Many Strings Attached CD notes

December 2009 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, and in particular about the CD. In response I offer this revision of the Music and Manuscripts section of my CD notes booklet.

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, but being able to dance well, in addition to the associated manners and deportment, was an important part of the social skills of the time and, even in countries nominally enemies of France, (the home of origin of La Belle Danse,) dancing masters found employment teaching dancing and decorum to the upwardly mobile. The music on my recording reflects mania for dance; nearly every movement is a dance in binary form: AB. In performance each section is repeated, so the form you hear is actually AABB, and in the cases where there are petites 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 certain movements, notably the Allemandes, are far removed from their dance origins. Pezold's menuets, on the other hand, 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 of the characteristic rhythmic patterns and other features in common with the theatrical and 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 the two of his minuets for keyboard that the Bach family included anonymously in the Notebook for Anna Magdalena. Pezold was born in Koenigstein in 1677 and probably died in Dresden in 1733, where he had been the 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. I have recently learned that will, dated 1723,  of Sophie Pezold, (born Kayser), has been found. This 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 stuck by the wide musical interests of the Pezold household, and, of course, 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' which also included oboist Johann Christian Richter, violone player Jan Dismas Zelenka and court organist Christian Petzold. It is possible that all of the early users of the viola d'amore, Vivaldi Pisendel and Pezold, were acquainted one with another. This group stayed together until Pisendel was granted 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 favor 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. 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: Some players have written to me suggesting that the A major partita should be two works,  that the pages are not in the original order, and one day I would like to examine the original manuscript in Dresden to see if there is some evidence there to support these theories.

In both partitas ornaments, scribbled in the margins by early users of the music, apply mostly to the petites reprises, and 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 Gavott of the F major partita. 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 successive parallel empty fourths, as well as some empty bars. While I agree with them, I decided, for the purpose of making my recording, that the music would be better represented 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 missing original.

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 this movement the fourths were an afterthought, to judge by the character of the notation, but they hint at the canonic entrance of the bass a beat after the entrance of the viola d'amore. Fourths have been turned into sixths in a number of other places, and cadence bars have often been filled with rhythmic formulae which I imagine in the lost original was done by the bass part. Because of the rich chordal style of playing 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. Recent research supports the use of the G tuning for this work, that is, dgbd'g'd''; because sympathetic strings are not involved, the tuning need not be the tonic triad of the work. This G tuning is just one tone lower than tuning of two of the other works, BWV 36c and BWV 1055.

The other occasions for which Bach used the viola d'amore are an aria from Cantata BWV 205, and the whole of 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 theory about BWV 1055 is correct , Bach's Concerto for the Viola d'amore would have been in the A tuning as well.

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 was given royal permission to publish music of foreigners. Perhaps in the course of publishing works of the Mannheim school he became aware of the viola d'amore. In any case, by about 1780 he had compiled the largest single collection ever of works for the instrument, some 130 pages in all.

This collection was considered lost until about a generation ago, 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 since, Huberty earnestly desired to bring the instrument to a wider audience, but his system of notation, a scordatura system involving three clefs, is not easy to read, nor are the works themselves easy to play; he must have been a very able player indeed. Have a look at an example:  I have 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.