Many Strings Attached CD notes

December 2022 update to the Notes to the CD

Many Strings Attached, with some new musical examples.

Since I released my solo CD in February of 2000, many players have written to me offering information and asking questions about the viola d'amore, particularly about the CD. In response, I am providing this revision for my CD notes booklet’s Music and Manuscripts section.

About the Music and the Manuscripts:

First, about dance in the baroque. It is hard for us to appreciate the importance of dance in the early 18th century. Being able to dance well was an essential part of the social skills of the time.  All over Europe dancing masters taught dancing and decorum to the upwardly mobile.

Nearly every movement on this recording is a dance. Almost all are in binary form: AB. In performance, each section of a binary form is repeated, so the form you hear is AABB, and in the cases where there are petite reprises, AABBb'. The exceptions to this are the Intrada and Rondeau of the Pezold A major partita. I don't believe people ever danced to the works on my CD, and Allemandes in particular are far removed from their dance origins. Pezold's menuets may be an exception. These are all 24 bars long, a handy length for the dance steps which form a twelve-bar pattern; it would be easy to use these menuets for dancing, as I have on occasion. These menuets also have many characteristic rhythmic patterns and other features in common social dance menuets of the time. In Pezold, the border between utilitarian dance music and dance-style instrumental music is less clear than in the Bach Partita.

While Christian Pezold's name is little known today, many beginning keyboard players have played his two Keyboard minuets that Bach included in the Notebook for Anna Magdalena. Pezold was born in Koenigstein in 1677 and probably died in Dresden in 1733, where he was court organist. He was famous as an organist and composer of church music, though few works survive. The two partitas heard on Many Strings Attached are extant in a single 18th-century source in the Dresden Landesbibliothek, from which many later copies derive. Pezold’s wife, Sophie Pezold’s, (born Kayser) Will has been found. Her Will lists ten instruments: two bass violas da gamba, a guitarre, a viol d'amour, another viol d'amore, a Bariton, and larger bariton, a lyra, and two bassoons.

I was struck by the broad musical interests of the Pezold family, and can't help wondering whether the two partitas were written by Pezold for his wife to play. However, there would have been good professional reasons for Pezold to write this music for, say, Pisendel. Apparently, when Pisendel visited Venice in 1716, he was with Frederick August's ensemble, the 'Kammermusik,' a group that also included oboist Johann Christian Richter, violone player Jan Dismas Zelenka and court organist Christian Petzold. It is possible that some of the early users of the viola d'amore, Vivaldi Pisendel and Pezold, were acquainted with one another. This Kammermusik stayed together until Pisendel obtained permission to go on to Rome and Naples in early 1717. See Karl Heller's book on Vivaldi (Amadeus 1997,) and also Kai Koepp's article in the Bach Jahrbuch 2000 (which also contains much  information about the use of wire playing string, the history of the viola d'amore, and as well an argument in favour of considering the the Cembalo concerto BWV 1055 as a work originally conceived for viola d'amore.)

The two Pezold partitas are collected together in a single manuscript, but their condition is quite different. Pages 12-16 containing the F major partita are very carelessly written, and there are many interesting `arbitrary' ornaments written in the margins and at the bottoms of the pages, usually in a different hand from that of the body of the manuscript. The score is hard to read. (update, the scan on IMSLP is much better quality than what I worked with 25 years ago.) I have had to guess more than once what might have been intended. I also think that some movements have been lost, but I have retained the order of movements in the manuscript rather that trying to improve on it. ex.

The clear and bold score for Pezold's A major partita, on the other hand, is a pleasure to use:

Players have suggested that the A major partita might be two works. The manuscript as it survives may not have mmovements in their original order.

Ornaments are scribbled in the margins by early users of the music, mainly to the final bars of movements. I have recorded all of them, even where this meant doing the petite reprise section at the end of the first time through the second section, as well as on the repeat, as in the Gavotte of the F major partita. I recorded all of them because although this manuscript might be partial and disordered, working copies of solo Baroque music are rare. The only places that the early d'amore players added ornaments to other parts of the movements (i.e., anything before the last four bars) are in the Air and Rondeau of the A major Partita; consequently, I have kept my own ornaments to a minimum. I have posted examples of both partitas on the CD contents page.

In their book Viola d'amore Bibliographie, Michael and Dorothea Jappe suggest that these two partitas originally had a basso continuo accompaniment, the part for which they believe is lost. The basis for their conclusion is several passages of parallel fourths, and some open bars. While I agree with them, I decided, to make my recording, that I would represent  this music best if I filled in the missing harmonies and empty bars in the viola d'amore part rather than recording the bass line that I composed myself to substitute for the lost original. You can buy a copy of my reconstruction here.

In the most heavily affected movement, the Bouree of the A major partita, I have changed all of the parallel fourths into sixths, which I hear as a scale-wise progression of first inversion chords. In the Bouree, the parallel fourths were an afterthought akin to the graces, judging by character of the notation. These parallel fourths hint at a canonic entrance in the bass a beat after the viola d'amore. I turned these parallel fourths into parallel sixths, and added to cadence bars rhythmic formulae, which in the lost original would be played by the bass part. Because of the rich chordal playing style characteristic of viola d'amore music of this period, called the Lyra style, the music is harmonically complete without a bass part.

However, in the fullness of time, I created a bass part:

Now, in Dec. 2009, it looks like this arrangement of Pezold's partita will be available  from Leon King's website.

J S Bach wrote for the viola d'amore four times in his career, most notably in the St. John Passion, which, more than any other work, has kept the d'amore in the history books.

The other occasions for which Bach used the viola d'amore are an aria from Cantata BWV 205 and Cantata 152. Five works and three different tunings; not even Bach's use of the viola d'amore is straightforward. One of these obligato arias, "Auch mit Gedaempfted Schwachen Stimmen" from Cantata 36c, is in the A tuning, which I have used as the basis for my transcription of the Flute Partita. If Kai Koepp’s theory about BWV 1055 being Bach's Concerto for the Viola d'amore is correct, it would also have been in the A tuning.

The music publisher Anton Huberty was born about 1722, perhaps in Belgium, and died in Vienna in 1791. While in Paris, he played the double bass in the Paris Opera orchestra and had royal permission to publish the music of foreigners. Perhaps in the course of publishing works of the Mannheim school, he became aware of the viola d'amore. By 1780 he had compiled an extensive single collection of works for the instrument in to a method.

Huberty’s collection, Neu Method, was lost until the 1970s when a librarian at the Sibley Library at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester NY noticed that a copy, the single surviving exemplar, had been in their collection since 1926. Like many an enthusiast, Huberty earnestly desired to bring the viola d’amore to a wider audience. His notation, a scordatura system involving three clefs which he hoped would promote the wider use of the viola d’amore, is not easy to use, nor are the works themselves easy to play. Here is an example:

I assembled six individual movements into a serenade. They include many of the "tricks" typical of the repertoire of the D major tuning: scales in thirds, harmonics, left hand pizzicato, and big chords across many strings. One is by Huberty himself, the others remain anonymous.