he wanted to express.
Therein I find solace in the so-called baroque performance practice . Simplifying, we can say that it consists
analysis of the
study of rules and
precepts, which have been handed down through chronicles and treatises written by specialists and composers, on how to behave to make music and perform it in a way, considered at the time,
knowledge of the
tools used in the era.
To understand the role of
the bass-viol in Bach is necessary to reconstruct the instrumental practice that characterizes his historical period and that we can know only from historical sources of the period (Note 1). It's
Philipp Spitta (Wechold, Hannover 1841 - Berlin 1894), biografale scholar of Bach, the first to believe that only through the recovery of forgotten practice you could recover the spirit of Bach:
" It is important to clarify the fundamental principles of Bach that emphasize the 'execution of its accompaniments, and for
this, the biggest purchase of art from that period is, to this day, almost extinct, and an essential part of the possibilities in performing the works of Bach, accessible to the present day,
still rests in waiting for his awakening had . "
To hear what Bach wanted to express, says Charles Sanford Terry (Newport Pagnell 1864 - Westerton, Aberdeen 1936), we must resurrect the obsolete instruments that he used. Only instruments that
Bach used, in other words, could express his music, so that every so-called modernization could hinder their understanding.
In our day of study will try to identify what tools he used Bach, analyzing the original scores through the mediation of the Treaties period (Note 2)
To conclude, I have added an example of a treaty at the time of the German Johann Joachim Quantz (Oberscheden, Lower Saxony, 1697 - Potsdam 1773). Composer, flutist and music theorist, in sect. V
of ch. XVII of his Versuch einer Anweisung die Flote traversiere zu spielen of 1752, explains the role of the
Violone or Bass?
Given these premises,
which are the instruments that Bach uses in his era? Bach speaks of violone. But, what kind of instrument refers Bach, when he speaks of Violone? The issue is complicated.
In the European scenario, the standard Registry accompanied by the instruments of the basso continuo, in the seventeenth century, was playing in the register of eight feet (Note 3).
musicians or instruments referred to canes in the register of sixteen feet, when they referred to instruments that
sounded an octave below.
spite of the instruments of the time, including the German agencies existing in registers sounded extremely serious, it remains unclear exactly when the instruments in the register of sixteen
feet would become of general use. It can, that is, already speaking, in this period, double bass?
In the seventeenth century, in Italy , the basses were rare in the low register and began to be used in big bands
operating in urban centers, only around 1670. In France , dominated by the persuasive influence of Petite Band of
JBLully (Florence 1632 - Paris 1687), the most serious was the use of Basse vio-lon or bass violin, an instrument slightly larger than the cello, but tuned a whole tone lower. In Germany , the influence of Italian and French clash with the many and deep-rooted traditions. An analysis of the sources can be
identified in the country, at the time of Bach, three types of instrument that they are called, interchangeably, violone:
1) the small violone
six strings, tuned in G, playing the real notation.
2) The great double
bass viol in D six-string, which doubles the eighth contrabass.
3) The violono big
four-string, which goes down to C major.
Despite the scholarly
literature has argued that Bach used only one instrument that played in the register of 16 feet, from a closer examination of the original sources, it seems that, during the different moments of his life, the composer has made use of all three types of
Violone and bass in Brandenburg Concertos (Note 4)
A case study may provide
a useful example of the presence of violone and double bass in the work of JS Bach. Let's examine the Brandenburg Concertos. In the score of all six concerts, specifies the role of the violone.
We report the name, height and use.
Scholars are unanimous in
the view of the violone Bach, in Brandenburg, like a big bass that sounded an octave below the actual notes. The parts of the violone of Brandenburg seem to credit this statement: in the 4th and
5th Concerto avoid the serious C (below the staff of the basso continuo); this indicates the presence of a large viol da gamba in D. The parts of the concert n ° 1, 3 and 6 are more difficult to
determine why the violone reads the same part of the harpsichord.
Problems arise with the 2nd Concert: Bach gives violone to a proper part indicates where, frequently, the use of C major. You might think that, in this case, the composer has made a
Yet, the careful preparation of the score specifically dedicated to the Margrave of Brandenburg, suggests that this judgment is too hasty. And, if you consider the fact that Bach composed these
six concerts in a period of eight years, it may be plausible that the power set of violone not represent a single instrument.
Rereading the Brandenburg Concertos in the light of historical sources discussing three different varieties of bass-viol, it seems that all three varieties of bass-viol, mentioned in the
historical sources, have been used.
's amazing that Bach differently appoint the participants of the section of the continuum, in each group list of the instruments found in the manuscripts of six concerts. A further complication
of the set is separate and often conflicting device list, placed near to each staff of the score.
Table 1 provides us with a comparison of these two lists of
specific names (p. 28). Only in the 1st Concerto, one speaks of Violono big (in fact this is a later addition
indication that Bach has shown, with black ink, on the staff of the continuum). No doubt here Bach meant a great tool that played in the range of 16 feet.
Concerts In all other violone is inserted either as a violone that as violone in filling except in the 3rd Concerto where Bach excludes it from the list of
The 4th Concerto is a
clear example of a distinct part for violone in the weaving of 16 feet. Here Bach, of course, meant the great bass-viol in D: this instrument, tuned a minor seventh below the cello, he had known
that he could not avoid the double octave lower.
The first movement of this concerto contains repeated examples of the intention to avoid the C major. In the second movement, this intention is even more palpable here violone doubles note for
note the line of the cello and the harpsichord except at one point and that is, in bar 31, where it descends to C major.
Tab. 1 - Description of the continuous group in Brandenburg Concertos:
Bar 31 of the second movement of the 4th Concerto.
Bach, here, refers to
Violone and not to violono grosso5. But, actually, what tool are you referring?
Although the tradition English and German rope more serious than the six-string viola da gamba was occasionally given a lower tone (from D to C), Bach does not seem to have followed this practice
in the violone perhaps because the result of the jump to the lower register could be, in the practical, too crude and clumsy. On closer examination it seems that the 1st and 4th Concerto require
different types of bass. The different nomenclatures, between the 1st and the 4th Concerto, could be better explained if we start from the assumption that Bach uses two names to indicate, in
fact, three instruments. In fact, the part of Violone Concerto No. 4 suggests certain physiognomy characteristics that allude to a part from bass. As part of the filling, the violone never plays
an independent role, but a sort of small part of the line continually, this approach simplifies the cello part. Bach also try to reduce the "load" of the violone, writing, occasionally, his part
an octave higher. In this way, violone and cello work in unison and this happens not only when the change Violone weaving so as to avoid the serious C. Although Bach did not avoid completely the
space of two octaves between cello and violone writing notes of the bass octave serious, these procedures have never extended a long time. Most likely the violone was granted up to the serious
bass (in D) when the composer has clearly avoided the severe C, because an instrument tuned almost an octave below the cello could not play this note.
The use of the bass viol in D seems plausible whenever the composer clearly avoided the serious C. Moreover, the part of
that salt Violone real octave above the cello for an extended step, is also to indicate the use of a Violone transposer that sounded, occasionally, in unison. Using the same criteria the 5th
Concerto, as shown in the dedication of the score, must have been written for the same instrument of the 4th Concerto.Proviamo, however, to re-read the 5th Concerto, assuming that there has been
an error in copying score. In the second extract from the full chorus, the composer begins mechanically duplicating the line of the cello but then, as far as 124, he realizes his mistake and
wrote the part an octave higher.
Measure 106 (writing error) of the 5th concert
Yet, in hindsight, this
correction only makes sense if understood as an effort to avoid the C # grave.
Elsewhere Bach (always in the 5th Concerto) prevents the violone sounds C #, and this note, as in the 4th Concerto is sometimes written an octave higher. In conclusion, it is not a mistake: this
part for violone resembles, in its simplification and reduction of the continuum, that of the 4th Concerto in which the instrument was part of the filling. This tool could not be nient'al-tro
that the violone in D.
It seems more likely
that, in a previous version of the 5th Concerto (BWV 1050th), Bach did not intend to use a violone in the register of 16 feet. By all the parties, the most of them copied by his son Johann
Christoph Altnikol (Lusatia 1720 - Naumburg 1759), shows that the 1050th BWV required only two parties to continue: harpsichord concerted and violone . Not having to do with the successor, this part of the violone was the line of the harpsichord
simplified did not make any serious attempt to avoid the logs. In addition, it was always written in the same octave harpsichord and probably lost in the score, divided the lower line with the
latter. Alfred Diirr (Charlottenburg, Berlin 1918), among others, believed that the continuous, in this version, consisted in 16 feet violone and harpsichord, but it seems a bit 'weird. Even
Quantz cellists warned not to play their part an octave below the pitch because " the distance from the violin became too big
and notes .. .perdevano the strength and vivacity that the composer had in mind . "
In the list of tools Altnikol did on his part of the violone is written Cymbal concerted and violone, but not cello.
Moreover, on the cover of the 5th Concerto by Bach hand of the same period COTHEN, the word "cello" is written in small (maybe it is a later addition to the author). This set of parts corresponds
to a particular phase in the history of the 5th Concerto.
Bach could have written a concerto with a harpsichord and a means of doubling an octave lower? In other words, without an instrument of eight feet? There is a more likely explanation: the violone
original, BWV 1050A, it was the traditional instrument of the doubling in G. In this case, an instrument with six strings, tuned a fourth below the cello, he could easily play all the notes
required without transpose.
This use of the violone (without the cello) would correspond to an older German and Italian tradition of the seventeenth century, according to which as the only means of doubling in the
continuous group, we used a violone in the register of eight feet. This is further confirmed by the evidence found in the 2nd Concerto. Here the part is written in its own row below that of the
cello, but that part does not meet the requirements already seen for the largest instrument shown in the 4th Concerto.
During the 2nd Concerto, the violone is the real member of the lower section of the filling . His hand does not rise above the cello and has no intention of avoiding the C major. Moreover, on
several occasions, stresses and emphasizes both the lower octave is the C grave.
A previous version of the 2nd Concerto survives, in fact, is a score in a set of parts copied by Christian Friedrich Penzel (1737 Oelsnitz -Mersenburg 1801) around 1750.
Again, as in BWV 1050th, sources require, as only stringed instrument in the continuum, a violone.
Likewise, the violone is not distinct from that of the harpsichord continuous and must be was intended for the smallest instrument (8 feet). In any case, when Bach designed the new version of the
2nd Concerto presumably in 1721 (see. Score Margrave of Brandenburg) with different lower parts assigned to the cello part previously performed by the violone (alluding again to the same texture)
and also designed a reduced part for violone much more demanding than the 5th Concerto in which emphasized the C serious.
For this reason, the instrument survived to all revisions of the 2nd Concert, must have been the violone in G.
In other words, in its update, Bach apparently did not feel the need to revise the part for a violone in the weaving of 16 feet. Although in the 6th Concerto, the violone not occupy an own line,
two striking passages make us realize that Bach used an instrument in the register of eight feet. In the first movement, the violone (along with the harpsichord) is written or woven with the real
part of the concerted cello an octave or more serious. Moreover, there are examples where the violone soar above the cello. Measures 56-58, for a short time, two octaves separate the cello from
the violone that, if it was a bass, would have created an unlikely distance of three octaves. Finally, the last movement of the 6th Concerto ends with a cadence in B flat major, note that no
violone transposer, including violono big, could have played, but that the violone in G would easily executed.
Finale of the third movement of the 6th Concert
A telltale sign of the
use of the smaller instrument makes its appearance here: a passage written an octave real that certainly had to be executed in the manner in which it was written. In the second movement it seems
that the violone was in tacet and that only the harpsichord to accompany continued, following the example of the slow movement of the 2nd Concerto (in both cases the sheet music for Bach is not
clear). This lack of violone only makes sense because the two bass lines could interfere with each other if you play two string instruments but also because, together with the viola da gamba,
violone is "ripie-nist" and returns only in the final concerted movements. At the same time, the decorative principles of orchestration that emphasize the use of the violone 8 feet, remain the
same. While most of the movement down into two parts hangs around in unison, in an extended passage in "only" measures 44-52, the two sides move away octave real and then, m. 33, they move even
at a distance of two octaves written!
In the 3rd Concerto, the
violone, shared with the harpsichord, is more ambiguous. For one thing, the part of the orchestrated bass section consists in three cellos concerted. The general function of the violone is that
of the cello reduced although, occasionally, it sounds an independent party, while the latter rests. Nevertheless do not meet indications of a small violone. In contrast, a secondary source
suggests that it was understood a great violone. The set of parts copied from Penzel in 1755 reflects the version of the 3rd Concerto that has not arrived today. A big part is labeled violono
although it may seem a later part of the third cello. In spite of the confusion in the transmission of the sources, it seems that a specimen for big violono may have existed in a previous
version. This may explain the frequent low notes in the later part for violone, like in the 1st Concerto.
In summary, in the
Brandenburg Concertos, Bach uses the term violone to indicate three different instruments. The first, the so-called Violono big tool in the weaving of sixteen feet with the C major which Bach
uses in the 1st and 3rd Concerto. The second, an instrument with six strings bass in D major, which Bach uses in the 4th and 5th Concerto. The third, violone in G, which is located in the 2nd and
6th Concerto and in an early version of the 5th (BWV1050a).
Johann Joachim Quantz "Treatise on the Flute" in
Perhaps no other musical
treatise '700 has a width of horizons comparable to this.
Same title may deceive the expectations, since only a few chapters are devoted to the flute and its technique (Quantz was flutist, composer and theorist at the court of Frederick II of
The Treaty is in fact a precious testimony of the eighteenth-century vocal and instrumental music practice, taste and styles in Europe in the middle of the eighteenth century, on compositional
techniques and aesthetic parameters of the musical judgment. A text, then, that the real goal was to form a complete musician and his taste.
In the " Treaty on the flute "in Section IV devoted to Violone ( Of
that, 'l which sounds' l Violone, particularly ) writes:
Violone * goes hand in hand glue violet, Viola da braccio or both. There are some who do not attribute to him the
merit of which he is worthy, when he played well; and not the estimate so necessary, as it is in great music. I do not pretend to deny, che'l greater number of those who play this
instrumento, is not endowed with sufficient talent to distinguish themselves in other instruments, such as essigono them a lot of ability, and great taste. However, it is undeniable that a
musician such as the suoni'l Violone, be understood to mean harmony, even when there abbisognasse a great delicacy in taste, and is not intended to be a musician of lesser skill; since it
makes the balance, so to speak, with him who suona'l cello, and keep the motion in the execution of a large Music, mainly in an orchestra where you can not always see, nor feel
(* I reason than instromento with four strings tuned
from the Fourth dalVingiù upwards, ie E, A, D, G, which instromento them Germans appoint ControViolino ).
wish most in this instrumento, E'i you play it with sincerity; and most of those who play it, fall into this error. A good instrumento contributes a lot to the purity and clarity of sound,
the wrong player makes you even more. If instrumento will be too big, or granted in a way too strong *, 7 riescirà not sound distinct, neither agreeable nor intelligible little ear. You are
player will not handle 7 shot bow, as V instrumento requires, this gives rise to the same foul. (* With the
strings too tight ).
size of a mediocre instrumento will love it, as well as whether it will be proveduto of four strings, and not five, as appropriate, that the fifth string is weaker than the fourth, if you
desire that she has the right proportion with the other ; this very large variation does not adversely useful, yes in this instrumento, as also in Cello, and in the Violin. It is therefore
rightly put them into disuse Violoni, who had five strings, and they were universally called Germans by Bass
Violin . If it is appropriate to adoprare of two Violoni in music, the second may be somewhat larger than the
first, and what is lacking in clarity that is compensated for by the severity of this.
serves a great impediment to clarity, when there are no keys in the handle. There are people that blindside them keys for something superfluous and injurious; but this false idea is not
followed by 'virtuous them what they did with them buttons, anything that can be done in this instrumento. It can still be seen, that this instrumento, allorache form them sounds made clear,
and intelligible, there must be absolutely Keys. It is known that a short rope, when it is very thin and tight, vibration shape very fast, and less spacious than face a long rope, and large.
When, therefore, a long rope, and is coarse Spigno sopra'l handle, which can not be pulled, as it is a short rope, that hits against the timber, since its vibration did not place sufficient,
and this not only removes the vibration, but still is the cause, that after the whistle cord, and do you hear a different sound, so che'l thunder format is obscure, and not blunt. It is true,
that the strings of Violone are already touch higher, than what are the strings of the cello, and this mediante7ponticello, and Nut *, in order to prevent this, che'l contracolpo does not
touch the handle; but even this is not enough, when the strings are touched, and which are driven by the fingers on the handle. If all 'bout saranvi keys in the handle, then each disorder is
taken away; Keys will hold the strings higher, and Hellene can make their vibrations without contrast, and consequently most they can do to feel the natural sound of which the instrumento is
capable of. Keys are causing them also useful, because you can touch them with more thunder but not exactly them may already be well without them, and the thunders pe which it is absolutely
necessary to make use of the fingers, acquire greater resemblance to the sound of the strings naked. If it were required preclude that they keys are an impediment to the media thunder minors,
which they would not be so well distinguished; you can answer, it does not make much harm in Violone, as it brings in Cello, because the difference that exists between them marked with
thunder co 'Dies, or co' b soft, not once, Because so well I see 'deep thunder of Violone, how do you know it 'thunder An instrument higher than the others.
portare'l shot bow far from the bridge to the width of six fingers in this instrumento, and must be felt much, briefly, and also a lot of staccato, known as the Duration of the grant, to the
end of the long strings, and make the big possino necessary vibrations. Agrees with a shot still go only from the lower end to the middle of the headband, and not in such a manner that
segasse; toltone melancholic compositions, in which 7 must be no bow shot like a shot, even though it must always be very short. The tip of the bow can just avantaggio, toltone in the Plan.
You must bring the bow with the left hand to the right, if you want to score with a special note, the mercy that having greater force in this case can also give greater emphasis, I want to
say, however, that you use only the stroke of the bow be brief, to which I have mentioned above, in the notes, eh 'essigono pomp * and vividness, but not already in long notes, as it would be
to say in the Round, and White, which are sometimes framischiate in fast pieces, or in the same suggetto of the composition, or when expressing desire something with particular force. Not
unless it is necessary in the notes going adoprarlo * which must express a feeling allettevole, and melancholy; the player has to put in execution by Violone these notes with a sustained
manner, and peaceful, as much as the eseguisca that '! which suona'l Cello.
player Violone will try to have a perfect application, and convenient of the fingers, or is a transposition, to be able to play the notes, which are high, as much as suona'l Cello, and why
not fault them melodic bass, the maximum Unison, 7 which absolutely must be executed as it is written in every instrumento, and so also in the Violone. Violence can see the esemplo that the
risguarda (5) in the section that is the cello player, Tav.XXIl, Fig., 53 and 54 If that happens, that a Bass Unison go higher, what can not ascenderei player from Violone with his
instrumento; though there will be no, they do not pass'! Thunder G with a line (solprimo Flute), 7 which thunder many good players in this instrumento most they can express with great
frankness, and with great distinction, it would be very commendable thing to play in this case, they passes a whole octave lower than sarebbe'l remove the melody with a way
player Violone steps will pay so much, that it can not play them with sincerity, will play the first note, the third, or the last of each figure, whether Sixteenth notes or sixteenth notes. * He will always take
the rule from the main notes of the Low melody. Them examples are seen in Table. XXIII, fig. 1,2,3. The player from Violone must not omit anything, except those passages, which do not all
have the ability to play them very quickly. If s'ideasse always want to play only the first of four Crome, who will meet in the same tone, and lasciarne by-three, who mistake many followers,
especially when the piece was not composed by them themselves; he certainly could not avoid the accusation of negligent or malicious.
expression of the man, who plays' I Violone must be more serious than that of all the Netherlands. It is not necessary, that sounds fine with petioles embellishments, but it must contribute
in contraposto weight, and strength, to what other people play. We must, that esprima'l Plan, and the Fort with aggiustatezza, who observes'! motion with attention; not agree that the
aftermath shock or measure, ch'eseguisca his notes firmly, confidently, and with distinction, abbadi if the bow scrapes, as this quest gives birth in 'instrumento worst outcome, what you
produce in others, and when he sees that you play, now seriously, now nò, now with entrapment, now with joy, some FIATA boldly, and in all the ways that this can be, it must always get to see
you too 'part of it, and do not remove glue his carelessness the outcome, that all hopes Orchestra in a performance of the composition. Agrees that it always has the ear attentive to pause,
especially in Concerts, so that it can, in entering Chorus, Forte principiare'l with vehemenza, and with the right time, and not letting out some notes, as some musicians do. The rest can
take advantage of many things, of which parlasi in this Chapter, treating others An instrument, and derive benefit from many precepts of accompaniment, which would repeat what inutile'l
In fact, the
historical sources we come to the aid only from the nineteenth century. In fact, just in this period is the beginning of the attempt to recover the spirit of Bach. It seeks, through the
philological analysis of the history, performing Bach in his own way, respecting, that is, what the author wanted trasmettere.Prima of this period, many musicians at the current historical
practice, they felt free not to respect in the name of expressiveness.
reasons of space, I shall never dwell on the detailed analysis of the historical sources. For more details see. Bach's group count it, Laurence Dreyfus Harvard University Press,
Derived from a term
organ, the eight foot are relative to the length of the rods needed to produce the normal height of the bass register.
CRF. Bach's continuous group , op.
It should be recalled
that JP Eisel in his Musicus autodidaktos , published in Erfurt in 1738, he used the term indiscriminately
violon for both the big D violone in that for the little instrument in G.