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Title: Chats on Violoncellos
Author: Racster, Olga
Language: English
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=Music Lover’s Library=


      *      *      *      *      *      *

The Music Lover’s Library





      ANNIE W. PATTERSON, Mus.Doc., B.A.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

  [Illustration: THE ARTIST’S WIFE.
    A. VAN DYCK.]




Author of “Chats on Violins”

With 18 Illustrations


T. Werner Laurie
Clifford’S Inn


  LONDON, 1907


No prefatory remarks are necessary to introduce the reader to the
following pages. They emanated, in the first place, from a desire for
personal instruction, and what the French term _le soulagement du
coeur_, a combination--according to Vauvenargues--calculated to prove
useful to one’s fellows, _car personne est seul de son espéce_. Those
who live on my plane of thought will welcome this volume, and those who
do not, will easily find a way out of the difficulty presented to them
by their attempted perusal of its pages: most modern houses are now
provided with wastepaper baskets of ample proportions!

My true reason for allowing myself to wander into the paths of a
preamble, springs from a desire to thank my friends and colleagues for
their assistance in supplying me with many interesting facts.

In particular I am indebted to Sir George Donaldson for permission
to reproduce his Duiffoproucart Viol; to Dr William H. Cummings for
the use of his interesting old engraving of Benjamin Hallet; to Mr
W. E. Whitehouse for notes concerning Signor Piatti; to Mr Edward
Heron Allen for courteous admittance to his valuable library, and for
permission to reproduce the handsome carved violoncello by Galli; to Mr
John Bridges for his photographs of “The King” Amati, and for supplying
me with many points relating to its history; and to Miss Gertrude
Roberts for helpful research at the British Museum.

Also I waft hearty acknowledgments to that great host of musical
historians--my predecessors--to whose various records from century to
century we owe our present knowledge.

                                                           OLGA RACSTER.




  Fog--The South Kensington Museum--The Ravanastron--Arabia--The
    Kemangeh à Gouze--Egypt and the Rabab                              1


  Lunch, and the Emperor Albinus--The Crwth--The immature Bow
    Instruments which preceded the Fifteenth-century Viol--M.
    Coutagne and Gaspard Duiffoproucart                               43


  The Renaissance--The Influence of the Netherlands School--A
    brief Outline of the growing Use of the Viol in Germany,
    Italy, England, France                                            81


  Andrea Amati--“The King” and its History--Gasparo da Salo--Woods
    employed by Ancient _Luthiers_--Paolo Maggini and the “Dumas”
    Bass--Monsieur Savart’s Experiments--Freaks--Stradivarius
    Violoncellos--Signor Piatti’s Violoncellos--The Bass of
    Spain--Davidoff’s Violoncello--Herr Klengel’s Amati--A neat
    Swindle--Stradivarius’ Contemporaries--Owners of Rugger
    Violoncellos--George IV.’s pseudo Stradivarius--The earliest
    Treatise on the Violoncello as a Solo Instrument--Mr
    Andrew Forster’s Gamba--The Prince Consort’s “Ancient
    Instruments” Concert--Development of the Technique of
    Violoncello Playing                                              109


  Two Eighteenth-century Women Players of the
    Viola da Gamba                                                   185


  An Eighteenth-century Violoncello Prodigy                          211


  The Artist’s Wife. A Van Dyck                           _Frontispiece_

  Sir George Donaldson’s Duiffoproucart Viola
    da Gamba, sketched by D. Freeborn Roberts          _To face page_ 74

  “The King” Violoncello by Andreas Amati                   ”        110

  “The King,” Side View                                     ”        114

  Back of the “Vaslin” Violoncello                          ”        124

  Back of Carved Violoncello by Galli                       ”        174

  Viola di Bordone from the South Kensington
    Museum, from a Painting by D. Freeborn Roberts          ”        184

  Benjamin Hallet                                           ”        210

  Ravanastron                                                         21

  Ancient Egyptian Guitars                                            22

  Rabab                                                               29

  Kemangeh à Gouze                                                    32

  The Rebec                                                           44

  Spanish Minstrel                                                    46

  Figure from St Georges de Boscerville                               49

  Bas-relief, Cologne Cathedral                                       50

  Nun playing Marine Trumpet. Sketch by Author                        59

  Example from Simpson’s “Division-Viol”                              80

  [Illustration: The Opening bars of the Chant of Ab’oo Zeyd]

Chats on Violoncellos



    Fog--The South Kensington Museum--The Ravanastron--Arabia--The
    Kemangeh à Gouze--Egypt, and the Rabab

Is there any city in the world that can--metaphorically speaking--hold
up its head beside this place of mystery--London in a fog? Paris,
Berlin, Vienna, St Petersburg, New York--what can they do in the
production of a bilious-green, murky-yellow species of hyperphysical
abomination? Nothing! Yet we English are not in the least proud of
our prerogative. Perhaps elation is impossible among such depressing
surroundings, or, perhaps the true British spirit of being satisfied
with everything that _is_ British, because it _is_ British,
predominates too utterly to admit of any other emotion.

From whatever cause our inertia springs, the clue is too deeply locked
away in every Cockney’s heart to be revealed. The effect, however, is
plainly seen in the total lack of epic poetry, or chromatic musical
depiction of the thing. Our literature does not teem with such lines as:

  “The ’cellist stood in the empty hall,
  Whence all but himself had fled,
  ‘’Tis the fog,’ he sighed, ‘that has tired them all
  And sent them so early to bed!’”

No! genius ignores the subject, and fills in the weary hours of
darkness with sighs, and gasps, and chokes, like ordinary mortals.

What an outlook greets us this dull November day! Misty bricks
and mortar emerge and disappear like swiftly buried cities. Hazy,
indefinite, dubious figures loom upon us out of the darkness, like
ancestral ghosts; dull thuds, faint cries, strange stampings and
gratings are transmitted to our ears with telephonic minuteness; and
all the while our throats are aching, our eyes are streaming, our noses
are smarting, the motor bus is useless, and--we don’t know where we are.

Perhaps in all the gamut of human sensibility there can be no more
creepy sensation than that of being lost in familiar surroundings. The
ruler of Hades himself, or Jupiter with his thunderbolts, could not
invent a more refined torture than that consummated in the paradox:
“Here I am!--Where am I?” Yet, how ordinary has this impression become
to the dweller in London.

“Here, boy! can you tell me where I am? I thought I was near the South
Kensington Station, but--I begin to be horribly puzzled. That great
thing opposite looks just like the Parthenon!”

“Parth yer on!” exclaims a little urchin, apparently emerging from
nowhere, and brandishing a torch as big as himself--“Parth, did yer
say? Yer on the parth roight enough! Want a loight, loidy?” he adds,
reserving further information until he is sure of a customer.

“Yes, yes, to be sure! Don’t leave me whatever you do! Where am I?”
distractedly. “What is that place opposite? I saw it a moment ago,
but--it’s gone again!” A pause--similar to that which precedes each new
slide at a magic-lantern show--follows this speech, then out of the
darkness comes the excited exclamation: “There! there it is! Now, what
is it?”

“That there?” hoarsely mutters our impish guide with a grin. “Why, that
there’s the Kensin’ton Mooseum.”

“The Kensington Museum! Surely it can’t be! Why, it is the very place
I have been looking for for hours past. Do you think you can get me

“Git yer across!” with an accent of scorn, “o’ corse I can git yer
across. You just keep close alonga me, loidy, and we’ll git over in two

With torch held aloft and a hopeful heart he makes a start and--returns
to the comparative safety of the pavement. Then he makes a second hoppy
trial--with the same result. We begin to feel nervous, and search in
our memory for some battle-cry or epic poem with which to fortify our
courage, and drop upon Montrose’s lines:

  “He either fears his fate too much,
    Or his deserts are small,
  Who dares not put it to the touch
    To gain or lose it all.”

“Now then, ’ere you are, look sharp!” shouts our familiar urchin,
utterly ignoring our poetic mutterings. Straight away he plunges
into the chaos like an arrow shot from a bow. We follow blindly,
breathlessly, with the grace of a polar bear after a gadfly, and in an
incredibly short space of time reach the safety of the Museum doorway.

What a transformation scene greets our eyes when we enter! Here is a
little Paradise indeed: food, warmth, light, and all the treasures
of the Universe besides. Without--we know--are horrors worse than
Bluebeard’s dungeons or the Underground Railway at Gower Street. But
what matter to us now if the sky rains salt herrings and the streets be
full of roaring bulls, for we are safe from the great Babel, although
we can see its stir if we will.

Come! sober scholar, gay _flaneur_, or ignoramus (it is all the same),
rest, and drink in the fascinations of these armies of priceless china,
silver, glass, pictures, and furniture which shine, and glint, and
sparkle, and peep, in tantalising invitation! Here are rare editions:
historic relics: miniatures, lace, statuary--in short, a banquet to
suit all tastes; and here, more particularly, in the least prominent
position, is a unique collection of musical instruments, hiding their
heads in remoteness. It is regrettable that many of these interesting
relics of the past are placed in such dark corners that a good deal
of nose-flattening and eye-straining is necessary to see them at all.
Still, one is well rewarded for any slight personal inconvenience
sustained in viewing them, for, apart from their special interest, do
they not stand before us as the mute historians of the past?

Look at this old virginal, encased in what was once rich red velvet,
but now faded and worn with the touch of many a vanished hand! Behold
those keys, brown with age! Yet these were once white and responsive
to the taper fingers of that most consummate diplomatist, Queen Bess.
Surely it was just here, on this side, that my Lord of Leicester stood
bending his proud head to eagerly plead an answer to his oft-repeated
suit! Or perhaps it was impulsive Essex plucked and twitched the thing,
while he sued for the pardon of an elderly, capricious coquette!

A little to the left of the historic virginal is the harp of the
ill-fated Marie Antoinette, brave owner of that empty title, _Reine de
France_. What has been the history of the graceful thing since that
short space of calm when its tones resounded in the Queen’s _Salon_
at the Tuileries? Was it also dragged after the poor lady by a cruel
infuriated mob, like the harp of her friend, Mademoiselle de Lamballe?
Who knows! The tumbrels seem to rumble by us as we gaze, and the
sickening refrain:

  “Madame Veto avait promis
  De faire égorger tout Paris;
  Mais son coup a manqué
  Grâce à nos canonniers.
  Dansans la Carmagnole
      Vive le son,
      Vive le son,
  Dansans la Carmagnole
  Vive le son du canon”

rings in our ears.

Close beside this melancholy relic is the cheering cast of Brian
Borroimbe’s harp, which was played on by that versatile King of
Ireland during the eleventh century. A little farther--in an obscure
corner--is the fiddle said to have belonged to James I. of England, and
almost beneath it is a cast of the beautifully carved violin which is
generally supposed to have been given to the Earl of Leicester by Queen
Elizabeth. Facing this is Handel’s harpsichord, a plain, workmanlike
little instrument of neutral tint, and, and--can it be? or--is it only
the shadow of that pillar there that deceives us into imagining that we
see a misty outlined figure near the keyboard?

At first it appears to take the form of a little child, stretching his
small fingers with loving patience from note to note, while now and
again he glances timorously round, as though fearful of detection.

Surely now it is Mr Handel himself: this man before us, in full bob-wig
and handsome habiliments, can be no other than the successful favourite
of the highest in the land. There he sits, with an expression of
“Vat de tevil do I care!” on his face, hammering out “The Harmonious
Blacksmith.” Not the man to trouble himself about women, or succumb to
the tender passion, yet women were ever helpful and friendly to him.
As he plays, a strange medley of figures gather round him: there is
handsome Sir Robert l’Estrange, smarting under the indignity of being
called “Cromwell’s fiddler”: Cuzzoni--at a distance--for she has not
forgotten Handel’s threat to throw her out of the window at the last
rehearsal. Also there is the poet Gay, and Lord Burlington: Her Grace
of Chandos, with her shadow, Mr Pope: Hogarth, Smollett, and that
rogue, Colley Cibber, bursting with some merry squib, which must be
bottled up until the end of Mr Handel’s piece, for fear of rousing that
gentleman’s fiery temper.

Then quite suddenly the crowd fades away, leaving the lonely figure at
the harpsichord. The outline has grown very faint, yet one can discern
that it is the master still; older, gentler, feebler, with eyes that
gaze, but cannot see. Genius is still the dominating power, neither
age nor infirmity can destroy it. The groping fingers continue to pour
forth that exquisite flow of music, which is with us now and will
remain always, for his name is

  One of the few immortal names
  That were not born to die.

Turning away from the many interesting memories revived by the old
harpsichord, we discover that we have turned our backs on a case of
Asiatic instruments clustering round a double-bass of such ample
proportions that it is impossible to ignore it.

“The Giant”--as the monster is aptly called--is massive in every way.
It is tall--nearly ten feet--it is broad, stout, and, in addition to
its bulky proportions, exercises a strange magnetic influence over the
gazer. So forcible is its power, that one is compelled to stay and
meditate beneath its shadow as though it were still part of the parent
tree from which it was ruthlessly torn some hundred years ago. As we
settle down to view this mighty example of the perfected form of the
violin, stray facts concerning this instrument and others of its kind
come to us in a hap-hazard fashion. Our memory is whipped into various
whimsical recollections of big things and fat people. Irresistibly
a reminiscence of the great Lablache is wafted to us. This gigantic
singer was a humble double-bass in the orchestra of a theatre, in a
small Italian town, before his glorious voice brought him renown. One
evening, as he was preparing to finger his part in the orchestra, he
heard that the principal bass singer was too indisposed to sing. Here
was the chance of Lablache’s life, and--he took it. He filled the
vacant bass singer’s part himself and gained such an instantaneous
success that he forsook the double-bass for ever. Yet, although he
discarded it, he could not quite get rid of its memory, for his very
voice was reminiscent of its tones. No one noticed this resemblance
more than Weber, who, hearing him a few months after his début,
exclaimed involuntarily: “By heavens! he is a double-bass still!”

As for the biography of the big bass before us, it is short but
honourable. Made in Italy--that happy land of _lutherie_--it was once
the property of Domenico Dragonetti, who came to England in 1794 and
gathered victorious laurels in this country until the day of his
death. Amusing anecdotes are said to have flowed incessantly from
the lips of this whimsical artist, yet nothing he said surpassed his
ridiculous habit of making up a “no-language” out of several tongues.
Although Dragonetti resided in London for upwards of forty years, yet
until his dying day he could not converse for ten minutes without
running into several different languages, and when he exchanged
opinions with his bosom friend, Lindley, who stuttered frantically,
the effect defied both description and imitation. There is a story on
record that Dragonetti and Lindley were one day lounging down Wardour
Street, which was then--as it is now--the haunt of the connoisseur,
when they came upon a shop where, among other attractions, a parrot
was put out for sale. The friends contemplated the bird for some time
without speaking, until they attracted the attention of the shopman,
who at once came out to them. Lindley began stumbling out endless
questions to him, for the bird had taken his fancy, and Dragonetti
poked in a query now and again in his own curious jargon. How old was
the bird? What did it like to eat? Where did it come from? Was it a
clever bird? Was it tame? and so on, ending, with a tremendous effort
on Lindley’s part: “Ca-ca-can-can he-he-e et-t-t-talk?” The salesman,
impatient of having been kept so long to no purpose, felt he would lose
nothing by a little outburst of temper, so he turned upon his heel with
the sarcastic reply: “Talk! I should think so, and a jolly sight better
than either of you, or I’d wring his blooming neck.”

Dragonetti had no rival in his day, though Bottesini, about
half-a-century later, could accomplish all that Dragonetti did. Indeed
he did more, for he proved what wonderful effects could be produced by
utilising the double-bass as a solo instrument, whereas Dragonetti was
more particularly an orchestral genius. It is said that in private,
however, he frequently amused his friends with wonderful flights on
one string, or jocularly played a second violin part in a Quartet on
his bulky instrument. Like Paganini his disproportionately long knobby
fingers gave him a wonderful command and grip of the fingerboard, and
he produced a tone like the great rolling pedal notes of an organ. So
vast and penetrating was its quality, and so spirited his leadership of
the double-basses, that his absence invariably called forth a comment
from the audience on the weakness of the bass at such-and-such a

Like Paganini, and many other famous artists, Dragonetti also possessed
a cherished instrument, from which death alone parted him. The tone
of this beautiful Gasparo da Salo is recorded to have been immense,
and many were the occasions when its sonorous voice was the means of
providing Dragonetti with the material for perpetrating one of his
practical jokes. On the very day that the good monks of the monastery
of St Pietro, near Venice, presented him with the double-bass, his
high spirits led him into all kinds of pranks. Mad with delight at the
possession of such a treasure, he carried it home and seated himself
in the hall, with the bass planted before him. In response to a few
strokes of his bow the bulky instrument emitted such thunderous rolling
sounds that all the china and glass, even the pots and pans, began to
rattle. Up from the kitchen department came the frightened inmates,
hardly knowing what to expect, and they found nothing but--a slim lad,
playing a big fiddle.

Returning to the double-bass before us, we must admit that the
numerous large basses made in Italy and England, as well as during the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, was surprising. The conventional
mind of the English can rarely create anything for itself in art, but
must for ever imitate. Thus when they discovered that the Italian
players who came to England used much larger double-basses than they
were accustomed to, the order went forth at once: “Make ours large
too!” The arrival of Gariboldie in London, in the reign of King George
III., was the signal for much agitation amongst the King’s musicians,
for it was understood that he was accompanied by an unusually large
double-bass. Mr Nilbone, the principal bass, was in particular most
anxious, and wrote the following letter to the eminent maker, William
Forster, upon the matter[1]:--

                                         _Windsor, July 4th, 87 [1787]._

SIR,--By his _Majesty’s_ order you are to form a plan for a new
double-bass; it is to be at least four inches wider, if not more, than
that which you made and the depth according. You are to make it as well
as possible--so as not to let any exceed it in England--as Gariboldie
has sent to Italy for an uncommon large one both in goodness and size
by the performance at the Abbey next year....[2]

For what exact purpose these monster instruments were used it is
difficult to surmise, unless for the amusement of some “Giants of
mighty bone and bold enterprise.” Perhaps some descendant of Anak,
Og, or Goliath was the first owner of this monster; some colossal
_virtuoso_ who made his fellow-artists tremble--like jelly in a
bowl--when he arbitrarily forbade them to take their encores. Certainly
the advertisement columns of _The Daily Advertiser_ some two hundred
years ago contain so many announcements of giants, that one might
easily be led to suppose that they were a drug in the market at that

An account of a bass which must have been quite as massive--possibly
larger--as the one before us is given in his “Memoirs” by the Baron
de Pollnitz, an Austrian nobleman, who visited many courts during the
latter part of the eighteenth century. He received a particularly
gratifying reception at the court of Duke Maurice of Saxony, whom he
discovered to be an enthusiastic collector of musical instruments,
and more especially of bass-viols. In the following passage the Baron
describes his visit to the Museum where they were stored:--“The Prince
conducted me into a hall which was hung with bass-viols from the
bottom to the top, in the same manner as an arsenal is with helmets
and breastplates. In the middle of the hall was a viol which was
distinguished from all the rest. It reached up to the very ceiling,
and there was a ladder set, which such as had the curiosity to take
particular view were obliged to ascend, for surely it was the most
stately instrument of the kind that was ever made. The Duke made me
take particular notice of it, and was pleased with the admiration I
expressed of it.”

In an interview with one of the Duke’s gentlemen-in-waiting which
followed the reception at the palace, the Machiavelian-like use
to which this double-bass had been put is revealed with startling
clearness: “As for my august master,” remarks the garrulous courtier,
“his fancy runs only on bass-viols, and whoever solicits him for
employment or any other favour cannot do better than accommodate his
arsenal with one of these instruments. That large one which you saw in
the room where all the viols are kept was presented to him by one who
wished to be a Privy Councillor. His petition was granted, and had he
asked for anything else he might have had it.”

Another huge double-bass is described by Mr William Gardiner, of
Leicester, in his delightfully chatty book, “Music and Friends.” He
recounts coming across the monster in his native town in 1786, and
says: “It was of such a height that Mr Martin [the maker] was obliged
to cut a hole in the ceiling to let the head through; so that it was
tuned by going into the room above.”

If either of these instruments had by chance found its way to the East,
what a sensation it would have created! The Oriental in all generations
has cherished a fine reverence for bulk, apparently measuring the
intellect by the dimensions of the body, and this is no doubt his
reason for constructing his gods in such awe-inspiring proportions.
Not only does he make them large, but he also carefully preserves the
traditional history of his country with which they are intertwined, and
it is interesting to observe what a goodly part music plays in these
annals. For instance, to the assumed founder of the Chinese Empire,
B.C. 3000, the God Fohi, called “The Son of Heaven,” is assigned
the invention of several stringed instruments, while their musical
scale--distributed in the manner of the black notes on the piano--was
derived from a miraculous bird rejoicing in the name of Foung-hoang.

The Brahmin traditions of the Hindus inform us that the God Nareda
invented one of their most popular instruments now in use--the
vina--while speech and musical sounds were the creation of Brahma’s
amiable and intellectual consort, Saraswati. Turning to the legendary
history of Ceylon, we again find allusion to musical invention. The
most ancient myth of this island concerns the doings of Rama--a
physical incarnation of the God Vichnou--and Ravenan, the giant king
who is credited with the difficult achievement of inventing the first
stringed instrument played with a bow, five thousand years ago. This
Ravenan, besides being of great strength and rejoicing in several
heads, considered himself such a sweet and virtuous soul, that he
established himself as a divinity, and invited his subjects--like a
hot-pie man--to “gather round.” The request--if an arbitrary command
can so be called--met with a speedy response. They not only “gathered
round,” but they worshipped, and the foolish giant became exceedingly
puffed up. Indeed, so great was his exaltation when he saw the growth
of his proselytes, that he at length conceived the plan of making
conquests farther afield. But--to borrow from Mr Bernard Shaw--“You
never can tell.” You start scaling the Alps with a high heart, and a
conviction that you will reach the top, when a nasty avalanche descends
upon you and you are extinguished as easily as a farthing dip.

This was the case with the many-headed Ravenan. Whether the strain of
thinking with seven heads at a time destroyed his judgment, or whether
he did not think at all but allowed his conceit to get the better of
him, we do not know, at any rate the avalanche was at hand in the form
of his enemy, Rama. The moment that God heard of Ravenan’s intentions,
he cried aloud with Jovelike fury: “By Brahma, it shall not be!” and
there and then bore down upon Ravenan with his army. A great battle
ensued, but alas! to no purpose as far as Rama was concerned. He was
not only routed by the Cingalese soldiers, but his consort, Sides, was
carried away to the enemy’s camp. Other encounters followed the first,
but still Ravenan’s army conquered. Probably they might have gained
the final victory had not Rama assumed a Siegfried characteristic. He
appealed to Brahma and obtained from him a magic spear, with which he
ended Ravenan’s despotic reign.

Of course in these so-called enlightened days, the Oriental tradition
of the ravanastron (Ravenan’s invention was named after him) is laughed
down. But after all one must own the truth of the saying: “There is no
smoke without a fire,” and also allow that even the most poetic fancy
must have some species of realism to give it birth. Possibly this
instrument attributed to Ravenan was but the “rushy Zampogna” alluded
to by Sir Roger North[3] as employed “to stir up the vulgar to dance.”
Call it by what name you will, specify the fingers that made it to be
dusky or white, there is no doubt that our grave and learned historians
of the subject give evidence of the existence of a stringed instrument
played with a bow in India at a very early date. The first duty of
all historians--as we know--is to be truthful, therefore, when they
reiterate the statement that the fiddle-bow is mentioned in Sanskrit
characters which cannot be less than two thousand years old, we must
believe implicitly. And then again, we are told that the description of
India’s musical instruments found in Sanskrit treatises, reveal that
the forms of the instruments there mentioned, have scarcely altered
during the last thousand years. Here is another point in favour of the
ravanastron’s Indian origin. Finally, Monsieur Pierre Sonnerait--the
oft quoted--in his “Voyages aux Indes oriental” (Paris, 1782), records
that this identical instrument was then in use among a religious sect
called the Ponderons.

  [Illustration: Fig. 1.--RAVANASTRON]

A description of an instrument bearing a great similarity to the
ravanastron, which is depicted on a tall, handled cup belonging to
the collection of Greek and Etruscan vases made by Lucien Napoleon,
Prince of Caneno, is to be found in Mr J. M. Fleming’s “Violins Old
and New” (London, 1883). His authority is a reproduction of the
instrument, which he states to have found in an illustrated catalogue
of the Prince’s valuable collection, published by subscription at
Milan, in 1836. The scene in which the instrument figures is printed
in red on a black ground, and reveals a man reading to a couple of
youths who lean upon knotted sticks, while they listen with great
earnestness to the narrative. On each side of the principal figure is
an object which is technically termed, by authorities in these matters,
“thecæ”--indicating the profession of the reader. It is the form of
one of these “thecæ” that closely resembles the ravanastron, and, in
addition, has a bow placed across the strings startlingly modern in

  [Illustration: Fig. 2

Looked at from a conjectural point of view, one might hazard that
this picture perhaps furthers the cause of the Indian ravanastron’s
antiquity, when we bear in mind that the music of the Sanskrit period
closely resembles that of the Ancient Greeks. The Greeks in their
turn--it may be remembered--borrowed their music from Egypt: the Arabs
from Persia: the Chinese from India: Japan from China: and so on in
a merry-go-round of reiteration. This borrowing system has originated
numberless theories of derivation, but one cannot get away from the
fact that Egypt was the mother country of musical instruments with
stretched strings and possibly (?) of the bow also. The resemblance
between the ancient Egyptian guitar (Fig. 2) and the ravanastron (Fig.
1) has easily led to the supposition that those most accomplished
instrumentalists of ancient times must have discovered the art of
producing sound by friction, although they have left no proof of any
such invention. But--we live in an age of discovery--the most effete
origin of the bow may yet be unearthed, for the world’s dust heaps are
far from being completely ransacked. Only the other day a contemporary
newspaper announced that “Dr von Lecoque, a scientific emissary of
the Persian Government, has arrived safely at Srinagar [Kashmir],
after a journey through remote parts of Asia. He has brought with him
a quantity of highly interesting paintings upon stucco, the background
in many cases being of gold-leaf, as in Italian work, and a number
of manuscripts in ten different languages and one wholly unknown
tongue. Dr von Lecoque’s discoveries probably constitute the greatest
archæological find since the days of Layard and Rawlinson.”

Pending the appearance of further revelations concerning the origin of
stringed instruments played with a bow, there is no harm in quoting
the following Oriental tale which to some extent tends to strengthen
the invention of the bow and _gut_ strings in India. The story is to
be found in a Persian work entitled the “Tute Nama”[4] (“Tales of a
Parrot, or Parrot Book,”) written by a Persian author named Nakhshabi,
A.D. 1329, who adapted the romance--be it noted--from a Sanskrit work,
now extant. The frame or leading narrative of the book deals with a
merchant who had a beautiful wife, but, desiring to increase his wealth
by establishing trade with other countries, he resolved to travel. His
wife, with sweet and womanly affection, clings to him, and endeavours
to dissuade him from his purpose. But for reply, he expatiates to her
upon the evils of poverty and the advantages of wealth in a manner that
would delight the heart of “Major Barbara’s” cynical father “Andrew
Undershaft.” “A man without riches,” says he, “is fatherless, and
a home without money is destitute.” Again: “He that is in want of
cash is a nonentity, and wanders in the land unknown.” Other similar
aphorisms greet his gentle wife’s persuasions, and at length the matter
ends in his departure. Before leaving, however, he goes to the bazaar
and purchases, at a great cost, a wonderful parrot that can discourse
eloquently, and a species of nightingale called a “sharak,” which can
imitate the human voice in a surprising manner. These he presents to
his spouse as a parting gift, charging her that she shall consult the
birds and gain their joint consent before transacting any matter of

Time passes; the merchant’s wife has bemoaned her lord’s absence and
conversed with the birds, until, one day, a handsome foreign Prince
goes by the beautiful lady’s residence, and chances to meet the glance
of her languishing eyes. In true Persian fashion, they instantly
fall in love with one another, and the usual female Mercury of such
romances is employed to arrange a lover’s meeting. Before keeping her
appointment with the Prince, however, the merchant’s wife seeks the
counsel of her two birds, as in duty bound. The “sharak” forbids her
to see the Prince at the first suggestion, and is rewarded for her
vigilance by getting her neck wrung. The parrot is next questioned, but
seeing the fate of his companion he prudently temporises, and commences
to tell a tale of such flattering interest that his mistress forgets to
be angry, and listens, eager and absorbed.

Night after night, the parrot--in the manner of Sharazad, who narrated
stories for “A Thousand and One Nights”--eloquently romances, thus
cutely preventing the lady’s contemplated intrigue, until the
merchant’s return makes it impossible. On the fourteenth night the
clever bird entertains his mistress with the following ingenious theory
of the invention of musical instruments:--

“Some attribute ... the discovery to the sounds made by a large stone
against the frame of an oil-press, and others to meat when roasting,
but the sages of Hind [India] are of opinion that it originated in
the following accident. As a learned Brahmin was travelling to the
court of an illustrious raja, he rested about the middle of the day
under the shade of a mulberry-tree, on the top of which he beheld a
mischievous monkey climbing from bough to bough, till by a sudden
slip he fell upon a sharp-pointed shoot which instantly ripped up his
belly, and left his entrails suspended on the tree, while the unlucky
animal fell breathless upon the dust of death. Some time after this,
as the Brahmin was returning, he accidentally sat down in the same
place and, recollecting the circumstance, looked up and saw that the
entrails were dried and yielded a harmonious sound every time the wind
gently impelled them against the branches. Charmed at the singularity
of the adventure, he took them down and, after binding them to the two
ends of his walking-stick, touched them with a small twig by which
he discovered that the sound was much improved. When he got home he
fastened the staff to another piece of wood, which was hollow, and
by the addition of a bow which was strung with part of his own beard
he converted it into a complete instrument.[5] In succeeding ages
the science received considerable improvements. After the addition
of a bridge purer notes were extracted; and the different students,
pursuing the bent of their inclinations, constructed instruments of
various forms according to their individual fancies; and to this
whimsical accident we are indebted for the tuneful _ney_, and the
heart-exhilarating _rabáb_, and in short all the other instruments of
wind and string.”

If we would see this rabab mentioned by our Persian author, we have but
to look on the right-hand side of the big bass before us, and there
behold the identical thing suspended from a hook, like a misfit in a
tailor’s shop. But before we begin discoursing upon its history it
would be as well to glance at the Chinese fiddle, called the Ur-heen,
hanging to the left of the bass. In shape it is almost the counterpart
of the ravanastron; the same broomstick neck and fingerboard combined,
the same round minute body. Here, however, the resemblance ends,
for the body of the Chinese instrument is made of half a cocoanut
shell (curiously enough the monkeys’ favourite repast), covered with
gazelle skin, while the body of the ravanastron--as though desiring to
accentuate its relationship to the violin family--is constructed of a
cylinder of sycamore wood hollowed out. It may be remembered that M.
Fetis, in his “Notice of A Stradivari,” makes a very decisive remark
about the ravanastron: “If we would trace a bow instrument to its
source,” says he, “we must assume the most simple form in which it
could appear, and such as required no assistance from an art brought to
perfection, and such a form we shall find in the ravanastron.”

  [Illustration: Fig. 3.--RABAB]

Accepting this theory then as our basis, we must behold in this
insignificant-looking construction (Fig. 1), devoid of classic line or
Stradivarius curve, the progenitor of the violin family--or, shall we
say: “The _Violoncello_ family”? There is certainly some foundation for
giving the deeper instrument precedence; first: the earliest pitch was
low, and, second: if this is doubted, evidence comes to hand in the
primitive stringed instruments played with a bow being too insecurely
constructed to have borne the pressure of a tight--and consequently
high-pitched--string. Another significant testimony is also to be found
in the tuning of India’s fiddle, the sarange. Its highest string does
not exceed middle C, and, besides this, it is held vertically, like the

But we have hung over this thrice-told tale of India’s supposed
contribution to the history of the violoncello overlong, we must turn
our attention to the waiting rabab (Fig. 3). Comparing this with the
ravanastron, a glance is sufficient to realise the development made in
the right direction. Here the length of neck is curtailed, and more
attention given to the sound arrangement. The outline of the body
partakes no more of the American “meat-can” type, and there is an
attempt at assuming those drawn-out corners and exquisite curves which,
under the masterly touch of Amati and Stradivarius, finally developed
into unassailable perfection. According to the Persian parrot’s story,
we might be led to suppose that this was also a Hindu invention, but it
is probably more correct to conclude it to be the Arab development of
the ravanastron, for truly:

    “... all Arabia breathes from yonder box.”

Yes! Not only does it breathe, but also whispers of that stalwart
race of warriors, awakened from the lethargy of years and thrilling
to Mohammed’s sublime cry: “There is one God alone!” speaks of the
majestic growth of civilisation and chivalry among them, which emanated
from the Prophet’s teaching: tells of the conquest of Persia in the
seventh century, from whence they gathered wealth and culture, and of
the subsequent subjugation of the whole of Egypt, Assyria, and India
under one vast Empire. In this manner did the more advanced knowledge
of the vanquished become disseminated among the conquerors and--keeping
pace with the newly kindled spirit of progress--receive impetus at
their hands. The Persian system of music was taken by the Arabs _en
bloc_; likewise their musical instruments, and those of India and
Egypt, consequently they became possessed of a a numerous and varied
assortment. Of their prime favourite _el oud_ (lute), alone, they are
said to have counted thirty varieties, and of stringed instruments
played with a bow they had fourteen different types. At the present
day, only two out of this array exist from which to draw conclusions:
the Persian kemangeh à gouze (ancient place of the bow[6]), and the
Arabian rabab, which was possibly derived from the Indian ravanastron
through the kemangeh.

  [Illustration: Fig. 4.--KEMANGEH A GOUZE]

In the eighth century, the Arabs enlarged their dominions still
further by the addition of Spain, and it was there more particularly,
amid the bewildering wealth, the luxurious self-indulgence and
unrivalled magnificence, that music--“the language of love”--became
indispensable. Mahommed might frown upon the art: might decry it as a
device of the devil; might thunder that it caused “hypocrisy to grow
in the heart like as water promoteth the growth of corn,” but to no
avail, the placid Moslem found some means of reconciling his love of
sweet sounds to the teachings of his religion. In Cordova, which was
then the capital of Spain, “from every balcony in the evening time
sounded the tinkling of lutes, and the melody of voices, so that the
city seemed wreathed in musical airs after the bazaars were closed and
the evening recreation had begun. The Caliph, secluded from public
curiosity in his voluptuous retreat of Zehra, passed his hours of
recreation amid scenes that may well recall the description of fable.
The ‘pavilion of his pleasures’ was constructed of gold and polished
steel, the walls of which were encrusted with precious stones. In the
midst of the splendour produced by lights reflected from a hundred
crystal lustres, a sheaf of living quicksilver jetted up in a basin
of alabaster and made a brightness too dazzling for the eye to look
upon. Amid the decorations of rare and stupendous luxury was a musical
tree--a similar construction is said to have existed at Constantinople
and one at Bagdad--the branches of which were made of gold and silver.
On eighteen large branches and a number of twigs beneath them sat
a multitude of birds shaped out of the same precious metals. By an
ingenious mechanism inside the golden tree the birds were made to
sing in a most melodious chorus, to the delight and amazement of the

In Bagdad, Cairo, and Damascus there was the same lavish grandeur, the
same magnificence, and, amid the culture and poetic romanticism, which
was the wonder of all Europe, the prime instigator to the development
of music and musical instruments--the minstrel--sprang into life.
Not only were bands of minstrels kept at the palaces of the caliphs,
princes, and viziers, but companies of wandering minstrels roamed the
country from city to city and house to house, everywhere receiving
welcome and creating a fine taste and criticism among the people. No
man was accounted a good minstrel unless--besides being able to play
sweet melodies, and jingle bright tunes--he could utter clever things
with point and clearness of diction: repeat endless poetry, both grave
and gay: have a fluent command of speech, and, when singing, enunciate
with perfect purity. All these attributes they attempted to display
and cultivate in their playing of the dulcimer; their singing to the
accompaniment of the lute; their story telling, and their chanting to
the rabab on the eternal theme--love.

Alas! princely race of poets and musicians, your greatness has vanished
like a cloud of dust. Vanquished and overcome in your turn, your
grandeur, your literature, your science is a thing of the past, and
your dignified minstrel is to-day but a beggarly sha’er (poet) who
frequents Egyptian cafés, and, for a paltry remuneration, chants to the
accompaniment of the rabab. Go to that most cosmopolitan spot on earth,
Cairo, where Greek, Turk, Egyptian, Persian, and Arabian rub shoulders,
and present an incessant kaleidoscopic vision of brilliant colours,
and there you will meet this minstrel, remnant of “Arabian Nights’”
wonders. Down the street he comes, stops at a café, seats himself on
the mus’tub’ah, or raised seat, which is built against the front of
the coffee-shop--rabab in hand, while another performer on the rabab
seats himself beside him to play certain parts of the accompaniment.
The auditors occupy the rest of the sha’er’s platform,[8] or “arrange
themselves on the mus’tub’ahs of the houses on the opposite side of
the narrow street, and the rest sit on stools or benches made of
palm-sticks; most of them with pipe in hand; some sipping their coffee,
and all highly amused, not only with the story, but with the lively
and dramatic manner of the narrator.” After invocating the Prophet’s
blessing the sha’er, who both recites and chants _par coeur_, plays
a few introductory notes on the rabab and then begins to relate the
popular and ancient story of the adventures of Ab’oo’ Zey’dee, which
is full of dramatic possibilities for one gifted with histrionic
talent. The first part of the tale deals with the childhood of the
hero who--owing to his mother praying before his birth that he might
be brave like a blackbird whom she saw attack and vanquish a numerous
flock of birds--was born as black as night. On account of his sombre
hue the helpless infant is cast upon the world in his mother’s arms
by his father, who is the chief of the great tribe of Ben’ee Hila’l.
One of the many situations in which the tale abounds is the manner in
which the mother keeps the knowledge of his father’s name from her son,
and incites him to war against his own tribe. However, everything ends
well: the dusky hero is restored to his own, and the humble sha’er,
having come to the end of his narration, again asks the Prophet’s
blessing. The proprietor of the _café_ gives him a small recompense for
attracting customers, and he departs on his way, taking with him the
feeble glimmer of wonders faded and gone.

Besides the _one_-stringed rabab used by the sha’er, there is also
an identical _two_-stringed instrument called rabel ab monghun’ee,
or singer’s viol, reserved entirely for the accompaniment of vocal
performances. Both are constructed of wood, and the resonant body is
made by stretching skin over the four-cornered body frame. Some of the
sounding boxes have no back, while others have another piece of skin to
form that part.

The charms of the rabab have so completely usurped our attention that
we have neglected to speak more fully of that undoubtedly ancient
instrument, the Persian kemangeh à gouze (Fig. 4). As there is perhaps
no more delightful or authentic description of this instrument than
that given by Sir William Ouseley, we will quote the whole extract from
his: “Travels in the East, particularly in Persia,” just as it stands:

“My desire of hearing what the Persians considered as their best
musick, could only be gratified it is said in the chief cities.
Meanwhile a kind of violin called kemáncheh (or, as pronounced in the
south of Persia, Kamoncheh) and found in almost every town, afforded
me frequent entertainment. That which I saw first was in the hands of
Mohammed Caraba’ghi, a poor fellow who sometimes visited our camps.
His kemáncheh was of _tut_ or mulberry-tree wood; the body (about
eight inches in diameter) globular except at the mouth, over which was
stretched, and fixed by glue, a covering of parchment; it had three
strings (of twisted sheep’s-gut) and a bridge placed obliquely. A
straight piece of iron strengthened the whole instrument from the knob
below, through the handle or fingerboard to the hollow which received
the pegs. It was carried hanging from the shoulder by a leather strap;
in length it was nearly three feet from the wooden ball at the top to
the iron knob or button which rested upon the ground. The bow was a
mere switch, about two feet and a half long, to which was fastened at
one end some black horse-hair. At the other end this hair was connected
by a brass ring with a piece of leather seven or eight inches long. The
ring was managed with the second and third fingers of the performer’s
hand and by its means he contracted or relaxed the bow, which was
occasionally rubbed on a bit of wax or rosin stuck above the pegs....

“The performer generally combined his voice with the tones of his
instrument. At the house of a person in Bushehr, I one day heard
another minstrel sing to his kemáncheh a melancholy ditty, concerning
the ill-fated Zend dynasty which became extinct on the murder of Luft
Ali Kha’n in 1794, when the present King’s uncle, of the Kajar tribe,
assumed imperial authority. The Zend princes were much beloved....
The elegy on their misfortunes abounded with pathetic passages, and
the tune corresponding drew tears from some who listened.” Later the
author informs us that the kemáncheh is made of various materials: “I
have seen one of which the body was merely a hollow gourd; and another
of which every part was richly inlaid and ornamented. Some,” says
Abd-ul-cadir, “form the body of this instrument from the shell of a
cocoanut, fixing on it hair strings; but many are made from wood over
which they fasten silken strings.”[9]

But! ... but! ... but, surely it is lunch-time! The sight of the big
double-bass and its Asiatic satellites is becoming very irksome,
and--the American’s “silent sorrow” is overcoming us. In plain words:
“We are hungry!”

Was it not Schopenhauer who said to a German officer, who watched the
philosopher’s mighty appetite with astonishment: “I eat much, sir,
because I have a great mind,” adding that thought required vigorous
nourishment? Of course! Then let us enter the spacious restaurant,
guarded by two of Flaxman’s _chefs-d’oeuvre_; seize a white-robed
table; beckon to a black-robed waiter; and take the food of thought, _à
la_ Schopenhauer.


    “WHILE cleaning the attic of the house of Dr John I. Orton
    yesterday, workmen found an old church bass-viol. Inside the viol
    is engraved the name of the maker and the date, ‘G. Billini-Onna,
    1584.’ Experts place its value at at least $1000. The viol has been
    in the possession of the Orton family for three generations but for
    a number of years has been missing.”--_Newhaven Register_, 1902.


    “The 25th December 1656, Th. I paid young Mr Bishop 3s. for mending
    my base violl.

    “February 18th, 1658, to Bishop for mending my viol 1s., to Rich
    for my shoes and spent 1s.

    “25th, for violl strings, 7d.; the same, for my musick meeting, 9d.”


  “Under this stone rare Jenkyns lye
  The Master of the Musick Art,
  Whom from the Earth, the God on high
  Called up to him to bear his part
  In Anno 78, he went to heaven.”

      --John Jenkins was an extraordinary
      player on the Lyra viol in the time of
      Charles I.


    Lunch, and the Emperor Albinus--The Crwth--The immature Bow
    Instruments which preceded the Fifteenth-century Viol--M. Coutagne
    and Gaspar Duiffoproucart

While under the shadow of the friendly double-bass, we were
particularly favoured and aided by the punctuating poke of a finger at
the instruments mentioned. Now, however, isolated in that inartistic
invention--a Restaurant--we have no such aid. There is no inspiration
to be gained from knives and forks, plates and spoons, unless one
be a cutler, a potter, a _chef_, or rejoices in the voracious
appetite of the Emperor Albinus. This monarch--says our classical
dictionary--thought nothing of devouring 500 figs, 100 peaches, twenty
pounds of dry raisins, 10 melons, and 400 oysters for breakfast. What
the heavier meals of the day were composed of is a matter upon which we
are left to cogitate.

There is no necessity to dwell upon the many immature bow instruments
which preceded the fifteenth-century viol, but, for the sake of
context, they must be allowed a passing interest and a glance at these
pictures of them, which we have here upon the table. The Welsh crwth
we will not mention, for it has already been effectually cast out of
the fiddle family’s ancestry by an eminent authority in such matters.
Likewise, for the same reason, we will pass the rote or rotta, with a
vacant stare.

  [Illustration: Fig. 5.--REBEC]

The rebec,[10] however, we will welcome, for here we tread upon safe
ground. Lying uppermost upon the table before us is a sketch (Fig. 5)
of this little pear-shaped instrument which was the parent of the viol,
and the darling of the minstrel’s heart. Its progenitor was the rabab
of Arabia, and it derived its Frenchified title through the rabab’s
Spanish equivalent “rabel,” or “arabel.” Owing to its commodious size,
and consequent utility, this little instrument diffused itself rapidly
over Europe. To sunny Provence; to France; to Normandy; and lastly to
England it went in the hands of Troubadours and Crusaders, and so
great was the charm of its coarse strings and rotund form, that mankind
cherished it for many centuries. In England it became quite habitual
to look upon the violin and the rebec as almost the same instrument;
so much so, that the term fiddle became as synonymous with the rebec
as with the violin. Thus we find Fletcher, in his “Knight of the
Burning Pestle,” putting the following speech into the mouth of one
of his characters: “They say ’tis present death for these fiddlers to
tune their _rebecs_ before the Grand Turk,” while “Golding,” in Thomas
Shadwell’s Comedy of “The Miser,” speaks of the Fiddler’s Violin.

The first instrument played with a bow in France, the rebec survived
longest in that country, and in the first half of the sixteenth century
we find woodcut representations of it in complete “sets”--_i.e._
_soprano_, _alto_, _tenor_, and _bass_--in Martin Agricola’s “Musica
Instrumentalis Deudsch.”

  [Illustration: Fig. 6.--SPANISH MINSTREL (Eleventh-century MS.)]

Underneath our rebec picture is quite an ornamental drawing of a man
dancing upon stilts (Fig. 6), which comes from a Saracen’s pencil.
This gentleman is a minstrel, and we ought to admire him, yet the cast
of his countenance has been a severe shock to our cherished dreams
of the romantic silky haired troubadours of the past. The picture is
taken from a Spanish MS. of the eleventh century, one of the most
valuable of its kind in that Aladdin’s cave--the British Museum--and
is considered to be the work of a monk of the monastery of Silos in
Bourgos (Old Castille). The instrument held in the minstrel’s left
hand, while he nimbly trips upon a “light fantastic toe,” is curious
and interesting, for it is in the nature of a freak. So equivocal
is its appearance that as one looks one might easily be led into
paraphrasing Shakespeare by exclaiming: “Is it a _rebec_ that I see
before me?” Certainly the form resembles that instrument, yet it has
none of its three-stringed simplicity. More properly speaking, it
appears to be a combination of the guitar and viol system, for, while
the fingers twang the string above, the bow rubs a drone accompaniment
beneath. How much of this arrangement is due to the fancy of the
artist, and how much to truth, it is impossible to surmise, but certain
it is that this is not the only specimen of a combination musical
instrument to be found amongst the Arabs. The learned and industrious
Michael Prætorius, in his “Theatrum Instrumentorum” (Wolfenbüttel,
1620), gives two views of an Arabian instrument which he calls a
Monocordum and pipe. In form it is identical with the rabab (Fig. 3)
but the neck serves the double office of fingerboard and reed, so that
the performer could play both instruments at one and the same time.
One cannot help regretting that this invention has passed out of use,
as it would surely be welcome to those weary hosts and hostesses of
modern times who ceaselessly strive to “cut down” the expenses of the
inevitable music at the inevitable “At Home.” The artist would play
solos upon his combined flute and viol among the clattering tongues and
tea-cups, and the fee for his services would work out in the following
satisfactory manner:--One artist + two musical instruments = One Fee.

Beneath the minstrel in his elaborate stockings lies a picture of
a comfortable, pleasant-looking old gentleman wearing a crown upon
his head, and scraping what looks uncommonly like an attempt at the
Stradivarius model. This figure (Fig. 7) taken from a bas-relief which
was once in the Chapel of St Georges de Boscerville, Normandy--built in
1066--and now preserved in the museum at Rouen, is perhaps the oldest
known representation of such a shaped viol extant. Monsieur Fetis,
speaking of this figure in his “Histoire General de la Musique,”
describes it as a “two-stringed rubebe held between the knees of the
person who plays upon it with a bow.”

  [Illustration: Fig. 7

Now the archæologist who seeks for truth among the relics of ancient
musical instruments is greeted with serious difficulties. He finds
on one side of him a “mountain of names,” and on the other side
of him a “mountain of musical instruments.” In his hand he grasps
bewildering allusions to these in poetry and prose, while sculptural
representations, pictures, and drawings flit before his eyes. He
holds a bit here, in his endeavour to unite the mountains, snatches
a fragment there, and thus it is that we find so many contradictory
assertions among authorities on the subject.

  [Illustration: Fig. 8

Monsieur Laurent Grillét asserts that this Boscerville instrument is
not a rubebe, as Monsieur Fetis says, but a rote, while the latter’s
theory that the rote was a direct descendant of the lyre, and was
played by plucking the strings, has been borne out by Mr Heron Allen.
An authority of the period, Jerome of Moravia, who wrote his “De cæntiâ
Artes Musiciea” in 1274, and dedicated it to Gregory X., speaks of the
rubebe as a two-stringed instrument played with a bow and tuned thus:


Unfortunately he does not illustrate his text, but the depth of pitch
given by him would indicate an instrument of larger proportions than
the one held by the Boscerville figure. In any case, whether this be
the instrument indicated by Jerome or not, he has distinctly described
the existence of a bass species of viol at that date, and our next
picture might certainly be taken as an illustration of his description,
giving licence of course, to the third string. This bas-relief in
marble (Fig. 8) is preserved in the museum at Cologne, and, looked
at with a twentieth-century eye, is wonderfully replete with omens.
Observe the bridge and its position: the sound holes in their approved
place: the manner in which the sounding-board joins the neck: the
excellent fingerboard and tailpiece. All these items, combined with
its size, might easily allow it to be the rubebe of Jerome de Moravia
and if one supposes this to be so, it is not amiss to suggest that the
Boscerville instrument is also a rubebe, which experience enlarged in
the following century to the size before us.

It is hardly necessary to add further examples, as these three give
a fairly broad idea of the progressive attempts at a definite form,
from about the eleventh to the end of the fourteenth century. During
this period there were doubtless no hard and fast rules for tuning.
The minstrel adapted the pitch of his instrument according to whim,
or the compass of his voice. He danced and sang to his own improvised
accompaniments. Thus we hear in 1391 of: “Un nommeé Isembart jouait
d’une rubèbe, et, en jouant, un nommé Le Bastard se print à danser,”
and again in 1395, “Roussel et Gaygnat preurent à jouer, l’un d’une
fluste l’autre d’une rubèbe, et ainsi que les aulcuns dansoient.”[11]
The minstrel’s person and attainments were undoubtedly of a genial
character, yet with all due deference to his merry ways, and the good
service he rendered to poetry and music, one cannot help observing that
his dancing and warbling were the means of retarding the development of
musical instruments to a certain extent. If you roam the country with
your musical equipment upon your back you naturally require something
of a portable size. “A fiddle under my cloak?” says the indignant
Sir Roger l’Estrange in defending himself against Mr Bagshawe’s
insinuations that he frequently solicited private conferences from
Oliver Cromwell with a fiddle under his cloak; “Truly my fiddle is a
bass-viol, and that’s somewhat a troublesome instrument under a cloak.”
The minstrel of the Middle Ages was certainly of the same opinion, and
was careful that his fiddle should not assume alarming proportions. He
was content so long as he could carry it about with ease like “Gervais
de Nevers” who:

      --“donned a garment old
  And round his neck a viol hung
  For cunningly he played and sung.”

Another obstacle to the progress of stringed instruments was placed
in their way by the early contrapuntists who expended their genius
entirely upon vocal music. Thus it was that no one appeared to realise
that a resonant bass-viol, answering to the pitch of the bass voice,
could be constructed by enlarging the rebecs and embryo viols then in
use. Not until the middle of the fifteenth century did anything of the
sort appear, and when it did, it came at the imperative call of the
part-songs then coming into vogue. The singers of these compositions
demanded to be kept in tune just as much as the warblers of sweet
melodies had required, and it was the desire to do this to the best
advantage that led eventually to the construction of complete sets of
stringed instruments played with a bow and answering in pitch to the
treble, alto, tenor, and bass voices.

And now, if you have finished your coffee, shall we return to our case
of Asiatic instruments? There is to be found amongst them a mongrel
species of bass instrument, which certainly acted in no mean way as a
factor in the development of low-pitched instruments played with a bow.
We allude to the _trummelscheit_, known in England under the ambiguous
title of marine trumpet. It carries one short gut string tuned to CC,
and when correctly played--_i.e._ harmonically--gives out a scale
corresponding in pitch to that of the high soprano voice.

This _trummelscheit_ before us is rather undersized. Its form and
construction are of an advanced type, for besides the short gut string
it has the additional sympathetic wire strings piercing the body like
a delicate bundle of nerves. Broadly speaking, this instrument was
probably made in France in the days when aristocracy prospered, and
danced stately minuets at the court of “Le Grand Monarch”: when that
cultured son of _tapisier_, Molière, wrote his immortal _comedies_ for
the amusement of the _haute monde_, and Jean Baptiste Lully’s impudence
and genius placed him upon the highest pinnacle of fame. The intriguing
Jean Baptiste--whom Boileau denounced as a _coquin tenebreaux_, a
_coeur bas_, and a _bouffon odieux_--was possessed of talents which
quite equalled his gifts as a composer of operas. He could write such
divine inspirations as “Bois Epais”: could revolutionise the “_ballet
de la cour_” by the introduction of the pirouette and sprightly
allegro: could play the fiddle to perfection, and conduct his band of
“_Petits Violons_” in a manner to make them quickly famous. He could
pen mischievous verse; take advantage of court squabbles and turn them
to good account, and used his histrionic gifts to the most satisfactory
ends. Many a time did Lully’s impersonations of the exquisitely comic
situations in which Molière delighted to place his characters, obtain
for him the King’s pardon when his Majesty had been fairly exasperated
by the unscrupulous actions of his “_Surintendant de la Musique_.” The
polygamy scene in _M. de Pourceaugnac_ was one of Maître Lully’s most
effective parts for this purpose, and it is easy to imagine how the
ludicrous perplexities of M. Jourdain in _Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme_[12]
must have been interpreted by a man who had himself risen from
obscurity to wealth and fame. It is in the latter witty comedy that we
hear of the trumpet marine and its position at that time. Bewildered M.
Jourdain’s music-master is advising him to give concerts twice a week
at his house.


    Au reste, monsieur, ce n’est pas assez; il faut qu’une personne
    comme vous, qui êtes magnifique et qui avez de l’inclination pour
    les belles choses, ait un concert de musique chez soi tous les
    Mercredis ou tous les Jeudis.


    Est-ce que les gens de qualité en out?


    Sans doute. Il vous faudra trois voix: un dessus, une haute-contre
    et une basse, qui seront accompagnés d’une basse de viole, d’un
    téorbe et d’un clavecin pour les basses continues, avec deux dessus
    de violon pour jouer les retournelles.


    Il faudra mettre aussi une trompette marine. La trompette marine
    est un instrument qui me plaît, et qui est très harmonieux.


    Laissez-nous gouverner les choses.

In spite of Molière’s just, or unjust ridicule, the marine trumpet
figured in the royal band of Louis XV. Several names of artists who
played this instrument at the French court are recorded in the _État
de la France_ for 1702, and among them we find Danican Philidor, a
favourite musician of Louis, “le bien aimé” (?) and as rampant a
chess player as was his contemporary Diderot. Whether from motives of
economy or because the marine trumpet was looked upon as “no great
shakes” (as our Yankee cousins say), all players of that instrument at
the French court were also performers on a species of hautbois--now
obsolete--called the Cremorne. How these virtuosi managed to juggle
notes out of both instruments at the same time, history does not
relate, but in the face of such a feat as that achieved by Don Jumpedo,
who nightly jumped down his own throat at the Little Theatre in the
Haymarket some hundred years ago, all things seem possible.

England was not behind France in her use of the marine trumpet. Gay
King Charles would have all things at court in accordance with the
French fashion, and the marine trumpet doubtless found its way to the
British coast in the company of truffles, perruques, pirouettes, and
long-ear’d puppy dogs. Whether it was bundled in with the Cremorne,
as was its fate in France, or ignored, as in Italy, is not recorded,
but its advent was apparently announced in the following stirring
advertisement published in _The London Gazette_ for 4th February
1674:--“A rare concert of Trumpets Marine, never before heard of in
England. If any persons desire to come and hear it they may repair
to the Fleece Tavern near St James’ about two of the clock in the
afternoon every day in the week except Sundays. Every concert shall
continue one hour and so begin again. The best places are one shilling
and the other sixpence.” The marine trumpet was not only a means of
drawing the public, but it apparently had a market value of its own,
for we find in Thomas Shadwell’s play, _The Miser_, of that period,
that a certain loan includes a “Bolona lute, a roman Arch lute,
2 gittars, a Cremona Violin, a Lyra Viol, 1 Viol da Gambo, and a
Trumpet-Marine, very fit for you if you be a lover of musick.”

  [Illustration: Fig. 9.--MARINE TRUMPET]

But it was in Germany--the scene of the trumpet marine’s birth--that
it found its real vocation. In that land of sausages and romance,
beer and love sonnets, it was known under the double title of
“Trummelscheit”--from its resemblance to a sword sheath--and
“Nonnen-Trompett,” for the reason that the nuns themselves employed
it in their convents. The delicate lips of the fair _religeuses_ were
unable to cope with the mouth-distorting horn; yet they required an
instrument of that type to add vigour to their heaven-sent praises.
Their difficulty was in reality not unlike that of the German bassoon
player, Schubert, when Baumgarten commanded him at rehearsal to sustain
a certain note. “It is very easy for you, Mister Baumgarten, to say,
hold out that note,” replied he quietly, “but who is to find the vind?”
The wind instruments must have their human bellows, but these being
weak, the marine trumpet became a substitute for the horn, and every
German cloister was furnished with, and employed, a nonnen-trompett
or nonnen geige. Until almost the end of the eighteenth century, this
quaint custom continued, after which the nuns apparently grew bolder
and fearlessly attacked double-basses and violoncellos and whole
orchestras of instruments. Kastner, writing at the beginning of the
nineteenth century, says: “All who go to Lichtenthal near Baden can
hear the nuns of the convent of this name sing divine service with an
orchestral accompaniment in which many of them took part,” which proves
that even at that date the custom of supplying their own music had not
been excluded from convent life.

How the marine trumpet or trumpet marine came to be so called is
a riddle that possibly finds its solution in the form of the
instrument itself. The shape in its earliest form resembled the long
speaking-trumpet familiar to sailors. Thus we can account for the
nautical touch which is given to this instrument by the first half of
its title, while the trumpet part must be engendered by the _timbre_
produced by the ingenious arrangement of the bridge. One does not
often find the correct bridges on the existing marine trumpets. To be
accurate, the bridge should be made of wood in the form of a shoe. The
heel part should be attached to the table of the instrument and the
gut string passed over it, while the toe part should rest unattached
upon a little square of inlaid ivory or glass. The toe acts like the
_bâton_ of the _chef-d’orchestre_; each throb of the pulsating string
is faithfully translated by a tap upon the ivory or glass when the
player sets the string in vibration with his bow. It is this ingenious
arrangement that contrives to give a sonorous burring--associated with
the sound of brass instruments--to the harmonies of the marine trumpet.
Mr E. J. Payne, who wrote the able article upon this instrument in Sir
George Grove’s “Dictionary of Music and Musicians” (first edition),
there says: “The facility with which the marine trumpet yields its
natural harmonies is due to its single string and its lop-sided bridge.
Paganini’s extraordinary effects in harmonics on a single string were
in fact produced by temporarily converting his violin into a small
marine trumpet. As is well known, that clever player placed his single
fourth string on the treble side of the bridge, screwing it up to a
very high pitch, and leaving the bass foot of the bridge comparatively
loose. He thus produced a powerful reedy tone and obtained unlimited
command over the harmonics.”

Michael Praetorius, writing in 1620, gives a good deal of interesting
information about the marine trumpet. He says that its ancient origin
is undoubted: that the roaming musicians played upon it in the streets;
and plasters it with faint praise by remarking that, “its tone was more
agreeable at a distance than close to it.” Marin Mersenne, most exact
and careful critic, scribbling in Paris sixteen years later, discusses
this instrument lengthily. In the course of his remarks--which are full
of interest--he mentions that the marine trumpet was very difficult to
play for the reason (oh! mark this, ye modern violoncellists of the
dexterous digits) that it was necessary to move the _thumb_ or another
finger with swiftness. “I have no doubt,” he adds, “that one could
not play it perfectly until one had studied it as long as the lute or
viol.” Mersenne’s allusion to the _thumb_ movement of course speaks for
itself, still, it is interesting to note more particularly that the
_movable thumb_ was employed by marine trumpet virtuosi long before
it was ever included in the technique of the violoncello. The genius
of Berteau was the means of introducing thumb movement as a special
aid to the high positions on the violoncello, in the first half of the
eighteenth century; until then the fingerboard over the belly remained
unknown. Truly there is nothing new to be discovered! Here was the
modern violoncellist’s particular recourse in use probably a century or
so before he became slightly acquainted with it as a _novelty_, at the
beginning of the eighteenth century.

To make a long story short, and end the tale of the marine trumpet,
we will briefly outline its origin. In ancient times it was nothing
more nor less than the monochord, an instrument, as we know, invented
by Pythagoras of Samos, for measuring musical sounds, B.C. 530. When
he departed this life, this learned Greek exhorted his disciples to
“strike the monochord” and thereby rather inform their understandings
than trust to their ears in the measurement of intervals. His followers
and pupils not only hearkened, but performed, and thus from century to
century the monochord was preserved. It acted as bass to the rebecs
of the Middle Ages; it replaced the horn in the German convents;
it originated the thumb movement; and eventually suggested the big
“Geiges” which came into vogue in Germany in the first half of the
sixteenth century. From the pictures and descriptions of these “Geiges”
given by authorities of the period, the earliest were made in two
kinds--_i.e._ those with bridges and those without. Both appear in
complete quartets, and both were provided with six or more strings.
With the bridgeless “Geiges,” or viols, we may adopt Toole’s remark
about China in one of his inimitable impersonations. “China,” said he,
“is divided into two parts, China proper and China improper. With the
latter we will, of course, have nothing to do.” As a matter of fact
we don’t want to have anything to do with these bridgeless viols or
“Geiges,” because in our heart of hearts we feel very dubious as to
their existence. Though we may tremble when we say it, we instinctively
assign their creation to some _facile_ artist long since passed away.
Either this erring gentleman forgot to sketch the bridge or else
these--so-called--bridgeless viols were nothing more nor less than big
guitars beside which the officious delineator added a bow. In any case
we will dispense with them and hasten to that immediate predecessor of
the violoncello, the viola da gamba, a leg viol, which was known all
over Europe by its Italian name.

To begin with the makers of these and their kind, we find the earliest
known names are those of Hans Frey, and Jean Ott, who worked in
Nuremberg in the first half of the fifteenth century. It may be
remembered that Nuremberg was at that time one of the most active
commercial centres in Europe, and in addition fostered all the talent
and intellect of the day. Within its precincts dwelt the poetic
cobbler, Hans Sachs, penning his four thousand master songs, his
numberless comedies and tragedies, and making slippers for dainty Eva
besides. Then there was Adam Kraft, modelling his limestone tabernacle
in the Church of Lawrence, and Peter Vischer, the brass worker--and
Albert Dürer. Before this illustrious name we pause, for he himself, we
believe, played the viol, while the viols to be found in his paintings
are doubtless most accurately portrayed for--was not Hans Frey the
viol-maker his father-in-law? It is said that Hans Frey amassed
considerable wealth in his native town, but his affluence was certainly
not due entirely to the patronage of his viol-playing clientèle, for we
know that he was a “respected citizen skilled in all things,” and that
not the least of his accomplishments was his skill in copper repoussé
work. Many are the decorative figures, tankards, cake moulds, and other
characteristic designs which owe their existence to his expert fingers.
How redolent are they of guilds, master-singers, rules, institutions,
and all the elephantine conceit and narrow-mindedness which went to
make the life of the middle-class Nuremberg citizen!

After Hans Frey and Jean Ott we hear of Joan Kerlino who, according
to Fetis, worked at Brescia, in Lombardy, in 1449. A “viola da
Braccio,” or arm viol, of his making was in the possession of a
Parisian _luthier_ named Koliker, in 1804, mention of which had been
made by De Laborde in his “Essai sur la Musique” some twenty-five
years previously.[13] Herr von Wasielewski traces Kerlino’s name to
a German origin, assuming that he settled in Brescia and founded a
school there. If this most probable assertion be true, then it follows,
“as does the night the day,” that the Italian viola family owes its
creation to Germany. Notwithstanding Germany’s precedence in the
matter of originating the viol form, it is curious to note that the
earliest known book in which a picture of a viol is to be found is
that by Carmine Angurelli, which was published in Vienna in 1491, just
forty-three years after the German Kerlino is said to have been making
viols in Brescia. A copy of the little work is in the British Museum,
and the woodcut of a seven-stringed viol which graces its title-page
is a type ahead of its time.[14] It is quite equal to the viols shown
in Hans Judenkünig’s “Ein schöne Kunstliche Underwaisung,” published
in Vienna thirty years later, and far in advance of any representation
of a viol in Martin Agricola’s “Musica Instrumentalis,” which appeared
in 1528. The form of Angurelli’s viol has much more grace than the
German “Geiges” of that date. There are no upper bouts, the curve
from the joint of the neck sweeps straight down to the lower bouts, a
shape, by-the-by, adopted for his grand old tenors by Gasparo da Salo,
the Brescian maker, at a later date. The head of the viol is square,
it has seven pegs, and one which projects at the side of the head and
supports two more strings. The bridge is well delineated, and is almost
identical with the familiar form now to be seen on every violoncello;
moreover, it stands in the right place and not close to the short
tailpiece as we find in Dürer’s pictures. The sound-holes are in the
primitive C form, also freely used by Da Salo, and the tailpiece is
a facsimile of that employed in the middle of the following century.
Perhaps the most puzzling part of the picture is the bow which hangs on
a peg beside this viol, for it is even of a more advanced type than the
viol itself. Does this woodcut represent the consummation of Kerlino’s
work in Italy, or is this viol and bow but one of those freaks of
fancy which leap the bounds of an artist’s idealism and suddenly
appear in completeness, as did Minerva from Jupiter’s ingenious brain?
Whichever the case may be, we have in this picture the earliest woodcut
representation of a viola da gamba extant, and to those who enthuse
over these things we say: “Look at it in the works where it is to be
found!” (p. 67 _f_).

After Kerlino there was a famous performer on the lute in Germany,
named Hans Gerle, who made stringed instruments, and contributed to
the literature of musical instruments by writing his “Musica Teusch,”
which was published in 1532. In 1500 we find the monk, Pietro Dardelli,
making viols in Mantua, while Ventura Linarolli was likewise occupied
in Venice in 1520, and Peregrino Zanetti was busy in Brescia in 1540.
Morglato Morello was also a diligent craftsman in Mantua in 1550, and
Gaspard Duiffoproucart was making beautiful viols, lutes, and chittaras
at Lyons in 1558.

Until Dr Henry Coutagne published his “Gaspard Duiffoproucart et les
Luthiers Lyonnaise,” in Paris in 1893, Choron and Fayolle’s version
of this maker’s life which appeared in their “Dictionnaire historique
des Musiciens,” in 1810, was pretty generally accepted. According to
the latter authorities, Duiffoproucart was born in the Tyrol at the
end of the fifteenth century, and worked in Boulogna. He was supposed
to have travelled in Germany before settling definitely in Boulogna in
1515, and when Francis I. visited that town he made Duiffoproucart
a handsome offer to accompany him to France. The King’s proposition
proving tempting, Duiffoproucart is said to have accepted it, and
made many viols for the musicians belonging to the court orchestras.
But apparently the air of Paris did not suit the good viol-maker. His
health suffered, and for this reason he obtained leave to settle in

Like a bolt from the blue, however, Dr Coutagne, bristling with
authentic documentary evidence, has refuted the whole story. Through
his careful research we learn that Duiffoproucart was born at Freising
in Upper Bavaria in 1514: that he established himself in Lyons about
the middle of the sixteenth century: that Henry II. of France granted
him his “_Lettres de naturalité_” in 1558, and that he died in Lyons
in 1570, leaving several children, among whom one son followed his
father’s profession.

Thus has the life of the Lyons viol-maker confined itself into
reasonable limits at last, and instead of our imagining him settling
in Boulogna, a young man full of ambition, in 1515, we now picture
him at that date in long clothes, felicitously celebrating his first
birthday; all of which has a tint of an Æsop fable about it which is
most attractive. But there is something even of greater interest than
the satisfactory establishment of this maker’s career by the aid of
document and script, and that is--his much-discussed portrait which
is in the Bibliothèque National in Paris. This picture was engraved
in Lyons by Pierre Woeiriot in 1562, and is supposed to have been
copied from the original portrait, which graced the back of one of
Duiffoproucart’s own viols. At the base of the picture the maker’s
name is inscribed and spelt thus: “Duiffoprougcar,” which, by the way,
is the most familiar form, but according to M. Coutagne is incorrect
orthography. Under the name are two Latin lines which we shall have
reason to refer to later, and then follows: “æta. ann. XLVIII,” and
the date: “1514.” The true meaning of these words and figures remained
a puzzle until Dr Coutagne solved it by discovering that the Roman
figures indicated the age of the maker to be forty-eight at the date of
the publication of the engraving, in 1562, while the Arabian figures
give the year of his birth, 1514.

If we were compelled to rely entirely upon this engraving for evidence
of the number of viola da gamba made by Duiffoproucart, we might be led
to imagine that he had never made such an instrument in his life. The
artist has represented him as a man of fine physique, surrounded by
various specimens of small viols, lutes, and guitars, but no sign of a
bass-viol is visible. Notwithstanding the artist’s omission, however,
three--if not four--of this maker’s viola da gamba are in existence,
and if we would see one of these we have not far to go. Indeed, here
close beside us, guarded by the policeman’s watchful eye, is a specimen
of Duiffoproucart’s skill (p. 74). It hangs in a good light and its
glass house exposes every side of it to view. The property of Sir
George Donaldson, there is no doubt but what he has a very unique
possession in this singular little bass-viol. Its small proportions
suggest an exceptionally large knee viol (originally it was doubtless
a very large tenor-viol called in France, Quinte) or an instrument
especially constructed for use in church processions. The deep brown
varnish, with a glint of red in it, is particularly good, and adds to
the elegance of the outline and _tout ensemble_ of the viol. The front
is free from ornamentation but the back bears an inlaid design, in
coloured woods, of a saint and an angel. Round the edges and in the
upper part there is an interlaced design of flowers. The peg-box is
surmounted by a horse’s head well carved, while the fingerboard is also
inlaid in coloured woods and bears the Latin inscription so indelibly
associated with this maker:

  “Viva fui in Sylvis: fui dura occisa securi
  Dum vixi tacui: Morte Dulce cano.”[15]

and his particular mark is on the back where the neck joins the ribs.
This instrument belonged to the Parisian _luthier_, M. Chardon, before
it became the property of Sir George Donaldson, and, while in the hands
of its former owner, aided in identifying the famous viola da gamba, by
the same maker, now reposing in the Musée Instrumental of the Brussels
Conservatoire. This beautifully inlaid specimen--known as the “_basse
de la ville de Paris_,” owing to the fifteenth-century plan of the
gay city which adorns the back--is slightly longer than Sir George
Donaldson’s, though its dimensions are smaller than those finally
adopted for the violoncello. It has had an adventurous career, this
viol, belonging successively to M. Roquefort, M. Raoul--an enthusiastic
Parisian musical amateur, who published several compositions for
the violoncello as well as a method for that instrument--and also to
the mighty fiddle-maker, J. B. Vuillaume. At the death of the latter
it went through many vicissitudes and wandered about Russia, passing
through several hands. M. Coutagne describes the beauties of this
graceful viola da gamba so accurately and delightfully that we cannot
do better than quote his words:

“One is at first struck by the richness and variety of the decoration,”
says he. “The neck curves forward at the top in the form of a horse’s
head of goodly proportions, but the back of this is covered with
delicate and complicated carvings representing the head of a woman,
a satyr playing a Pan’s pipes, the whole being framed in designs of
animals, fruit and musical instruments. The peg-box itself is covered
with carved encrustations of a woman playing a lute; a dog attached by
a collar, and other ornamentation.

  [Illustration: VIOLA DA GAMBA

“The upper table is of pine, the back and the ribs are of maple. The
front is covered with a dull red varnish, that of the rest of the
instrument is clear yellow. A similar contrast is observable in the
character of the two tables. The front is covered with representations
of butterflies, and bunches of roses, and carnations in a pot: some
birds on a branch and a building of varied shapes, remarkable for a
tower and a Chinese pagoda: briefly, a design in the decorative Dutch
style of the seventeenth century. The back, on the contrary, is covered
with a complicated _marqueterie_ design in multi-coloured woods. The
whole of the upper part is taken up with a scene which is apparently
inspired by Raphaël’s ‘Vision of Ezekiel’; it represents a profile
of St Luke seated upon an ox and being raised in the air towards the
clouds from whence angels are seen blowing trumpets. Below this is an
unpretentious plan of a good-sized town situated by a stream dotted
with islands and surrounded by walls; more than two hundred houses
measure at the most half-a-square-inch, other edifices constitute the
background of this picturesque decoration, where some microscopic
figures of men also appear. Inscribed beneath is the name, ‘Paris,’ and
we have found an almost identical plan, dated 1564, at the Bibiothèque
Nationale. To complete the description of this inlaying we must mention
several bunches of flowers which encircle the principal subject.”

M. Coutagne says that this viol shows signs of recutting and also
attempts to change the C-shaped sound-holes into the _f_ form, now so
familiar to the eye of the connoisseur and _virtuoso_. The absence
of any name signature to this viol, and the marked difference of
workmanship and colour observable between the front table and the
rest of the viol, caused several experts to doubt its authenticity
until it was placed side by side with this viola da gamba of Sir
George Donaldson’s. Then the incontestable evidence given by the close
resemblance existing between the two instruments at once allayed all
doubts as to the authenticity of the back, head, neck and ribs of the
“_basse de la ville de Paris_.” The front, however, with its dull red
varnish and painted design never felt the touch of Duiffoproucart’s
hand. Beyond a doubt this is of English manufacture: and more than
possibly the work of seventeenth-century Barak Norman.

Can anything be more _bizarre_ than this union of the work of good John
Bull Norman and Lorraine Duiffoproucart? Imagine such methods applied
to other beautiful and valuable works of art, and we might come across
such incongruities as, Cleopatra’s Needle nicely finished off with a
druidical stone, or the statue of Wellington supporting Napoleon’s
head upon its shoulders, or Raphaël’s beautiful madonnas seated upon
Chesterfield couches: one might go on endlessly summing up such horrors
were vandalism a ruling power, but fortunately it is not; even the
remotest cottage dweller now knows the value of his various household
gods, and only parts with them “at a price.”

The third example of Duiffoproucart’s work is known as the “_basse de
viole au Vieillard à la chaise d’Enfant_.” A drawing of this instrument
by M. Hellemacher is included in M. Vidal’s “Instrument à Archet”
(Paris, 1876-78), and M. Soubie also gives a clear representation of
it in his “Histoire de la Musique Allemande” (Paris 1896). In form
and size, this viola da gamba resembles the two already mentioned.
It is small, the same horse’s head surmounts the peg-box, and the
picture on the back is said to have been copied from a design of Baccio
Dardinelli, which was engraved by Duiffoproucart’s contemporary,
Augustin Venetien. The inlaying is in the characteristic style of
the maker, in several coloured woods. The fourth gamba by this
maker--according to Monsieur Chardon--exists in Switzerland and
completes the number of known examples of violas da gamba by this

Not many yards away from this graceful Duiffoproucart viol of Sir
George Donaldson’s is a viola da gamba of strikingly beautiful
workmanship. The inlaying is exquisitely rich in ivory and
tortoise-shell, reminiscent of the luxurious decorations lavished by
past makers on that much-treasured instrument--the lute. As you gaze
at this viol’s profuse charms, you are seized with a longing to assume
a mantle of gorgeous ostentation, to powder your hair, and wrap rich
brocades around you, to dance stately minuets, to discuss my Lady
Castlemaine and that pretty, witty jade, Nell Gwynne, behind your fan,
to traverse London in a _chaise à porteur_, to listen to the King’s
“four-and-twenty fiddlers” at Whitehall: in short,--to comport yourself
as a loyal subject of Charles II.

But before we allow ourselves to lapse into such delights, we have
here two interesting photographs of an Andrea Amati masterpiece; a
violoncello which numbered among the famous set of thirty-eight bow
instruments sent to Charles IX., King of France, by Pope Pius V. We
shall linger over these pictures with more than ordinary interest, for
the reason that they introduce us to the first wavering incursions of
the violoncello against the viola da gamba. This Amati violoncello was
but the advance guard of the main body which followed at a later date.
Very slowly, but yet surely, the violoncello ousted the gamba, but its
victory was not a matter of delight to everyone. Many were the comments
upon the matter, and M. Hubert le Blanc even wrote a clever little
book upon the subject entitled, “Defense de la Basse de Viole contre
les Enterprises du Violon et les Pretensions du Violoncel.” This was
brought out in Amsterdam in 1740, and it is said that the author was so
delighted to find a publisher, after having tried every firm in Paris,
that his enthusiasm led him to rush off to Amsterdam and settle there,
when he found a publisher in that town.

Will you come here to the central hall? We can sit down close to this
beautiful majolica and endeavour to place Duiffoproucart and Amati in
the world of music which surrounded them. Come!



    Being conveniently seated, place your Viol decently betwixt your
    knees; so that the lower end of it may rest upon the calves of
    your legs. Set the soles of your feet flat on the floor, your
    toes turned a little outward. Let the top of your Viol be erected
    towards your left shoulder; so as it may rest in that posture,
    though you touch it not with your hand.


    Hold the Bow betwixt the ends of your thumb and two foremost
    fingers near to the Nut, the thumb and first finger fastened on
    the stalk; and the second finger’s end turned in shorter against
    the Hairs thereof; by which you may poise and keep up the point of
    the Bow. If the second finger have not strength enough, you may
    join the third finger in assistance to it; but in playing Swift
    Divisions, two fingers and the thumb is best.

                                         From Christopher Simpson’s “The
                                   Division-Viol” (First Edition, 1665).


    The Renaissance--The Influence of the Netherlands School--A brief
    Outline of the growing Use of the Viol in Germany, Italy, England,

It must be allowed that both Gaspard Duiffoproucart and Andrea Amati
were fortunate in living at a time when Art, Science, and Literature
had taken a new lease of life. The meeting of sixteenth-century
modernity with antique culture had created a new atmosphere of
learning; in a word, the Renaissance had dawned, and progress had
begun its march over Europe. _Il Divino_ Raphaël, Leonardo da
Vinci, Savonarola, Galilei, Lassus, were as comets in the horizon
of advancement. Petrucci in Venice had invented the art of music
printing, and deep in the heart of the Netherlands there had grown
up a technically equipped school of musical composers, before which
the spontaneous art of the minstrel was compelled to recede. Impelled
onward by Guillaume Dufay, Johan Ockenghem, Josquin des Prés, and their
successors, to Lassus, the higher culture of the divine art was making
rapid progress and consummating the final emancipation of musical
instruments. Already, in the early part of the sixteenth century,
signs and tokens of the event were observable. In 1511 a native of
Strasburg--Sebastian Virdung--compiled a species of miniature Grove’s
dictionary devoted to the musical instruments of his time. The work was
published in his native town, and was afterwards extensively cribbed
by Agricola and Luscinis. The numerous woodcuts with which Virdung’s
work is interspersed are of interest, especially when such guileless
incongruities as a “Grosse Geigen”--without a bridge--and a “Kleine
Geigen” (a rebec) with a bridge present themselves.

Ten years after Virdung, Hans Judenkünig was busy penning little
pieces for voices and stringed instruments, a style of composition
that counted numerous imitators at a later date, both on the Continent
and in England. His manuscript--published by good Hans Syngriner in
Vienna in 1523--consists of a number of short pieces, songs and dances,
with the lute and viol pieces written in tablature. A precious copy
of this work is jealously preserved in the Royal Library at Vienna.
When one realises that it is easily within human capacity to feast
upon its secrets, one cannot help wishing that a “magic carpet” could
be requisitioned to take us to the spot where it now lies, at once.
Could this be accomplished, and we were suddenly confronted with
Judenkünig’s dog-eared elderly tome, our feeble attempts at description
would collapse like a Gibus hat. There is something about time-honoured
volumes that commands silence.

There are other points of interest about Judenkünig’s work besides
that of its being the earliest attempt to mingle instruments in a
methodical concerted manner. For instance, the title-page monopolises
our attention, for the name Geygen is among the first to be found in
print. Then again, further on, there is a woodcut representation of a
man standing erect and playing on a big six-stringed viol, which he
apparently holds vertically before him.[16] The instrument does not
touch the ground, and, doubtless, it is attached round the player’s
neck by a cord or ribbon, although the artist has not shown anything
of that description. Similar woodcuts of the period intimate that this
manner of playing the bass-viol was not at all uncommon during the
sixteenth century. The custom was, doubtless, a survival of those
“_musiciens ambulants_,” the minstrels, who could not be burdened
with many accessories, and, like the Egyptian camel, carried their
belongings on their backs. It was doubtless with their fiddles slung
round their necks that the Chester minstrels sallied forth in the
reign of King John, and, unarmed, conquered the besieging Welshmen by
making such a noise that their enemy imagined themselves to be opposed
by an overwhelming force, and flew. Also, at a later date, it is easy
to imagine the genial Anthony Wood desiring to escape a little from
University pedagogism and stealing out with five chosen comrades “in
poor habits,” and how like country fiddlers they “scraped for their
livings.” Roaming the country with their viols on their backs, Wood
states that they went to “Farringdon Fair,” and, to the house of Mr
Thomas Latton, at “Kingston Bakepaze,” who gave them money and sent
drink out to them. After playing dance music at the inn and visiting
other private houses, a most depressing encounter with some soldiers
considerably damped Anthony Wood’s spirits. These men of war forced
them to play in an open field without paying them a penny. “Most of
my companions,” says he, referring to the incident, “would afterwards
glory in this, but I was ashamed and could never endure to hear of it.”
Among the five gentlemen who assisted in this escapade he mentions that
“Edmund Gregorie, B.A., and gent. com. of Mert. Coll., Ox., played the

Another call for playing the bass-viol in the position depicted by
Hans Judenkünig came from that all-powerful patroness of music--the
Church. To facilitate the use of viols in the religious processions,
the bass-viol was attached round the neck of the performer. A small
hole was made in the upper part of the back of the instrument so
employed and a peg inserted. A cord or chain was attached to this peg,
and passed round the player’s neck; an arrangement which allowed him to
play with some degree of ease. Bass-viols so employed gained the title
of “viola da Spala,” or shoulder viols, in Italy, from the position in
which they were held. The early violoncellos, which were of a small
size--not the size destined to live--were submitted to a similar
chaining and carrying; of course, thumb movement and the numerous
treasures of the high positions were unknown, and the player confined
his efforts to the first position.

Two years after Hans Judenkünig’s publication, Martin Agricola,
whose real name was Sore or Shor, published his “Musica Instrumental
Deudsch,” a remarkable work, both from the point of view of literature
and musicianship. He launched into woodcut representations of all the
viols of the day, and they are probably there found for the first
time in complete Quartets, with the names under each instrument as
follows:--“Discantus” (treble), “Altus,” “Tenor,” “Bassus.” The
tuning of all these viols at this period was always regulated by
that prescribed for the lute. Gerle and Judenkünig states this to be
composed of fourths, with a third intervening, while Agricola instructs
the executant to

  “Draw up your fifth string as high as you may
  That it may not be broken when on it you play.”

This confusing method was even practised in the following century, for
the worthy John Playford, in his “Introduction to the Skill of Music”
(Twelfth Edition, 1694), tells the would-be player of the bass-viol
that: “When you begin to Tune, raise your _Treble_ or smallest String
as high as conveniently it will bear without breaking; then stop
only your _Second_ or _Small Mean_ in F and tune it till it agree in
_Unison_ with your _Treble_ open,” and so on with each string. Imagine
a modern orchestra tuned according to this recommendation!

       *       *       *       *       *

Turning to Italy during the same period, we find much of interest.
There a princely school of musicians had grown from the seeds scattered
by those Netherlanders who became welcome guests of the Medici and
other great Italian families. The cultured _cliques_ of dilettanti,
who were to be found in almost every town in Italy, were speeding the
advancement of music and musical instruments, while other nations were
at a musical standstill. Amateur viol players were far from few, and
some idea of the growing popularity of the instrument may be gathered
from the fact that the contemporary painters elected to introduce it
into their pictures. Raphäel’s painting, of “Saint Cecilia”--now in
the Dresden Gallery--gives a faithful representation of the form of
the viol of the period, in the instrument which lies at her feet. It
has no strings upon it, and how the well-drawn bridge stands upright
without support is an anomaly which has its fellow in a fresco by
Melozzo da Forzi, which graces the walls of the _Sacristie_ of St
Peter’s in Rome, Among the musical angels there represented is one who
plays on a viol. The strings of this instrument are depicted raised to
the accustomed distance from the table of the viol, but no trace of a
bridge to support them is visible.

Paul Veronese also elected to introduce the viol into his masterpiece,
the “Marriage in Cana of Galilee,” which is in the Louvre in Paris.
The group of viol players in the background have a special interest
when one realises that it is Titian who is playing the bass-viol, while
behind him may be seen Tintoretto playing the alto-viol, and Paul
Veronese himself the tenor-viol. The treble-viol--called Discantus by
Agricola and Discant in England--is in the hands of an ecclesiastic.
In Titian’s picture entitled the “Music Lesson,” to be seen in the
National Gallery, he has shown the custom of singing and playing to
the accompaniment of a bass-viol very clearly, while Guido Reni in his
“Coronation of the Virgin,” in the same gallery, demonstrates another
practice of the period in his two angels playing the lute and viol.
Many other similar examples of viols are to be found in the paintings
and engravings of that time, and in every case it is observable that
(1) viols were entirely subservient to the voice; (2) that neither
artist, engraver, nor dilettanti paid much attention to the violins
and violoncellos which were being made by Andrea Amati in Cremona.
That the shape of all viols was doubtless influenced by the advent of
the stranger violin and still more foreign violoncello, is probable;
indeed, one can observe the coming ascendancy of the new form in the
bass, which Domenichino has placed in the hands of his matchless “St
Cecile.” The _f f_ holes are full of grace, the primitive C form
being entirely cast aside. The whole outline of the gamba too is very
handsome, and its resemblance to the bass-viol by the old Brescian,
Pelegrino Zanetti, to be seen in the Musée of the Paris Conservatoire,
is so exact that it is easy to imagine that that instrument, served as
Domenichino’s model.

In the first half of the sixteenth century, the tentative efforts made
by such men as Galilei, Cavalieri, and Peri towards the composition
of music of a more dramatic character than that which surrounded them
at that time, resulted in a higher status for the viola da gamba, and
later, for the violoncello. For the latter it was a waiting game, but
“_tout vient à celui qui sait attendre_.” One result of the general
agitation among musical circles was the appearance of a notable book
on the art of playing viols by Silvestro Ganassi del Fontego. This
interesting work, entitled “Regola Rubertina,” was published in Venice
in 1542, and was exclusively devoted to the art of fingering and tuning
treble and bass viols. A most important fact is to be learnt from the
inscription on the title-page, which states among other particulars
that the book is suitable for those who play the viol _without
frets_--evidently the beginning of a surer technique.

Perhaps nowhere in Italy was the dominant idea of restoring the
learning of the ancient classics more deeply and fittingly rooted than
in the birthplace of the greatest mediæval poet--Dante. In beautiful
Florence there were _coteries_ composed of the most prominent men of
the day who found a common cause in their zeal for the revival of
the culture and polish of former ages. The house of Giovanni Bardi,
Count of Verino, was more especially a meeting-place for the restless
spirits of the day. Among the company who there assembled frequently
was Vincenzio Galilei--the father of the astronomer--Jacopo Corsi,
Ottavino Rinuccini, Strozzi, Jacopo Peri, and Emilio Cavalieri. To Peri
is accorded the honour of writing the first opera, and to Cavalieri the
first oratorio--two mighty steps these towards the emancipation of
musical instruments, for both these forms of composition gave birth to
the orchestra. Bent upon freeing music from the severe canonical style
to which the Church confined it, Galilei made an attempt by writing a
species of Cantata--_Il Conte Ugolino_--which he himself sang sweetly
to the accompaniment of a bass-viol before the Bardi dilettanti.[17]
After this effort, Emilio Cavalieri, a Roman gentleman of good family,
and another devoted member of the Bardi _coterie_, wrote the important
_La Rappresentazione di Anima e di Corpo_, wherein he brought about a
more equal unison of voice, poetry, and instruments. This composition
was performed at the Church of Valicella, in Rome, and the orchestra
consisted of a Harpsichord, a double Guitar, two Flutes, and a Basso
Viola da Gamba (double bass-viol). No separate parts were given to the
performers, so doubtless they were left to work out their way through
the maze of figures and signs which graced the Harpsichord part. These
two experiments led to others of a similar kind. Then Jacopo Peri,
another of the Bardi faction, who moved in the highest circles of
Florentine society, essayed a still higher flight. Instigated to the
effort by Jacopo Corsi--another Florentine nobleman, whose house was
likewise a centre for all the musicians of the day--and Rinuccini the
poet, he attempted a musical drama which was believed to be identical
in style with that of the ancient Greek tragedies. This work is the
earliest known opera, it was entitled _Dafne_, and was performed at
the Palazzo Corsi in 1597. According to Giov. Batt. Doni, “it charmed
the whole city,” so that three years later Peri was commissioned to
write an opera to be performed on the occasion of the marriage of Henry
IV. of France with Maria di Medici. The title of this second opera
was _Euridice_; it also scored a great success, and in the preface
to the composition, Peri himself records that Jacopo Corsi played
the graviciembalo (the piano of the period), while the rest of the
orchestra comprised: a chitarrone (a kind of guitar) which was in the
hands of Grazio Moritalvo; a lyra grand (species of bass-viol with a
large number of strings) played by Battista del _Violino_ (note the
name) and a luto grosso (large lute) played by Giovanni Sani. Thirty
years later Giovanni Legranzi introduced the viola da gamba into his
orchestra, and five years after that a similar number of violas da
gamba, together with two contrabassi di viola, are included in the
orchestral score of that mighty innovator, Claudio Monteverdie, in his
opera, _Orpheus_.

       *       *       *       *       *

Music in England at the end of the fifteenth century was but another
name for noise. The dignified minstrel of former times was gone, as
was also the significance of his title. True, there still existed
little bands of wandering musicians who claimed the name, but they were
composed entirely of the most degenerate classes of society. Indeed, so
noted were they for their evil practices that it was thought necessary
to issue certain regulations to prevent “idle persons under colour of
minstrelsy going messages or other feigned business, being received in
other men’s houses to meate and drinke.” But neither protective laws
nor Edward IV.’s charter, which was granted to keep outsiders from
assuming the livery of the King’s minstrels, could revive the romantic
exclusiveness which had formerly been the privilege of their sect.

Thus music and musical instruments having lost their chief support
in the lordly though uncultured minstrel, other patrons had to be
found. In Henry VII.’s reign, Dr Burney tells us of a certain
“Dr Fayrfax of Newark Cornyshe” and a few others who set popular
poetry to music, “which,” says he, in his dry way, “was uncouth but
superior to the music.” Then again, we hear in the same reign of the
“Stryng Minstrels at Westminster,” and of the “waits” who belonged
to each town in England and made “merrie musick for the kynge” when
he passed that way. Henry VIII.--whose musical abilities were of no
mean order--included two viols in the State band in the year 1526.
The fifteen trumpets and ten sackbuts, receiving the most pay, with
which the viols had to compete, doubtless allowed them no chance of
being heard, but they were there, and it was their _début_ in the
royal music; _dejâ quelque chose_. Henry VIII.’s son, Edward VI.,
increased the number of viols in his musical establishment to eight,
which was a significant augmentation, when we find that his father’s
sackbuts had been reduced to six. About this time compositions styled
“songes for severall voyces” came into vogue, no doubt instigated by
the visit to these shores of the great Netherlands composer, Orlando
Lassus. The first of these “severall voyce” compositions was published
by Winken de Worde in 1530, and we make mention of them here because
it was these very “songes” for “three, fower, and five voyces” that
later became “Apt for voyce and vialls,” and were eventually succeeded
by that form of composition called “Fantesies.” In 1540, the Italian
gambist, Ferabosco, established himself in London, and gave lessons in
the art of viol playing, and, as the cult of the gamba grew in England,
ventures in the land of concerted music were made by musicians of the
period. In the dumb show English play entitled _Gorbodic_--performed
in 1561--the earliest English tragedy to be acted on the stage, music
was executed by voices and musical instruments between the acts. The
first act opened with the instructions that: “Firste the Musicke of
Violenze began to play, durynge whiche came in uppon the stage sixe
wilde men clothed in leaues.” Likewise Gascoyne’s _Jocasta_, of about
the same date, was preceded by a dumb show accompanied by viols,
cittaras, bandoras, and other musical instruments. The year 1558 saw
the publication by Anthony Munday of “A Banquet of Daintie Conceits,”
to be sung to the lute, bandora, virginals, or any other instrument,
and in 1593 one of the earliest and best music printers of the day,
William Barley, brought out an important work entitled “A New Booke
of Tablature containing Instructions to guide and dispose the Hand,
to play on sundry Instruments, as the Lute, Orpharion, and Bandora.”
Then came, in 1597, the famous lutanist John Dowland’s “First Booke
of Songes or Ayres of foure Parts, with Tablature for the Lute. So
made that all the Parts together, or either of them, severally may be
sung to the Lute, Orpharion, or Viol da Gambo.” The year 1599 gives
us the Psalms of David, “in Metre to be sung and played on the lute,
orpharyon, citterne, or base violl,” by Richard Allison, “to be solde
at his house in the Duke’s Place near Alde-gate,” and dedicated to
the Countess of Warwick. It is interesting to note that some MS.
lute compositions of Allison’s are preserved in the British Museum.
In the same year, Thomas Morley, gentleman of the Chapel Royal and
pupil of William Byrd, “by whose endeavours,” says Anthony Wood, “he
became, not only excellent in music, as well as in the theoretical as
practical part, but also well seen in the Mathematicks in which he was
excellent,” published his “First Booke of Consorte Lessons, made by
divers exquisite Authers for six Instruments to play together,” dated
1596. The “six instruments” selected to “play together” consisted
of the “Treble Lute,” “The Pandora” (a species of bass-lute), “The
Citterne” (small guitar), “The Base violl,” “The Flute,” and “The
Treble violl.” What this mixture sounded like it is difficult to
surmise. No doubt the players sat round a large circular table with
their “parts” spread out before them; no doubt there was a fine display
of lace ruffles and graceful white hands: no doubt there were many
glances exchanged between the coquettish lady with the “Treble Lute”
and the dark man playing “The Base violl”: no doubt the beauties of the
“exquisite authors” were perhaps somewhat lost upon these two, but “The
Pandora,” “The Citterne,” “The Flute,” and the “Treble violl” were more
intent upon the music, and strummed away to their hearts’ content. Side
by side in a ring lay the parts before the performers then, but to-day,
what a strange irony of Fate it is that has scattered them about in
different museums and libraries.

In the British Museum you will find the Flute part printed by “Thomas
Snodham for John Brown” and “sold at his shop in Dunstones Church
Yard in Fleet Street 1611.” The “Trebel violl” part is preserved in
the library at Magdalen College, Oxford. “The Pandora” part is at
Christ Church, Oxford, and the “Cittern” part is in the Bodleian
Library, Oxford. The “Base Violl” part and the “Treble Lute” part
have, curiously enough, disappeared completely. Did the lady of the
“Lute” jilt the gentleman of the “Base violl” and he in a fit of
rage--consequent on the event--destroy the treacherous parts that were
the means of bringing them together; or, did they elope, live happy
ever after, and leave directions for the parts--so full of tender
reminiscences--to be buried with them?

Morley attempted no other composition of the kind, for the very good
reason that he did not supply a “public want” as do so many of our
modern composers and authors. The reissue of his work in 1611 proved
that it was appreciated at a later date, but at the time of the first
publication the English people had not yet broken away from the
habit of combining voices with musical instruments. So Morley had to
capitulate, and in 1600 contented himself with pleasing the popular
taste by bringing out “The first booke of Little Aires to sing and play
to the Lute with the Base violl.” People delighted in singing these
little “Aires” in those days. It was a favourite pastime and must have
put a stop to a great deal of gossiping, scandalous chit-chat. The
“Base violl,” like the guitar in the barber’s shop, was kept hanging
on the wall, ready to hand, and when an unloquacious visitor appeared,
how delightful it was to reach down the “Base violl” and sing a “Little
Aire” to its accompaniment!

John Maynard wrote a similar set of compositions which were also
published by Snodham in the same year. These he named “The XII.
Wonders of the World,” classified under the following headings:--“The
Courtier,” “The Deune,” “The Souldiour,” “The Phisition,” “The
Merchant,” “The Country Gentleman,” “The Bachelor,” “The Marryed Man,”
“The Wife,” “The Widow,” “The Maide.” Each of the little songs are
provided with an accompaniment for the lute and bass-viol. The style
of the poetry is quite in the Gilbertian vein, as may be judged by the
following lines purporting to describe the duties of a medical man:--

  “Studie to uphold the slippery fate of man
  Who dies when we have done the best and all we can.
  From Practise and from bokes, I draw my learned skill
  Not from the knowne receipt or Pothecaries bill.
  The Earth my faults doth hide
  The World my cures doth see
  What youth and time effects is oft ascribed to me.”

This curious and interesting little volume concludes with some
“lessons” for the lute and viola da gamba, in all of which the player
of the bow instrument never quits the first position. The whole is
dedicated to Maynard’s “Honoured Lady and Mistris the Lady Joane Thymne
of Cause Castle in Shropshire,” to whom he addresses a ponderous
hyperbole on her gracious qualities beginning with the amiable wish
that “Nestor’s years on earth, and Angels’ happiness in heaven” might
be hers.

       *       *       *       *       *

The musical attainments of “La Belle France” were full of interest
during the same period. At the beginning of the fifteenth century
the figure of the good King Réné of Anjou faces his kingdom, viol in
hand and whistling the refrain of his latest composition. A kingly
creature with noble gifts of mind and person which opened to the first
inspiration of the Italian Renaissance and mingled its vigour with
the culture of Provence. The influence of this minstrel Prince in the
domains of Art was powerful at the time, yet it was soon obliterated
by the coarse tastes of his conqueror, Louis XI. An instance of this
monarch’s musical vagaries is instanced by his command that a concert
of pigs should be provided for him. The master of the Royal Music,
M. l’Abbé de Baigne, complied with the demand of his royal master by
inventing an ingenious arrangement which was a mixture of pork and
piano. He procured swine of various ages and sizes, placed them in a
tent and erected a keyboard, the notes of which were each furnished
with a spike which was to each pig like the business end of the nail
to the man who inadvertently came into contact with it. When the good
Abbé attacked the notes vigorously, each pig became acquainted with
his own particular spike and burst forth into long and pronounced
squeaks. Heretofore we have always looked upon those numerous nursery
rhymes in which animals figure as instrumentalists as due to the
inventive caprice of the writer. Confronted with Louis XI.’s practical
application of such idiosyncrasies, the following couplet is but a
representation of real life after all:--

  “Come dance a jig
  To my granny’s pig
  With a rowdy, rowdy, dowdy;
  Come dance a jig
  To my Granny’s pig
  And pussy cat shall crowdy.”[18]

We assume that the pig and the cat formed the instrumental part of the
performance, while the guests footed it lightly. An instance of feline
dexterity is afforded us in the following:--

  “A cat came fiddling out of a barn
  With a pair of bag-pipes under her arm;
  She could sing nothing but fiddle cum fee,
  The mouse has married the bumble-bee;
  Pipe cat--dance mouse
  We’ll have a wedding at our good house.”[19]

Louis XII.’s visits to Italy encouraged the further spread of those
artistic tastes introduced by King Réné. He imported the Italian
crafts and architecture into France, and his choir, which afterwards
graced the court of Francis I., had not its equal in Europe. It was
Louis XII.’s influence and taste that laid the foundation of a new
era in French musical art, a foundation upon which Francis I. built
a solid structure. This monarch’s tastes were of great assistance to
art, for he keenly encouraged the importations of Italy’s treasures
and gave appointments at his court to the Netherlands musicians. He
sanctioned the establishment of Petrucci’s system of music printing
by Robert Ballard--who for many years rejoiced in the privilege of
being “seul imprimeur de la musique de la chambre, chapelle, et menu
plaisirs du roi.” The King was himself a lute and guitar player of no
mean order, and he could sing his own “chansons” to the accompaniment
of these instruments, excellently. It was this monarch who founded
the royal “musique de chambre” by establishing a separate band which
should perform in his anteroom and on particular occasions. The
services of these musicians were quite independent of those of the
members of the “chapelle” band, and included some of the best artists
of the day, among them Claude Gervaise and the famous lutanist Albert
were especially noted. Gervaise held a similar post in Henry II.’s
regime and figured also in Charles IX.’s musical establishment. In
1556 he published seven books of “Gaillards, Pavan’s,” and popular
songs for four and five viols. The appearance of these compositions
in France nearly half-a-century before Morley’s “Consort Lessons
for six different Instruments,” in England, is in the nature of an
anomaly, seeing that both Maugars and Rousseau state that in their day
(seventeenth century) the viol was in its youth in France, whereas the
English,--who had received that instrument straight from Italy--were
the finest performers in the world.

Both Henry II., and his son, Charles IX., were loyal to the traditions
of the musical tastes of their family. The first of these monarchs we
know granted Duiffoproucart his “lettres de naturalisation,” and it
is quite within the bounds of possibility that his gamba, now before
us, and the Amati violoncello, which we are about to discuss, came in
contact with one another at the French court. The Machiavelian-like
manoeuvres of Marie de Medici at her son’s court did not squash
Charles IX.’s ardent love of music and poetry, any more than Henry
VIII.’s matrimonial imbroglios prevented him from attaining a
degree of excellence on the flute. It is said that the French king
frequently took part with the choir of his “Chapelle” in singing Mass
in the manner of his father, and that he was greatly attached to his
musicians. In spite of his affection for them, however, he advocated
low living and high thinking for them. “Poets and musicians resemble
horses,” said he, “they become soft and lose their vivacity if
surrounded by abundance, let them be nourished but not fattened.”

It was during this monarch’s reign that the important event of the
foundation of an “Academie de Musique” by a distinguished poet and
musician--Antoine de Bäif[20]--took place. The premises of this
establishment were situated in the poet’s own home in the Faubourg
Saint Marcel. All the most eminent musicians of the day, both native
and foreign, were received and handsomely entertained at this
“Academie,” and each week a grand concert of vocal and instrumental
music was given and regularly attended by Charles IX. Marguerite de
Valois, the King’s sister, in imitation of De Bäif, also established
an “Academie de Musique” at her Palace of Issy and herself presided
at the concerts, which were held in the grounds of the _chateau_. At
the base of a limpid fountain the Princess and her musicians assembled
each week, and the poets of the day named the fountain “Castalinus” in
memory of that which flowed at the feet of Parnassus, consecrated by
the ancient Greeks to the Muses.

It is under the date 27th October 1572--but three days after the tragic
St Bartholomew’s Eve--that the “Archives Curieuses de l’Histoire
de France”[21] records a certain flautist, named Nicolas Delinet,
receiving money wherewith to buy a “Cremona Violin”:--“A Nicolas
Delinet joeur de Fluste et Violon dudict la somme de 50 livres tourn
pour lui donner moyen d’achepter ung Violon de Cremonne pour le service
dudict Sieur,” so runs the announcement. From this _purchase_ of a
Cremona violin, it may be inferred that the exquisite Amati “set”
to which this violoncello belonged had not yet arrived from Italy.
Yet they were sent in the year 1572. The thought presents itself
irresistibly that Pope Pius V. sent this handsome present to Charles
IX. as a token of his approbation of the St Bartholomew Massacre. The
completeness of the “set”: the novelty of shaping the bass instruments
in the same form as the violin, and the appropriateness of such a
gift to the music-loving Charles, all point to an intimate personal
graciousness, which might well be taken for a secret approval of some
deed or event.


    “MIKE COUGLER, of Mush Island, Lexington County, owns a violoncello
    made of copper which can be heard two miles away.”--_South Carolina
    Gazette_, 1902.


    _This day are published_

    SIX SOLOS for two violoncellos with a thorough bass for the

    Composed by Signor Pasqualiano.

    Printed by J. Walsh in Catherine Street in the Strand.--_London
    Evening Post_, 14th January 1748.


    This day imported and sold wholesale or retale at Simpson’s Musick
    Shop in Sweeting’s Alley, opposite the East door of the Royal

    ROMAN RING FIRSTS, Seconds, and Thirds; blue Firsts, and white
    Seconds and Thirds, in knots and all in great perfection. Merchants
    and shopkeepers may be served with any quantity at the lowest
    prices.--_General Advertiser_, 31st January 1750-51.


    Andrea Amati--“The King” and its History--Gasparo da Salo--Woods
    employed by Ancient _Luthiers_--Paolo Maggini and the
    “Dumas” Bass--M. Savart’s Experiments--Freaks--Stradivarius
    Violoncellos--Signor Piatti’s Violoncellos--The Bass of
    Spain--Davidoff’s Violoncello--Herr Klengel’s Amati--A neat
    Swindle--Stradivarius’ Contemporaries--Owners of Rugger
    Violoncellos--George IV.’s pseudo Stradivarius--The earliest
    Treatise on the Violoncello as a Solo Instrument--Mr Andrew
    Forster’s Gamba--The Prince Consort’s “Ancient Instruments”
    Concert--Development of the Technique, of Violoncello playing

The romances of real life are generally allowed to be far more amazing
than anything fiction can create. Perhaps though, when all is said and
done, the most sentimental or interesting happenings are not those
which lie concealed in reality or myth, but in the unwritten something
which clings about the antique treasures we prize--“Those certain
things” which Oliver Wendell Holmes calls “good for nothing unless they
have been kept for a long while.”

That old oak chair is more precious than a modern production, not
because the wood is better or the make more solid, but for the misty
reminiscences of lace and buskin, Cavalier and Puritan, in which it is

This exquisite brocade is valued not so much for its rich texture
as for the memory of the shapely shoulders of a Du Barry, or a
Castlemaine, which it once graced.

This china vase: this tapestry: this antique ring--we have but to
look at them and they tell us many an unwritten story, impossible to
repeat, and appealing to us alone. Of all the mute romancers carefully
preserved from time’s destructive grasp, none can tell such tales
as do the grand old fiddles. Those constant yielding companions of
generations passed away have served as confessional boxes for so many
centuries that each curve and bend teems with a secret. Take this
masterpiece of Andrea Amati for instance (p. 114). Made in Cremona by
a man of the mature age of fifty-two or thereabouts, the impulsive
hazard of his youthful efforts had long since passed away: definite
aim had developed his gifts, and ripe experience had given his hand an
exquisite cunning. Little did he think as he sat in his sunny Cremona
workshop, smoothing the back of this violoncello, bending the ribs,
letting in the purfled edges, while he chatted now and again with a
neighbour who dropped in, that he was building a monument to his own

  [Illustration: THE ‘KING’

Sent with its fellows to the French court, this violoncello arrived,
with the painted armorial bearings of Charles IX., exquisitely pure
and fresh in colour, upon its back and sides. It was relegated to the
King’s “Chapelle,” or private oratory, doubtless occupying a humble
position in the band where the Duiffoproucart viol was prominent:
feeling the touch of fresh fingers, as the old ones lost their skill:
seeing the intrigues of the court life: hearing the cries of, “The King
is dead! Long live the King!” observing each phase of human love and
folly, and watching the vagaries of Princes for over two hundred years.
Truly your tales would outrival Balzac himself could you speak, and
your royal title--“the King”--is but a well-deserved panegyric.

At the time of the French Revolution, in 1790, this violoncello is said
to have been still in use at the court of the unfortunate Louis XVI.
On the 6th and 7th of October in that year the mob destroyed the whole
magnificent “set”--consisting of twenty-four violins (twelve large, and
twelve small), six tenors, and eight basses--to which it belonged. Two
of the violins of this number were afterwards recovered by Viotti’s
pupil, M. J. B. Cartier, and one of the small violins belonged to
George Somes, Esq., in 1884. These fiddles, and this violoncello--“The
King”--are apparently the only members of the “set” that survived
the reckless vengeance of the mob. When one realises how easily
such delicate constructions are ruined in sacrilegious hands, their
preservation in the midst of the pandemonium, which reigned supreme at
that time in Paris, is miraculous.

After the Revolution a glimpse of the whereabouts of “The King” is
afforded us by a pencilled note written by the father of its present
owner on the back of the frame, containing the interesting slip of
paper which has accompanied this violoncello for at least a hundred
years. On the paper itself the following inscription is written in
French characters:--“Basse faitte par erndre ermati Luthiér â cremonne
eu italie en 1572. envoyez par le pape 3: à Charles 9 roi de france
pour sa chapelle.--avec ses amories et se devise, pietate justicia.”
Turning this little framed document over, the three faintly pencilled
words, “Duport had it,” seem to imply that “The King,” during the
Napoleonic era, was the property of Berteau’s gifted pupil, Jean
Pierre Duport, known generally as “Duport l’ainé.” If this was the
case, then this violoncello went with him to the court of Frederick the
Great at Berlin. It is more probable, however, that it fell into the
hands of Jean Pierre’s brother, Jean Louis Duport--one of the finest
violoncellists of his day--as he became a member of Napoleon’s band and
professor at the Conservatoire of Music. Another pencilled note in the
same hand, at the back of the frame, stating that “A Hollander brought
it to Betts in 1812, and he sold it to H. W. Curtis”[22] (afterwards
Sir William Curtis) still further points to Duport, the younger, as its
owner, for Duport was in sore straits at one time. This accomplished
artist, it may be remembered, also held an appointment at the court of
Frederick the Great, but when the defeats of Auerstädt and Jena placed
Prussia in the position of a suppliant at the feet of Napoleon, Duport
returned to Paris utterly ruined. If the violoncello had belonged to
his brother it is possible that Jean Pierre may have ceded it to the
more accomplished Jean Louis, and the latter brought it to Paris in
1806, where his misfortunes induced him to part with it to a dealer.
The next we hear of “The King” is on the death of Sir William Curtis,
when it figures in the catalogue of his musical instruments--which
were sold by auction on 3rd May 1829--as: “Lot 9, a violoncello by
Andrea Amati Cremonencis Faciebat, 1572. A document was given to the
proprietor when he purchased this instrument, stating that it was
presented by Pope Pius V. to Charles IX., King of France, for his
chapel. It has been richly decorated, the arms of France being on the
back and the motto ‘Pietate et Justitia’ on the sides. The tone of this
violoncello is of extraordinary power and richness.” The Rev. Canon A.
H. Bridges, Rector of Beddington, either bought it at the above sale,
or from Sir William Curtis’s survivors. On the death of Canon Bridges,
in 1891, it became the property of his son, the present owner, John
Henry Bridges, Esq., of Ewell Court, Surrey.

  [Illustration: THE ‘KING’

Some connoisseurs describe “The King” to be nothing but a curiosity
at the present time. This is hardly correct, for, in spite of its
having been very much knocked about in the past, it still retains
a sweet quality of tone which makes it a delightful drawing-room
instrument. Like Amati’s fiddles “The King” is of small dimensions;
indeed violoncellos at this early date were nothing but extra large
tenors, and it was not until makers turned their attention to evolving
violoncellos out of the viola da gamba that the former began to take a
prominent place in the ranks of stringed instruments. The transition
itself from gamba to the early form of violoncello took place in the
second half of the sixteenth century but--“Who effected the change?”
Was it Duiffoproucart in Lyons, Andrea Amati in Cremona, or Gasparo
da Salo, looking forth over the sunny plains of Lombardy? The correct
reply is perhaps--“All!” Duiffoproucart reduced the size of the huge
German geiges so as to furnish what Rousseau in his “Dictionnaire de
Musique” defines as “_les instruments de remplissage_.” Previous to the
dispersion of viols into various sizes, they were universally large
both in Italy and later in France and England. “The first viols in use
in France,” says Jean Rousseau--the eminent violist--in his “Traité de
la Viole” (Paris, 1687), “had five strings, and were very large ... of
such dimensions indeed, that the Père Mersenne says that a young _Page
de Musique_ could be shut within to sing the treble part, while the
bass was played upon the self-same instrument”--an arrangement which
certainly could not contribute to the happiness of either the little
page, or the bass-viol, and the diminishing process which necessarily
did away with such a forlorn practice was certainly welcome to all the
actors in the trio. Owing to the breaking up of the viols into various
sizes, orchestras grew in proportion, so that we find in the _Etat de
France_ for 1645, that the “Musique de la Chambre de Monsieur” (Louis
XIV.’s brother) boasted “Nicolas Fleury” and “Pierre Montigny” as
players of the Haute Contre,[23] “Pierre Noinne” and “N... le Vert”
as players of the Taille Basses,[24] while “Francois Martin” and
“Guillaume Mercer” disported themselves on the “Taille Haute.”[25] In
the beginning of the following century, further names of _instruments
de remplissage_, appear in the Paris Opera orchestra: for instance “2
quintes”[26] “2 tailles,”[27] and “3 haute contres.”

This was the result of Duiffoproucart’s creation of the small viola da
gamba, a size which broke into many degrees and kinds. Then Andrea
Amati made a further step in the right direction by making small-sized
bass instruments in the same form as the violin, which had at that
time assumed the shape now so familiar. The moot question--“Was it
Andrea Amati in Cremona, or Gasparo da Salo in Brescia who first made
violoncellos in the form of the violin?”--is of course unanswerable
at this space of time. Da Salo was a man of progress, ready to fight
for his opinions. He made some fine double-basses and grand tenors
which are sought after to this day, and Herr August Reichers, the
Berlin violin-maker, possessed a small-sized violoncello by this
maker in 1884. If this instrument was not a cut-down bass-viol, or an
exceptionally large tenor, it is apparently a solitary example of a
violoncello by Da Salo, but even though its existence be allowed, the
numerous violoncellos made by Andrea Amati must necessarily admit him
to be--if not the inventor--at least the earliest known _luthier_ to
make violoncellos.

Although Da Salo may be looked upon as no enthusiast where violoncellos
were concerned, he was not neglectful in the matter of other bass
instruments. Signor Dragonetti possessed no fewer than three fine
basses by the Brescian maker, of various sizes, and Mr Hart, in 1875,
owned a small double-bass of Da Salo’s which had been brought from
Italy by Tarisio, and was looked upon as the _ne plus ultra_ of its
kind. A Da Salo viola da gamba, catalogued as of the year 1570, was to
be seen among the sumptuous display of musical instruments shown at the
Special Loan Exhibition held at Fishmongers’ Hall in the summer of 1904.

But, fortunately, we need not rely entirely upon catalogues,
description, and speculation for an idea of Da Salo’s skill as a
gamba-maker, for, here beside us, in their neat glass house, two
examples of the fine old Brescian repose in calm tranquillity, like
veterans silently ruminating over many campaigns. They both face us
with the quaint C-shaped sound-holes, so dear to the hearts of the old
viol-makers, and both display upper tables of remarkably well-chosen
even-grained pine wood. One of them is strung with seven strings,
but the seventh is a later invention, for the earliest viols had
five strings, then six, and it was not until the last part of the
seventeenth century that Sainte Colombe (some say Marais) added another
to the six. A true unaltered seven-stringed viol is hardly ever to be
met with now. A solitary and excellent example, however, was lent by
M. Galley to the Special Loan Exhibition at South Kensington in 1872.
This was a remarkably handsome gamba and had remained untouched, with
the exception of an attempt to attach sympathetic strings. A further
adjunct to be found in this Da Salo gamba before us is the scroll,
which curves round in a unique manner like a wisp of twisted ribbon:
this never felt the touch of Da Salo’s hand. It may be the work of
Barak Norman, for a similar, indeed identical, scroll crowns his gamba
now in the Donaldson Museum, but certainly it is not Da Salo’s work.
In his day sculptured human and animal heads were _de rigueur_, and,
like his contemporaries, he carved these himself, or employed special
artists to do so. In Germany the followers of Jacobus Stainer of
Absam--whose favourite ornament was a lion’s head--freely adopted this
practice, but the custom died out first in Italy, where viol-makers
discovered that such a system was far from remunerative.

Close to this gamba of Da Salo’s with the spurious scroll, his second
example exhibits his skill as a wood-carver, in the exquisitely
chiselled head of an old woman, which surmounts the neck. The varnish
is slightly darker on this gamba than on the one beside it. Age is no
doubt responsible for this and not the maker himself, as it is also
for the black Da Salo fiddles of which some connoisseurs speak with
a degree of scorn. It may be noticed that there is but one line of
purfling round this gamba. This was such an ordinary custom with Da
Salo that comment is unnecessary. It is clumsily let in, lacking the
grace and finish expended upon this difficult art by Cremona makers.
The Amatis above all others excelled in the neatness of their purfling,
and the customary three lines is always to be met with in their fiddles
as well as in those of Stradivarius. The latter, however, on one
solitary occasion reverted to one line of purfling in the violoncello
upon which Bernard Romberg played for many years. This instrument is
unique in many ways, for the gifted Cremonese maker made the back and
sides of plane wood and poplar, material which he employed occasionally
in the early part of his career, but which he had discarded at the date
(1711) he made the violoncello.

Speaking of wood, by-the-by, the proper selection of timber was held
to be a matter of great importance by the ancient _luthier_. M. Fetis,
in his “Antonio Stradivarius,” has given some interesting information
regarding the source from whence the old viol-makers obtained their
wood. He says that maple was sent from Croatea, Turkey and Dalmatia to
Venice in the shape of galley oars, and that the Turks, ever seeking to
outrival the Venetians, and consequently frequently at war with them,
took care to choose wood with the handsomest wave, knowing well that
it would break the more easily. It was from among this selection that
the viol-maker had to gather his timber. In his own country there was
certainly little difficulty in obtaining wood, but, where would he get
such maple as came to him from Dalmatia? Secretly he welcomed this

  “... thing devised by the enemy”

and turned it to good account. The illustrious Da Salo was very partial
to pear wood as well as sycamore, which he cut slab-ways from the tree,
as did most of his contemporaries. Stradivarius preferred maple to any
other wood, but he went with the times and also employed the woods
favoured by his brethren, such as poplar, lime, and even grained pine.
A species of red pine, common to the Tyrol, and known to the Italian
makers by the name of “Azarole,” was more in favour with the Cremona
_luthier_ than Swiss pine. Only the south side, the side exposed to
the drying rays of the sun, was used. Indeed, this precaution is one
which has been observed by makers for over three hundred years, knowing
well that it is one of the first aids towards solving the problem:
_Given_: A log of wood. _Make_: A fiddle. The timber must be blameless,
free from knots or blemish, and--above all--free from worm, a fate
which has destroyed whole forests of pine if the trees are cut at the
wrong season of the year. Also the tree must have arrived at a maturity
of ten years, and the question of sap flowing through the outer part
of the tree must be duly considered. Speaking on this subject, Mr
Davidson[28] remarks that, owing to the sap passing through this part
of the tree, the wood abounds in saccharine matter and is quickly
susceptible to decay. In trees which have arrived at maturity, there is
no distinction between the sap and heart wood, the wood being of the
same texture throughout and almost uniform. The proper time for cutting
trees is when the sap ceases to flow, and experience has determined
the month of December to be the best time for this purpose, as the
wood which has been cut during this month has been found to have always
been of superior quality to any cut during the other months. Monsieur
l’Abbé Sibre, author of “La Chelonome ou le parfait Luthérie,” which
was published at the beginning of the nineteenth century, voices the
merits of wood cut in December and January long before Mr Davidson, and
adds the admonition that the wood must be cut from between the bark
and heart of the tree. The wood being cut as required from the healthy
pine or maple, it is sawn into planks, and,--though the fiddle-maker’s
hands are madly twitching to commence operations on it,--subjected
to a drying process to be effected by sun and air for at least six
years. If at the end of that period of time the _luthier_ is still
enamoured of his timber, then he may clamp it and cut it and scrape
it into the violin or violoncello of his fancy. Monsieur Simoutre,
the French violin-maker and author of some patent improvements which,
in common with all innovations connected with bow instruments, have
had no lasting effect, contends that the best pine wood comes from
Silesia, from La Valteline, Les Grisons, Le Simmenthal in the Bernese
Alps, from certain sheltered parts of the valley of the Lac de Joux,
in the Canton de Vaud, Switzerland, and from the southern slopes of
the Jura Bernois. Modern violin-makers generally employ maple cut from
trees growing on the southern slopes of the Carpathians and also in
some parts of the Eastern Alps, but where this is not procurable, it
has been found that it is not absolutely necessary to range the Alps
or the Carpathians in search of suitable wood, for many a fine violin
and violoncello have been made from the wainscot or beam of an old-time
cottage or mansion. J. B. Vuillaume used to roam over Italy and
Switzerland frequently for the sole purpose of picking up choice bits
of pine which had probably formed part of a beam or support in some
residence for hundreds of years. Out of these purchases he undoubtedly
made some of his finest instruments. His example has recommended itself
to many other makers, and only the other day we heard of a contemporary
English maker whose best violins and violoncellos have been formed from
an old beam obtained from a house near Eltham. Such practices as these
certainly place _lutherie_ within the range of everyone so inclined,
for, who is there in these days that does not possess a likely piece
of old furniture? some familiar escritoire, or table, or panel, out of
which a possible rival to Cremona’s _chefs-d’oeuvre_ may be conjured
by the aid of gouge, chisel, bending iron, and glue pot. In spite of
the time-saving effects which the appropriation of the family heirlooms
for this purpose would effect, how much more appealing and poetic were
the methods of the ancient _luthier_, who went straight to the forest
for his wood. Can one picture Stradivarius storing up old beams, and
tables, on the roof of his house in Cremona? Can we imagine Guarnerius
roaming about the country seeking likely bits of wood in cottages, or
the Amatis, or Da Salo, the maker of these gambas, resorting to such a
commonplace expedient. No! a thousand times. They went straight to the
forest for their timber, wandered through the misty depths of clustered
pines, pondering in the deep silence upon many a knotty point of their
craft. Or they stood at times on the rocky borders of the wood, where
the trees looked down upon the valley from whence the sound of the
rushing brook could be faintly heard. From a point of vantage they
watched the trees being felled: hearkened to the tone they emitted as
their torn limbs bounded from rock to rock: counted the number of
circles to ascertain the age of a likely tree: examined the colour with
care to judge of its health. If they were satisfied with these various
preliminary tests, they bought what they required, stored the planks
on the sheltered side of their workshop or on the roof of the same,
and watched the hot Italian sun do its work of drying. Not only did
the most eminent makers of the past carefully store their own wood,
but if they became possessed of a particularly handsome piece they did
not scruple to patch and piece it together, so that no scrap of the
treasure should be wasted.

  [Illustration: THE ‘VASLIN’
  DATED 1725.]

Gasparo da Salo, as we have already said, was an adept in the choice
of wood, and he was fortunate in lighting upon some particularly
even-grained pine. In these days his work is looked upon as rough, or,
to put it more gently, primitive. The recent researches of Il Cavalieri
Livi--the keeper of the Brescian state archives--have, however, proved
that this was far from the case in his lifetime. Until the results of
the Cavalieri’s investigations were published in the _Nuova Antalogia_
on the 16th August 1891, nothing definite concerning this maker’s
life was known. Thanks to the Brescian income-tax returns and other
authentic documentary evidence it is now proved that Da Salo’s real
name was not Salo at all but Gasparo di Bertolotti, that he rejoiced
in a grandfather named Santino di Bertolotti who was a lute-maker at
Polpenazze, that his father was one Francesco Bertolotti, a painter
familiarly called “Violino” by his friends, and that his son, Gasparo,
the future violin-maker, was born at Salo, a small town on Lake Garda,
not many miles distant from Brescia. Unfortunately the date of Da
Salo’s birth still remains unknown, owing to the loss of the pages
from the parish register where it should appear, but the income-tax
returns for 1568 state him to be twenty-six years of age at that date,
and those for 1588, forty-five, thus locating his birth approximately
in the year 1542. It is presumed that he learnt his art from his
grandfather first, and later from a Brescian viol-maker of the name
of Gerolamo Virchi, who stood sponsor to Gasparo’s son, Francesco.
The earliest efforts of the great Brescian master apparently did not
find favour with his fellow-countrymen, and, this being so, he became
discouraged and contemplated trying his fortunes in France. A certain
Father Gabriel saw the gifted man’s dispirited efforts, and also
observed his intentions. He was reluctant to see one of his flock go
forth to a foreign country, and to prevent such a calamity came forward
with a loan of £60. Curiously enough this small sum changed the bent
of Da Salo’s life. He remained, and encouraged by the faith of the
good priest set to work with such definite aim and earnestness, that
as a result he soon established himself in a house with a shop in the
_Contrada del Palazzo vecchio_. This event occurred in the year 1568.
He paid £20 rent per annum for this establishment, valued his stock
of musical instruments at about £60, and styled himself _Magistro
di Violini_. In 1579 he exhibited the added title of _Magistro di
Cittaris_, and in 1583 called himself _Artefice d’instrumenti musica_.
Twenty years after his first establishment in the _Contrada del
Palazzo vecchio_, he changed his residence to the _Contrada Cocere_,
where he claimed to be the owner of violins finished and unfinished
valuing quite £200, and where he had acquired the ostentatious title of
_Magister instrumentorum musicorum_. The year 1599 found him purchasing
another house in Brescia, situated in the _Contrada di St Pietro di
Martero_, and between 1581 and 1607 he owned land adjoining Calvagese,
near Salo. It was at Calvagese that Da Salo’s son, Francesco,
found his bride, the Signora Fior. He also followed the captivating
profession of his father, until the latter’s death on the 14th April
1609, when he apparently lost heart, for from that time he ceased to
be a _luthier_. Probably he sold the excellent business to Da Salo’s
gifted pupil, Gio. Paolo Maggini, who had worked as an apprentice in
the Brescian master’s workshop for quite eight years, and was then
a bachelor of thirty or thereabouts. In any case, whether he became
possessed of the business or not, the esteem which had previously
been bestowed upon his instructor fell to his share. On the whole he
deserved all the support he gained for he not only equalled Da Salo as
a maker but surpassed him in everything save the ugly stiff sound holes
which, for some unaccountable reason, he retained.

In the history of the violoncello, it is a puzzling and curious
circumstance, that no viola da gamba by Maggini is extant.[29] His
violins, violas, violoncellos and double-basses have resisted the
onslaught of over three hundred adventurous years, and, this being
so, one cannot help wondering why his gambas have not also withstood
time’s ravages. The obvious reply seems to be that, “He made none!”
However, whether he did or did not, his attitude certainly had no
effect on the position occupied by the violoncello at that time.
The general feeling about the instrument was akin to the sentiments
expressed by the Comte de Rabutin in his “Epistles”:

  “Je ne vous aime pas, Hylas;
  Je n’en saurois dire la cause,
  Je sais seulement un chose;
  C’est que je ne vous aime pas.”

Not being liked, and yet appearing among them, musicians were
confronted with a difficulty which they solved by placing this “white
elephant” in the obscure position of playing the fundamental bass in
the music of the Church.

As regards the lack of Maggini violas da gamba, circumstantial
evidence may be right after all. The man was a genius, and, true to
his instincts, sought after new methods rather than personal gain. He
threw aside the useless and picked out the good, and, this being so, it
is not surprising that he should prefer to turn his attention to the
budding violoncello, rather than the pristine viola da gamba.

In the delightful monograph of this maker’s life--already
mentioned--among the excellent summary of the instruments made by
him, there is an interesting description of a quartet of instruments
generally known as the “Dumas Set,” from its having once belonged to a
family of that name. In an ancient château near Lyons the members of
the Dumas household passed through the terrors of the first Revolution
and saw the establishment of the Empire. They were enthusiastic
musical amateurs--friends of Beethoven--and inspired by a genuine love
of chamber music they collected together four magnificent examples
of Maggini’s skill. Of the four instruments--_i.e._ violin, viola,
violoncello and double-bass--which comprise the “set,” the violin and
viola are of the most characteristic and perfect type, although the
violoncello is also excellent. According to Lady Huggins’s description
of the last, “it has two lines of purfling, but no ornamental device.
The bottom circle of the sound-holes is smaller than the top. There is
the same under-bevelling of the inside edge of the sound-holes, as in
Maggini’s other instruments, the same arching of the model. The wood of
the back and the sides is cut on the slab” (parallel with the growth
of the tree--a favourite practice with the ancient viol-makers). “The
back is joined, also the belly, the latter having the wood the ordinary
way of the grain, the coarse grain being outside.” As we look at the
instrument, the thought involuntarily rises in us--“to Maggini we owe
our modern violoncello.” What a curious mixture of the “old” and the
“new” is to be found in this instrument. The back cut on the “slab”--in
accordance with the long-standing custom--and the belly cut in the
improved manner. Maggini, although a great innovator, and the first
to cut the wood in the new way--_i.e._ wedge-ways from the tree--was
evidently in a state of uncertainty when he made this violoncello.
To balance matters he mingled the divers ways, yet, in spite of his
hesitation, he came nearer to gauging the most equitable proportions
for the violoncello than any other maker of his time. It would be of
great interest if it were possible to discover by what means Maggini
and his predecessors arrived at their conclusions. Whether it was in
the manner of old Mrs Tibbins, who made a fiddle by means of a blunt
knife, a piece of glass, and a bent file, or, on the principles of
Monsieur Felix Savart. If the ancient _luthier_ planned his work on
the latter’s scientific basis, then he was accurate in every detail,
for no more satisfactory experiments on the construction of bow
instruments have been attempted. The idea of these experiments was
suggested by a guitar-shaped violin made by Stradivarius and owned by
the elder Chanot. Imagining that so eminent a maker would not have
constructed such a violin without good reason, Monsieur Savart--a
doctor of medicine--threw up his profession for that of science and
interested himself in organising a series of tests in the first half of
the nineteenth century. As a result of his labours _luthiers_ were at
last confronted with the astounding assertion that an arched surface
vibrates less readily than a plane one: that there are points where
the vibrations are greatly reduced, and that the aggregate vibration
is least at the sound holes and at the corner blocks of a violin or

Starting from this groundwork, M. Savart constructed a violin entirely
made of flat surfaces and straight lines with narrow rectilinear
slits for sound holes (so as to cut as few of the fibres of the wood
as possible) and no tailpiece, the drag of the latter on the tender
part of the belly being considered detrimental to the instrument.
The most astonishing part of this fiddle was that it passed the test
of comparison with a Stradivarius victoriously. The members of the
Académie des Sciences formed a council and, assisted by such eminent
musicians as M. Berton, Catel le Sueure, and Cherubini, sat in solemn
judgment. The merits of the instrument were considered by them at
several meetings, and the gifted violinist, M. Lefebvre, was requested
to play alternately upon a _chef-d’oeuvre_ of Cremona and the
Savart “box-fiddle,” in an adjoining room. The decision arrived at by
these gentlemen was that the square fiddle was every bit as good in
tone--if not better--as the Cremona violin. Of course this was most
flattering to the inventor, yet it is a question whether such excellent
results would have taken place had the Savart fiddle been in less
skilful hands. The great violinist Remenyi maintained that he could
produce just as good a tone out of an eight-shilling fiddle as out of
a 1000-guinea one. Monsieur Lefebvre’s handling of the “box-fiddle”
was doubtless superior to the fiddle itself and,--as Voltaire said
of Duport’s violoncello playing,--he made the council of impulsive
Frenchmen believe in miracles “by making a nightingale out of an ox.”

A few years previous to Monsieur Savart’s researches M. Chanot--a naval
officer, and a member of the distinguished family of violin-makers of
that name, being compelled to leave the navy on account of his staunch
Royalist predilections--had turned his attention to constructing
guitar-shaped fiddles and violoncellos. These were also subjected to
similar tests by the members of the Académie des Sciences and--as
in the case of the Savart fiddle--pronounced to be superior to the
instruments of Cremona. There were independent experts, however, who
considered them faulty in tone and only to be regarded as curiosities.
In the midst of diverse criticisms, these instruments found a market
for a few years, the violins and violas fetching 300 francs, while 500
francs was the price demanded for the violoncellos. Those who desire
to pursue the subject of vagaries, will find much to interest them in
Mr Davidson’s “The Violin,” and Mr Heron Allen’s “Violin-making as
it was and is”; sufficient for present purposes is it to know that
such grotesqueness as eighteen stringed violins played with a bow and
producing the combined effect of the violin, viola, violoncello and
double-bass: the combination violin and violoncello with piano which
can be played by one person: the melephone, which was nothing more
than a concertina enclosed in a species of violoncello, and other such
fallacies, have been relegated to the land of oblivion. Certain it is
that the ancient viol-maker never dreamed of such horrors. Once in a
way he attempted such a mild invention as a detachable neck, which
could be unscrewed and placed inside the instrument through a door
in the ribs, like the viola da gamba in the Donaldson Museum, but
otherwise his methods, like his varnish, were so simple that he made no
fuss about them. He saw no necessity for rushing into print, or taking
out patents, or wrangling, or arguing. The traditions of his graceful
craft were transmitted by word of mouth and practical demonstration
to his pupils, and the pupils, living in an atmosphere of _lutherie_,
sucked in the unwritten lore as naturally as the earth absorbs rain.
What need to cry out the sky is blue, when all the world can see it!

It was among such surroundings that the mighty Stradivarius learnt his
art in the workshops of Nicolo Amati, grandson of Andrea Amati, who
made “The King.” The _atelier_ of this maker was a very nest of talent
in the middle of the seventeenth century, for Nicolo Amati’s renown
attracted all the most enthusiastic young aspirants of the art. It
is easy to imagine the grand spirit of emulation, and even rivalry,
which must have existed within the four walls of Amati’s premises in
Cremona. An unrivalled master of his art at the time, bestowing care
and thought on every part of his work, there is no doubt that he did
much towards advancing the construction of the violoncello in the
matter of experimenting with thicknesses, but he did not alter the
dimensions of the violoncello which was at that time about 31 inches in
length, if not longer. The majority of Amati violoncellos have been cut
down, so that it is difficult to judge of their original size, but it
is probable that they originally measured over 31 inches in length. The
paramount influence of the Church in musical matters was responsible
for the large dimensions of the violoncello at that date; it was looked
upon as useful to reinforce the double-bass, or “bass-violin” as it was
then called, for the big viols had already gone out of use in Italy
in the middle of the seventeenth century. In “The Familiar Letters
of Abraham Hill” (London 1767), his brother, Thomas, writing to him
from Lucca, 1st October 1657, speaking of the instrumental music he
had heard there, says that it “is much better than I expected. The
organ and violin they are masters of, but the bass-viol they have not
at all in use, and, to supply its place, they have the bass-violin.”
According to Maugars in his “Reponse fait à un curieux ...” (1639)
the viol was going out of use in Italy, quite twenty years before the
above date. “Regarding the viol,” he remarks, “there is no one in
Italy now who excels on that instrument, and even in Rome it is still
little cultivated: I am very astonished at this, seeing that they
had formerly one Horatio de Parme, who was a marvellous player.” The
writer of these lines was himself a magnificent performer on the viola
da gamba. He visited Rome, where he found the gamba, the theorbo, and
harpsichord the most fashionable instruments, and, in spite of the
numerous violins and violoncellos being made by Nicolas Amati in his
busy workshops in Cremona, these latter were considered to be what
Lord Chesterfield would have called “ungentlemanly instruments.” If by
chance any enthusiastic amateur was rash enough to adopt the violin,
he was careful to hide the fact from his friends for fear of being
thought disreputable. This antipathy to the fiddle was just as keenly
felt in England, when the encroachment of the new-fangled four-stringed
instruments began to endanger the position of the viol. Anthony Wood,
writing in 1653 at Oxford, says in reference to this: “Before the
Restoration, gentlemen played three, four and five parts with viols.
They esteemed a violin to be an instrument only belonging to a common
fiddler, and could not endure that it should come among them for fear
of making their meetings vain.” This prejudice against the violin is
even felt to-day by many people. We ourselves remember an old lady’s
astonishment when we confided to her that we could play the violin:
“Why!” she exclaimed, “I thought such instruments were only played
outside public-houses.”

The degree of excellence attained by such men as the Abbé Maugars,
Hoffman, Sainte Colombe, and Marais, on the viola da gamba was
certainly detrimental to the development of the violoncello. Maugars
spent four years studying the gamba in England in 1620, and when he
visited Rome, in 1639, his performances at the house of Signora Leonora
Baroni, a famous Italian singer--who was herself no mean performer on
the harpsichord and gamba--gained him the highest eulogies, which he
recounts with no uncertain voice in the pamphlet already referred to
(p. 138). In the face of the prodigies performed by gamba players,
makers were content to follow the times and allow the violoncello to
retain its large proportions. Even Stradivarius, who made the violin
what it now is, did not occupy himself with the dimensions of the
violoncello, but adopted the measurements of his contemporaries.

A complete account of this maker’s violins and violoncellos is to be
found in Messrs Hill’s valuable monograph “Antonio Stradivari, his
Life and Work.” In the chapter devoted to a _résumé_ of Stradivari
violoncellos, they make the interesting assertion that no violoncello
by Stradivarius is known to them previous to the year 1680. The
earliest dated instrument of the violoncello type known to them was
made by the great Cremona master in his twenty-third year, 1667, and,
although it has been considerably altered, it apparently originally
contained many of the features of the viola da gamba and violoncello.
They are of opinion that the instrument was primarily strung as a
gamba, which was doubtless the case, for at that time it was customary
to make gambas in two forms--_i.e._ with flat back and true viol-shaped
upper bouts curving high into the neck, and also in the violin form.
Christopher Simpson, the most renowned English gamba player of his day,
gives excellent representations of both these forms of gambas (p. 80)
in his “Division Viol” (Second Edition, London, 1667). He recommends
the violin shape as superior to the viol form for playing divisions on
a ground as “the sound should be quick and sprightly, like a Violin;
and Viols of that shape (the Belleys being digged out of the plank) do
commonly render such sound.”

Another violoncello by Stradivarius, which shows similar signs of
alteration, belonged to Mr Leo Stern in 1902. Its proportions, although
cut down by Dodd, are still of the largest, and the presence of a fifth
hole in the head for a peg indicates that it was originally strung with
five strings. No doubt this was originally an extra large viola da
gamba of the form recommended by Christopher Simpson. Messrs Hill also
give the interesting piece of information that they are acquainted with
a viola da gamba by Stradivarius, or, to speak more correctly, with the
material which once formed one. The often over-generous hand of the
modern maker has employed itself in adding fresh wood in all directions
with a view to transforming the instrument into a violoncello. Brought
from France to Italy in its original state, it may possibly be the
viol made by Stradivari in 1684 for the Comtessa Cristina Visconti, the
patterns of which are preserved in the “Della Valle Collection.”

Still referring to Messrs Hill’s book we find that Stradivarius made
about thirty large-sized violoncellos between the year 1680 and 1700
and that it was not until the latter date that he shows any signs of
turning away from the violoncello of large proportions. Two instruments
which bear evidence of this important change of construction are the
Cristiani (1700) and the Servais (1701). The first of these measures
30-1/2 bare inches in length, while the Servais measures 31-1/8 inches,
but even these proportions were large as compared to the violoncellos
he made ten years later. The Cristiani is of particular interest at the
present moment as it has recently become the property of the nation.
It originally belonged to a charming lady of that name who gained
repute as a professional violoncellist in the forties of the nineteenth
century. Felix Mendelssohn paid her the compliment of playing her
accompaniments at her concert at Leipsic, and dedicated one of his
“Songs without Words” to her. She was not a great executant by any
means, but the violoncello at that date did not count so many women
players as it does in these days, and, then again, she was possessed of
much personal beauty, so that her critics judged her in the same manner
as they did the handsome Madame Catalani, of whom it was said that:

  “If to her singing some few errors fall
  Look in her face, and you forget them all.”

Mdlle. Cristiani’s violoncello--after her death at Tobolsk, in Siberia,
in 1853--fell into the hands of M. Benazet, a Baden-Baden amateur.
Through the medium of Messrs Gand & Bernadel, it became the property of
the eminent violoncellist, Herr Hugo Becker, in 1884. Ten years later
Messrs Hill bought it, and still later Mr Charles Oldham, a well-known
ophthalmic surgeon of Hove, Brighton, purchased it from them. At the
latter’s death, on the 24th January 1907, he bequeathed the “Cristiani”
violoncello, together with the famous inlaid “Rode” violin (1722), a
violin of the Amatasie period dated 1687, and the handsome inlaid viola
made by Stradivarius for Philip IV., of Spain, in 1696, to the nation.
These four instruments have been confided to the care of the British
Museum, but it is to be devoutly hoped that the authorities may find
some clause in Mr Oldham’s will, by which they may avoid the necessity
of placing them under a glass case. There is no more melancholy object
than the violin or violoncello which is relegated to a museum and
compelled to silence. The handsome violin by Stradivarius in the Musée
of the Paris Conservatoire, and Paganini’s violin in Genoa--standing
under a glass case like an eight-day clock--are melancholy examples of
such a useless practice. It would be of much more practical use to art,
if wealthy connoisseurs would follow the example of Mr John Rutson,
and leave their valuable collections of musical instruments to some
musical institution for the use of gifted pupils unable to purchase a
suitable instrument for their public début and early appearances. It is
undeniable that, as a rule, genius is poorly endowed with this world’s
goods, and often lacking in opportunity; thus it is that many a gifted
violinist or violoncellist has been balked of success for lack of a
good instrument to play upon.

After the year 1700, Stradivarius made some fine violoncellos, the
most superb of all at the present time, being the instrument he made
in his seventy-sixth year. This grand example is dated 1720, and,
besides its intrinsic merits, it has a special interest, having been
the favourite instrument of Signor Piatti. Many were the hands through
which it passed before finding a safe haven with the gifted Italian
violoncellist to whom it was presented by Colonel Oliver in 1867.
Like Ole Bull and his Gasparo da Salo, Piatti was enamoured of the
violoncello the moment he saw it, on a visit to Dublin, during the
first year of his sojourn in England in 1844. Its memory lived in
his mind for years, and he longed to possess it. The most consummate
of storytellers and most genial of men, Piatti was never weary of
recounting the romantic manner in which his violoncello crossed his
path from time to time, and how he wished to purchase it, but was
debarred from so doing by want of sufficient capital. However, it was
a case of “Kismet.” He did eventually become its proud possessor, and
like a pair of lovers they found no hardship in overcoming obstacles
together. The career of this instrument is traced by Messrs Hill from
the year 1818, when it was brought to this country from Cadiz, by a
wine merchant named Mr Dowell. For 300 guineas it passed into the
hands of the Rev. Mr Booth, who--like Mr Dowell--was an Irishman.
The purchase was effected through the medium of Paul Alday, an Irish
violinist, whose name is responsible for the story that he was once so
lost in the labyrinths of a seemingly endless _cadenza_ at a concert,
that an exasperated member of the audience exclaimed: “Well, Mr Alday,
are you going to play _all night_!” Ten years after Mr Booth became the
possessor of the violoncello, another change of ownership took place at
a sale by auction at Messrs Cramer & Beale’s where a well-known Dublin
violoncellist, Mr Piggot, purchased it. The sum paid by the latter
is unknown to Messrs Hill, but from some notes kindly supplied us on
the subject by Comtessa Lochis--Signor Piatti’s daughter--through the
medium of Mr Whitehouse, the statement that “it was sold for £100 to a
professor of Dublin,” may allude to the price paid for it by Mr Piggot.
After Mr Piggot’s death, in 1853, Sir Robert Gore Booth, an amateur
violoncellist, undertook the sale of the instrument for his deceased
friend’s widow, and, bringing it to London, invited Piatti to come and
see it. As soon as Piatti beheld the violoncello, he recognised it to
be the exquisite instrument he had seen in 1844, and never forgotten.
Great was his chagrin at being unable to purchase it, but at the
time it was impossible. By his advice, however, the violin-maker,
Maucotel, went to see it, and managed to obtain it at a bargain for
£300, and shortly after Colonel Oliver bought it of Maucotel for £350.
To Piatti--already a frequent visitor at Colonel Oliver’s house--the
Stradivarius violoncello was a still further attraction, especially as
he could play on it whenever he felt inclined. He used to care for it
like a child, and at length, on a memorable day in the year 1867, he
was at the Colonel’s house, occupied in comparing the Stradivarius’
merits with that of a violoncello by the brothers Amati and another
by Montagnana, when Colonel Oliver suddenly inquired--“Which do you
prefer?” Piatti at once indicated the Stradivarius without hesitation.
His astonishment and embarrassment were unbounded when in reply to
this conclusion, the Colonel said laconically: “Take it home then!”
But nothing would induce the simple-minded _virtuoso_ to accept the
Colonel’s offer, and after thanking him, he left the house hurriedly,
fearing that his great longing for the violoncello might make his
refusal “tremble in the scale.” Scarcely had he arrived home, however,
when the violoncello was brought to his door, and from that day to his
death remained with him always.

It was on this grand Stradivarius that Piatti delighted audiences
week after week, and month after month, at the Saturday and Monday
Popular Concerts, (now, alas!--be it said to our shame--dwindled out of
existence for want of support) and it was on New Year’s day, 1901--six
months before his death--that he played his _Swan Song_ (the “Danza
Moresca”) before a party of friends at his daughter’s house, with
all his accustomed skill and brilliancy. Although it is not part of
our subject here to detail the lives of violoncello players, yet we
cannot leave this artist, so beloved in England, without mentioning
the touching tribute to his memory, which is celebrated annually by
his resting-place, in the private chapel of the Lochis family. The
funeral, which was a public one, attended by the Prefect, the Mayor,
and representatives of the leading Musical Societies of his native
town of Bergamo, took place on the 22rd of July 1901. In spite of
the tempestuous weather, hundreds of townsfolk and people from the
neighbouring provinces turned out to do homage to their esteemed
countryman. Four professors, from the Music School at Bergamo, played
the Andante from Schubert’s Quartet in D minor, according to the last
wishes expressed by Piatti, and a week later again visited the Lochis
Chapel, where they made a solemn compact to meet each year, and perform
the same Andante on the anniversary of the master’s death. Thus is
the memory of the great artist, whose lovable nature made him a boon
companion and cherished friend, reverently preserved.

Signor Piatti’s violoncello at his death passed into the hands of
his daughter, Countess Lochis, who, although realising that it was
a precious relic of her father, still felt that it would harm the
instrument if she kept it without being played upon. She therefore
accepted the offer of Herr Robert Mendelssohn, the Berlin banker, and
sold it to him for £4000. Herr Mendelssohn, who is the nephew of the
composer of that name, is himself an excellent amateur violoncellist,
and, in conjunction with his brother, owns a fine Quartet of Strads.
During the latter years of Signor Piatti’s life he had offered him
£2000 for the violoncello, but had, on the sum being refused, asked
Piatti to name his own price. But the Italian violoncellist stubbornly
refused to part with the instrument although he no longer played in
public. However--as we have seen--the violoncello did become the
property of Herr Mendelssohn, who has the distinction of paying the
largest sum ever given for a violoncello.

No better or more complete account of Stradivarius’ violoncellos is
to be found than in Messrs Hill’s monograph already referred to. The
merits of such famous instruments as the “Duport,” the “Mara,” the
“Romberg,” the “Bata,” the “Vaslin,” etc., are skilfully described,
as well as the sums paid for them, and it is therefore hardly fair to
repeat the many facts there stated, but before leaving the subject
we are sorely tempted to repeat the well-known romantic episode
which occurred in the career of the Stradivarius violoncello known
as the “Bass of Spain.” It is our English dramatist, Charles Reade,
who recounts the adventure in one of his letters to _The Pall Mall
Gazette_, of the year 1872. This was the date--it may be remembered--of
the Special Loan Exhibition of Musical Instruments at the South
Kensington Museum. Connoisseurs occupied themselves in scouring Italy
to gather together all the most important and interesting specimens
they could lay hands on, and it was at this exhibition that the
violoncello--then the property of M. Galley--of which we here have
a picture--was shown (p. 124). Charles Reade, who had learnt pretty
well all that could be known about fiddle-making from a certain
“Henri”--a past master in the art, but a rampant little revolutionary,
whom he met, by chance, at one of his favourite Bohemian restaurants
in Soho--wrote some brilliant criticisms on the examples of ancient
Italian _lutherie_ there displayed. In these articles,[30] the author
of “Peg Woffington,” took the opportunity of expounding his theory of
the Cremona varnish--the most successful explanation of the concoction
ever attempted--and amongst much fiddle lore, gives the following
account of the vicissitudes of the “Bass of Spain,” made in the year
1713. It was formerly in the collection of Mr John Adam, later in that
of the Duc de Camposelice, and was in the possession of Mr Franklin
Singer in 1902:--

“Nearly fifty years ago a gaunt Italian called Luigi Tarisio arrived
in Paris one day with a lot of old Italian instruments by makers whose
names were hardly known. The principal dealers, whose minds were
narrowed, as is often the case, to three or four makers, would not
deal with him. Monsieur Georges Chanot, younger and more intelligent,
purchased largely, and encouraged him to return. He came back next year
with a better lot; and yearly increasing his funds, he flew at the
highest game; and in the course of thirty years imported nearly all
the finest specimens of Stradivarius and Guarnerius France possesses.
He was the greatest connoisseur that ever lived or ever can live,
because he had the true mind of a connoisseur and vast opportunities.
He ransacked Italy before the tickets in the violins of Francesco
Stradivarius, Alexander Gagliano, Lorenzo Guadagnini, Geofredus
Cappa, Gobetti, Morgilati Morella, Antonio Mariani, Santo Maggini,
Matteo Benti of Brescia, Michel Angelo Bergonze, Montagnana, Thomas
Balestrieri Storioni, Vicenzo Rugger, the Testori, Petrus Guarnerius
of Venice, and full fifty more, had been tampered with, that every
brilliant masterpiece might be assigned to some popular name. To his
immortal credit, he fought against this mania and his motto was, ‘A
tout seigneur tout honneur.’ The man’s whole soul was in his fiddles.
He was a great dealer, but a greater amateur. He had gems by him no
money would buy from him....

“Well, one day Georges Chanot, senior, who is perhaps the best judge of
violins left, now Tarisio is gone, made an excursion to Spain, to see
if he could find anything there. He found mighty little. But, coming
to the shop of a fiddle-maker, one Ortega, he saw the belly of an old
bass hung up with other things. Chanot rubbed his eyes, and asked
himself, was he dreaming? The belly of a Stradivarius bass roasting
in a shop-window! He went in, and very soon bought it for about forty
francs. He then ascertained that the bass belonged to a lady of rank.
The belly was full of cracks; so, not to make two bites of a cherry,
Ortega had made a nice new one. Chanot carried this precious fragment
home and hung it up in his shop, but not in the window, for he is too
good a judge not to know the sun will take all the colour out of that
maker’s varnish. Tarisio came in from Italy, and his eyes lighted
instantly on the Stradivarius belly. He pestered Chanot till the latter
sold it him for a thousand francs and told him where the rest was.
Tarisio no sooner knew this than he flew to Madrid. He learned from
Ortega where the lady lived, and called on her to see it. ‘Sir,’ says
the lady, ‘it is at your disposition.’ That does not mean much in
Spain. When he offered her to buy it, she coquetted with him, said it
had been long in her family; money could not replace a thing of that
kind, and in short, she put on the screw, _as she thought_, and sold
it to him for about four thousand francs. What he did with the Ortega
belly is not known--perhaps sold it to some toothpick trade. He sailed
exultant for Paris with the Spanish Bass in a case. He never let it out
of his sight. The pair were caught by a storm in the Bay of Biscay. The
ship rolled; Tarisio clasped his bass tight, and trembled. It was a
terrible gale, and for one whole day they were in real danger. Tarisio
spoke of it to me with a shudder. I will give you his real words for
they struck me at the time, and I have often thought of them since:


“Was not this a true connoisseur? a genuine enthusiast? Observe! there
was also an ephemeral insect called Luigi Tarisio, who would have
gone down with the bass; but that made no impression on his mind. _De
minimis non curat Ludovicus._

“He got it safe to Paris. A certain high priest in the mysteries,
called Vuillaume, with the help of a sacred vessel called a glue pot,
soon re-wedded the back and sides to the belly, and the bass being now
just what it was when the ruffian Ortega put his finger in the pie,
was sold for 20,000 francs (£800). I saw the Spanish bass in Paris
twenty-two years ago....”

Under the impression that this Stradivarius violoncello he so much
admired at the South Kensington Exhibition of 1872 was the “Bass of
Spain,” Charles Reade begins his next letter, dated 27th August 1892,
with a eulogistic account of its beauties. In reality the instrument
was not the “Bass of Spain,” but the fine violoncello made in the
year 1725 which we see in the picture before us (see p. 124). There
is no doubt about the handsomeness of this violoncello. The scroll is
most elegant, the purfling perfection, the varnish transparent orange
colour. The front table is made of a well-chosen piece of pine, but it
is much cracked, and these cracks have not been too skilfully mended.
Its length is the same as that of Signor Piatti’s violoncello, 29-7/8
inches, but the rest of the proportions are a little different. In
the hands of M. Vaslin, this violoncello experienced the trials of a
fidgety master. It was for many years the faithful companion of this
excellent French violoncellist, who obtained it from a Florentine
banker through his friend and fellow-artist, M. Girard, the violinist.
M. Vaslin found no fault with his violoncello, until the latter part
of his life, when he felt convinced that something was wrong with
its neck. Times out of number the neck was altered by some of the
best _luthiers_ of the day, but still the aged violoncellist was not
satisfied, and at length resorted to the expedient of tinkering it up
himself. At length, in 1869, M. Galley saved it from further torture by
persuading M. Vaslin to sell it to him. The bargain was not completed
until M. Galley had handed over his own Stradivarius, valued at £400,
at the same time paying £600 in cash.

The devious and romantic ways in which fine instruments have become
the property of famous artists would fill an interesting volume in
themselves, as would also the swindling practices of which they have
been the innocent cause. The famous violoncellist, Herr Karl Davidoff,
became possessed of his grand Stradivarius entirely through the medium
of his magnificent talent. His instrument was originally the property
of Count Wielhorskey, a Russian amateur violoncellist, who had a
passion for collecting musical instruments. For some reason or other
it suddenly dawned on this Russian nobleman that it was impossible to
play on all the instruments in his store at once, and that they could
not improve standing like waxwork figures under glass cases. So, he
conceived the brilliant idea of instituting a competition, the winner
of which was to be rewarded with the Stradivarius violoncello. Karl
Davidoff was just then touring in Russia and he heard of the Count’s
challenge. At once he entered himself as a competitor, and, being then
at the zenith of his glory, it was only natural that he should carry
off the prize easily. He kept it until the end of his life, but it
bears many a mark of his rough usage.

The above-mentioned Count Wielhorskey also owned a fine-toned
violoncello, which he usually alluded to affectionately as “_the_
Amati.” This instrument, we believe, was in reality a Ruggieri, but
to the Count it was always “_the_ Amati.” It belonged originally to a
Florentine lady of noble birth of the name of Renoncini, and through
the instigation and enthusiasm of a certain Italian named Francesco
Ciandi, himself a violoncellist in the orchestra of the Italian Opera
House at St Petersburg, was brought from its southern home to the
Russian court. The Emperor Nicolas presented it to Count Wielhorskey
knowing him to be passionately devoted to violoncello playing. It
became the Count’s favourite instrument, and he scarcely played on
any other until old age cramped his fingers and forced him to give
up playing entirely. Then, as in the case of the Stradivarius, being
averse to sticking it up under a glass case, he presented it to Franz
Knetch, solo violinist in the court orchestra, who recounts the gift in
his diary under the date 30th October 1850: “To-day Count Wielhorskey
presented me with ‘_the_ Amati’ violoncello.” He also became greatly
attached to the instrument and bequeathed it to his sister, who,
after his death, was anxious to give it to a museum. But apparently
it was again saved from the waxwork type of existence, as Herr Ludwig
Grutzmacher, the far-famed violoncellist, played on it for over forty
years, and called it “My Amati.” The present owner of this fine
instrument we believe is a wealthy gentleman in Hamburg.

One of the finest violoncellos made by Nicolo Amati came into Herr
Klengel’s possession after a good many years of obscurity. The
story runs that a young Russian student at Leipsic, discovering his
finances to be in a very exhausted condition, bethought himself of
a violoncello which had been in his family for many years, but about
which he knew nothing. Thinking that the old instrument might possibly
have some value, he boldly took it to a pawnbroker’s on the chance,
and demanded a loan of £5 on it. The pawnbroker in his turn was unable
to estimate whether the violoncello was worth such an amount, and, to
be on the right side, consulted some experts before giving a reply.
The experts quickly realised that they had a very fine Nicolo Amati
violoncello before them, and through the medium of the pawnbroker
offered the young student £200 if he would sell the violoncello
outright. The sum was agreed to by the delighted young Russian.
Twenty-four hours after he sold it, Herr Klengel became its owner for
about double that sum. Profits in the fiddle trade are certainly swift,
but they are not always honest.

Speaking of pawnbrokers, by the way, it is not often that they meet
their match in shrewdness. One of the neatest swindles ever perpetrated
took place in New York a few years ago, and victimised a well-known,
“three-balls” gentleman to the extent of over £30. According to
_The New York Sun_, it was one day in May 1902, that a well-known
pawnbroker of Allen Street was visited by a shabbily dressed man who
asked for a loan on his violin and bow.

“I vas a blayer from Poland,” he said, “and my fiddle vas most
waluable. I vouldn’t lose it for anything.”

The pawnbroker offered him something like a guinea on it, and the young
violinist accepted it, saying at the same time: “Don’t wrab it up.
Chust hang it ub der for I vil come and taig it out to-morrow.”

The fiddle according to his request was not wrapped up, but placed on
a shelf behind the counter. The next day a man with long black hair
streaming over his shoulders, and wearing gold-rimmed glasses, entered
the pawnshop to inquire the price of some silver-ware. He turned it
about, found it was not what he wanted, and, chancing to see the
fiddle, asked if he might look at it. The violin and bow were handed to
him for inspection and he began to examine them critically.

“Ah!” he exclaimed, “at last I haf foundt von of dem! Gott in Himmel!
but it is a grandt one.”

“A grand what?” asked the pawnbroker.

“A real genuine Rubinsky violin,” replied the enraptured foreigner, and
whipping it quickly under his chin began suddenly to play.

The more he played the more the pawnbroker became convinced that the
instrument was extraordinarily valuable.

“If you will sell dis fiddle to me,” said the player, pausing, “I vill
gif you tree hundredt dollars for it.”

“I can’t do that,” said the pawnbroker, “because it is not mine to
sell. It was only pledged yesterday.”

The violinist thereupon demanded the address of the owner, but the
pawnbroker, seeing the chance of a “deal,” said he could not do that,
but, instead, he himself would see the proprietor of the fiddle and ask
him if he would sell.

“Ferry vell,” said the Polish virtuoso, “here is dwenty dollars to
bint the pargain. Eef he vill sell, I vill bay the pallance ven I kome

“Mein Gott!” said the owner of the violin when the pawnbroker visited
him the same evening and approached him on the subject of buying the
instrument. “I could not pard vid the violin for less than two hundert
dollars. It kost me fife hundert tollars in Polandt.” The two men sat
some time bickering about the sum expected and the sum offered, and at
length the pawnbroker laid down $200 and departed with the delightful
intention of asking _his_ customer $280.

The next day passed, however, without the expected visitor putting in
an appearance.

Also the day following passed in the same manner, and the next and the

At last the pawnbroker felt a twinge of anxiety. He flew to the address
given him by the would-be purchaser and found that no such person was
known there. A visit to the house of the former owner of the violin
also proved fruitless, for the bird had flown.

The pawnbroker, it is said, did not seek sympathy, well knowing that
none is extended to his fraternity, but he occupied himself for some
months in trying to straighten his accounts. We could easily light upon
numerous tales of swindles in the fiddle trade without difficulty, but
as our time is now short, we will content ourselves with quoting this
one anecdote, and return to Cremona and its _luthiers_.

Contemporary with Stradivarius, Italy claimed many fine fiddle-makers,
indeed, as a matter of fact, there was scarcely a town in Italy that
did not possess some adept at the art. In Cremona itself there were
many who lived almost at the threshold of Stradivarius’ house. Next
door to him were the Begonzi family, and adjoining them was the house
of Andreas Guarnerius. Then, but a few steps away in the busy square
of St Domenico--now the _Piazza Roma_--Ruggieri, Amati, and Storioni
had their workshops. They must have been a hardy lot to remain and
compete with the gigantic industry and talent of Stradivarius, but they
came through the ordeal in some cases grandly. Andreas Guarnerius,
for instance, was a steady workman, who made several violoncellos,
though nothing calculated to “strike one all of a heap.” One of his
best violoncellos was that which was preserved for many years in
Mr Gillot’s collection, but even this did not command a higher sum
than £73 (including a nameless Italian violoncello), at the sale
by auction which took place after Mr Gillot’s death in April 1872.
Another violoncello by the redoubtable Andreas belonged to Beethoven’s
patron, Prince Joseph Francis Maximilian. This instrument, with several
other interesting gambas and lutes, was found in the old chapel of
the deserted castle of Prince Lobkovitz in the last days of October,
1872, curiously enough but six months after the sale of Mr Gillot’s
Guarnerius. The instrument discovered in the chapel was considered so
excellent that it was selected to be shown in the Cremonese section of
the Vienna Exhibition in that year.

Peter Guarnerius, brother of Andreas’ son Joseph, also worked in
Cremona during the latter years of Stradivarius’ life. He made some
especially good violoncellos, large and broad in model, with original,
well-cut scrolls, and excellent purfling and varnish. He got hold
of some grand timber, which he used for the bellies of many of his
violoncellos; wood wide in grain, but beautifully even. We saw a
handsome violoncello by this maker but a few days ago in the hands of
Miss May Fussell, who has employed it for all her concert work since
1894. The tone is full and rich.

In the same city another eminent maker, the eldest member of a
large family of _luthiers_, Francesco Rugger, was a worthy rival
of Stradivarius. He occupied a prominent position as a maker, and
inscribed himself on his tickets “Francesco Rugger detto il Per,
Cremona, 16--” Various definitions of the true significance of the _il
Per_ adopted by Rugger have been put forth. Some claim that he thereby
announced himself as the “eldest” or “father,” others that it alluded
to his partiality for pear-tree wood as material for his instruments.
Read literally, one might easily imagine that the “il Per” belonged
to some catch phrase or proverb, possibly a nickname by which the
maker was familiarly known to his friends. All the old fiddle-makers
adopted some trade-mark--generally extracted from the calendar of
saints--Rugger’s “il Per” might therefore have been a familiar
sobriquet which acted for him in this capacity.

The work of this maker is quite after the Amati type, though in
advancing this statement we do not for a moment intend to charge him
with being a copyist. Delicacy, finished workmanship, a graceful
sound-hole, transparent varnish well laid on, these are the chief
characteristics of Rugger’s work. Like Stradivarius, he at first went
with the times, modelling his violoncellos on a large scale (31-5/16
inches in length), but he appears to have seen the error of his ways
before his contemporary, as previous to 1700 he made small violoncellos
measuring but a little over 28 inches in length.

An exceptionally fine violoncello of Francesco Rugger was the cause of
a lawsuit some years ago, on account of its falling a victim to false
labelling, whereby it purported to be the work of Antonio Stradivarius.
This handsome instrument belonged at one time to King George IV., who
was an enthusiastic amateur violoncellist but scarcely an adept. There
is a story told that when King George was Prince of Wales he played the
violoncello one day before Handel, and desiring to hear what the great
man thought of his performance inquired, “How do you think I play?” It
was impossible to reply to such a question truthfully, coming as it did
from a royal interrogator, so the wily Teuton had to temporise, “Like a
Brince, your Royal Highness,” he answered with warmth, “like a Brince!”

The Duke of Cambridge was the next owner of the pseudo Stradivarius,
after which it passed into the hands of Mr Corsby, by whom it was sold
to Mr Shuttleworth. In 1877, the same instrument was sold by auction
among the collection of musical instruments put upon the market by the
death of Mr Parera of Manchester. It figured in the catalogue as an
Antonio Stradivarius, and realised the sum of £370.

Several eminent artists have employed Francesco Rugger’s violoncellos
for concert work. Ladislaus Zelenka, professor of the violoncello at
the Conservatoire at Odessa, and former pupil of Herr Hugo Becker,
possessed a very fine violoncello by this maker. Mr Bertie Withers has
also an excellent “il Per” instrument dated 1679, and the favourite
violoncello of the eminent English violoncellist, Mr W. E. Whitehouse,
is a very handsome, small-sized Rugger, in a high state of preservation.

Pietro Giacomo Rugger, who was at work in Brescia at the same time as
Francesco of the same name, pursued his labours in Cremona, was another
member of the family who made violoncellos of modified dimensions.
There are so many points of similarity between his instruments and
those of Johannes Baptiste Rugger, who worked both at Cremona and
Brescia, that conjecture credits them with joining forces. The
violoncellos of Giacomo are distinguished by beautiful varnish and
elegant sound holes, but the scrolls lack breadth and boldness. Signor
Piatti owned a fine characteristic example of this maker’s work which
passed into the possession of Miss Muriel Handley. It is dated 1717.
The gamut of prices realised from time to time by this violoncello is
one of the many revelations of the caprices of fiddle dealing. Before
Signor Piatti became its owner, it had been sold for £30, Piatti parted
with it for £500 (!), and after that it was insured for £800.

Milan boasted a favourite pupil of Nicolo Amati, Paolo Grancino, an
excellent violoncello-maker, who, doubtless, was one of those who found
the competition too much for him in Cremona and sought fresh fields.
His instruments are reminiscent of his master, the wood and workmanship
good, but the tone is hardly suited to a concert hall. A better
craftsman was his son, Giovanni, who also practised his art in Milan in

In Naples there was Alessandro Gagliano whom the Prince Joussupoff,
in his “Luthomonographie” (Frankfort, S.M., 1856), announces to have
been the son of a marquis of that name. According to this author,
Gagliano, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, was compelled
to flee from Naples, in order to escape the vigilance of the police,
who were endeavouring to capture him on account of a murder he had
committed. The hunted man withdrew to a forest in the neighbourhood of
Marghanetto Borgo, and while there, passed the weary hours--for want of
better occupation--in carving violin-shaped instruments on the trunks
of the trees. Discovering by this means that his hand was apt at such
work, he adopted the profession of violin making, and as soon as the
police had grown weary of the pursuit boldly established a workshop in
Naples. We cannot vouch for the veracity of this story; fiddles have
a trick of creating romances, but Gagliano’s sojourn in the wood is
generally considered to have been the cause of his excellently chosen
pine, and good quality sycamore.

Alessandro’s son, Nicolo, made some remarkably good violoncellos
resembling Stradivarius’. The varnish is much darker than his father’s.

Venice claimed one of the best makers of violoncellos of his time, in
Stradivarius’ pupil, Domenico Montagnana. The “mighty Venetian,” as
Mr Charles Reade called him, found the market too much monopolised by
his master, and after a short trial in Cremona removed to Venice. He
soon attained great popularity there, and during the latter part of
Stradivarius’ life sent out magnificent basses and violoncellos from
his workshop. His knowledge of thicknesses, material, and varnish,
which he brought with him from the great Cremona school, placed him
head and shoulders above his Venetian contemporaries. The gentle
curves of his model, the grandly cut scroll--which even surpassed the
beauty of his master’s work--and, above all, the rich tone, are the
qualities which combine in making Montagnana’s violoncellos perfect
instruments. The late Mrs Lewis Hill was the owner of one of the finest
known violoncellos by this maker. It belonged for many years to the
French musician and composer, Félicien David (born 1810, died 1876),
and after his death it was sold to the well-known French violoncellist,
M. Francois of Douai, who retained it for some years and then sold it
to an amateur, Signor Parenti, who ultimately sold it to Messrs Hill &
Son. In 1902, Mr W. H. Squire purchased it of that firm on behalf of
Mrs Lewis Hill, in whose possession it was employed to complete her
fine Quartet, consisting of two Stradivarius violins, an Amati viola,
and this violoncello. The instrument is a typical example in every way,
the proportions being untouched, and is now the property of Mr W. H.
Squire, to whom it was bequeathed by Mrs Hill.

Rome claimed David Tecchler as the maker, _par excellence_, in
Stradivarius’ time. He continued to be the most prominent maker of
that city of dried bones and priests, for quite half-a-century, and
gained repute as a maker of handsome basses and violoncellos--the
latter mostly large sized. He also gained experience in Venice, and
Salzburg, gathering his knowledge of good timber from the first, and an
unfortunate stiff sound-hole from the second.

Returning to Cremona towards the latter years of Stradivarius’ life
we find a new and excellent maker--his pupil, Carlo Bergonzi--firmly
established near his master. At one time he was deemed Stradivarius’
best pupil, whereas the Cremona master’s son, Francesco--whose work
has been frequently attributed to Bergonzi--in reality surpassed
his. The beauty of form and rare quality of tone which characterise
Bergonzi’s violoncellos bear testimony to the great school in which he
was trained. He believed in putting plenty of wood in his instruments,
a practice which has allowed them to withstand the wear and tear of
centuries of usage better than those of many of his contemporaries.
The Manchester violoncellist Herr Carl Fuchs--a favourite pupil of
Davidoff--had a grand Bergonzi violoncello, a couple of years ago, and
the instrument usually employed for concert work by Mr W. H. Squire is
also a fine example of this maker, which he purchased from the widow of
Herr G. Libotton.

While all these makers were occupied in developing the instrument
itself, there were other influences working to bring it to more worthy
uses. The rapid progress in violin playing, and the establishment
of a clearer and better method of fingering, had its effect on the
violoncello. With a surer system of shifting came a firmer grip of
the hand and a more sonorous tone. The old violists could think of
no other way of balancing the incongruity of sound which existed
between the “shrieking violin” and its duller companion, than by the
use of double the number of bass-viols to prevent its “outcrying”
the lower parts. Never employ the violin, cautions Thomas Mace, “but
with the proviso, viz. Be sure to make an equal provision for them
by addition and strength of basses so that they may not outcry the
rest of the music (the basses especially).” A thorough musician,
and an artist, _jusque au fond_, Corelli was one of the earliest
composers to realise the ineffectual use of the bass-viol with the
violin; and did not scruple to discard its services for that of the
violoncello. Besides his employment of it in his numerous sonatas
for _due violini e violoncello_, etc., he also adopted the custom of
an accompanying violoncello for his solo performances. For a long
time this rôle of travelling about and accompanying violinists, was
played by violoncellists, who--although they were not always exact in
their execution or accompanying--by this means, at least, raised it
out of its low position in the orchestras. The possibilities of the
instrument for solo purposes began to suggest itself to performers,
and the shortcomings of the gamba more comprehended. As early as
1691, tentative efforts to bring the violoncello forward as a solo
instrument were being made, and a method, or treatise, on the art of
playing the instrument in this manner was written by a gifted artist
in Parma in that year. Among the many works in connection with this
subject which we have perused, we lately came across a rare pamphlet
describing three interesting old musical instruments--_i.e._ a harp,
a carved violin, and a carved violoncello--preserved in the Museum
Artistico Estense in Modena. This little _brochure_ came from the pen
of Count Valdrighi--one of the most industrious and indefatigable
of musical historians--and was printed for private circulation only.
It is altogether a most fascinating little pamphlet, and, although
numbering but fifteen pages, lacks none of the flowing metaphor and
grace so indelibly associated with Italian literature; moreover the
description of each instrument is supported by excellent photographs.
The exquisitely carved violoncello of which we have a picture before
us (p. 174), owes its rich ornamentation to Domenico Galli of Parma, a
wood-carver of great repute at the end of the seventeenth century and
the beginning of the eighteenth. According to Count Valdrighi, Galli
made this sumptuous violoncello for Frances II., Duke of Modena, and
presented it to him together with a treatise on the violoncello as a
solo instrument entitled _Trattenimento musicale sopra il violoncello
a solo ausaciato all’ Altezza Serima de Francesco II. duc di Modena
Reggio_. The title-page of this interesting MS., which is preserved
in the Bibliothèque of the Estense Museum, is gracefully decorated by
Galli himself, and the date, 8th September 1691, furnishes us with the
information that this work is the earliest known attempt at a method
for the violoncello. The wealth of carved ornamentation on Galli’s
violoncello and violin were designed with a special purpose. Thus,
while the exquisite little figure of Orpheus which adorns the centre of
the back of the violin alludes to the peace enjoyed by the people of
Modena under the temperate government of Frances II. and also to the
musical tastes of the Duke, the violoncello dabbles in politics and
religion. Hercules slaying the hydra is meant to depict the character
of the Duke’s nephew, while the figure of Minerva with the cloak of
Pallas about her shoulders represents Mary Queen of England, who had
assumed her father’s rights. The lions are symbolical of Mary’s father,
James II., at that time an alien under the protection of Louis XIV.,
_Le Roi Soleil_, portrayed by the sun supported by two figures, over
the carved form of Hercules. Besides the main point which Galli strove
to represent--namely, a strong desire that the Catholic party might be
victorious and the house of Este restored to the throne of England--the
violoncello is covered with delicately carved representations of all
things appertaining to the mineral, vegetable, and animal world.
Flowers, fruits, shells, nymphs, satyrs, form a thickly encrusted
background to the main theme. The fairylike execution of these is
amazing, and worthy of a Grinley Gibbons. If fault were to be found it
lies alone in the over-generous details of the design, yet the whole
is so skilfully wrought that this cannot be looked upon as a defect.
Not a petal of the flowers, not a line in the delicate shells, not a
lock in the sirens’ hair that is not perfect, and well fitted to be
the satellite of the main scheme. The ribs of the violoncello are as
profusely covered with similar embellishments as the back.

  MODENA, 1690.]

Truly “a thing of beauty is a joy for ever,” and time only increases
its loveliness when it is cherished. Galli’s _chefs-d’oeuvre_ will
always find admirers, as indeed will all the gracefully decorated
musical instruments of past centuries. Look at this _gamba de luxe_,
one can call it nothing less, close beside us. Where will you find more
faultless inlaying in ivory and tortoise-shell? Most pleasing to the
eye, is it not? Yet its very beauty exemplifies one of the greatest
pitfalls of the older _luthiers_. To the ancient maker, ornamentation
was as irresistible as was the Lorelei’s golden hair to the sailors of
the Rhine. Most Italian makers had realised the deleterious effects
of inlaying and carving before Stradivarius’ time, but many of the
great Cremona master’s German contemporaries were still caught in
its delusive toils. Dwelling in Hamburg there was an unequalled
stringed-instrument maker named Joachim Tielke, who fashioned his
lutes of real ivory and ebony, inlaid the necks thereof with gold,
and silver, and mother-of-pearl, while the pegs were formed of the
finest tortoise-shell. These lutes were destined for the slim hands
of the satin-clad dilettanti of the day, who boldly faced the many
difficulties and intricacies of the instrument for the sake of its
beauty. According to Mattheson,[31] if a lutanist attained the age of
eighty, one might be certain that he had spent sixty years in tuning;
a tedious operation, as the lute never remained long in tune. An older
writer, Thomas Mace, in his “Musick Monument,” London, 1676, discussing
the shortcomings of the lute, seriously advises that it should be
kept, in the daytime, between the rug and blankets of a bed which
was constantly used. It is hardly surprising that the exasperating
sensitiveness to atmospheric changes to which this instrument was
subject was at once the delight and despair of its votaries, and that
makers observing these difficulties should attempt to please their
patrons by ornamenting other less fragile instruments in lute fashion.
Tielke of Hamburg at all events transferred his lute decorations _en
bloc_ to his gambas, as this instrument and some others reveal.

The gamba of this make which is before us has unfortunately been fitted
by some vandal with a machine head, but otherwise is as perfect as when
it left Tielke’s hands over three hundred years ago. No doubt, the
original pegs were of ivory tipped with a dainty jewel to correspond
with those which were let into the neck. Before it became the property
of the South Kensington Museum it was owned by Mr Simon Andrew Forster,
the joint author of the well-known “History of the Violin.” Two
excellent pictures of this instrument are included in this volume, and
also the information that Mr Forster purchased it from Mr John Cause,
the artist, who had lent it to the directors of the “Ancient Concerts,”
held in the Hanover Square Rooms in the spring of 1845. These concerts
were organised to take place in this obsolete concert hall by a small
body of aristocratic music lovers headed by the Prince Consort, and
it was under his auspices that the second concert of the season was
not only devoted to the sixteenth-century music, but was performed on
the ancient instruments themselves. M. Fetis, at that time director of
the Brussels Conservatoire, supplied a number of old instruments from
the Musée of the Conservatoire, and the orchestra on the evening of
the 16th April 1845, presented,--what _The Illustrated London News_
terms,--“a grotesque sight.” There was a “Violino Francesi,” says
the above authority, a “viola da gamba” (now before us), a “viola
d’Amore,” and a “viola da Braccio,” a “Theorbo,” “violino,” “guitar,”
“harp,” and an “organ,” played respectively by Messrs Loder, Hatton,
J. F. Loder, Ventura, Dragonetti, Don Cubra, T. Wright, and Lucas.
The complete programme of the concert may be seen in full in _The
Illustrated London News_ for 19th April 1845, suffice it here to say
that the two _pièces de résistance_ comprised a concerto, played on
Antique Instruments, and composed by Emile del Cavalieri (1600), and an
anonymous fifteenth-century Romanesca, performed in a like manner. Both
Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort, appeared to be highly delighted
with the concert, and at the end, invited Mr Hatton to play a solo on
his viola da gamba in the tea-room.

Since this galaxy of musical instruments of the past astonished
Londoners, we have had many other interesting attempts at recalling the
ancient viols to the concert platform, but notwithstanding the success
of these appearances, there is no danger of the gamba ever getting the
upper hand of the violoncello again. The latter has steadily taken its
place as the leader since the first half of the eighteenth century,
when the great Italian _luthiers_ busied themselves with its graceful
form, and the performances of Franciscello first enchanted Scarlatti in
Rome, and then astonished all Italy. From that time until the present,
makers and players have gone hand in hand. Franciscello’s marvellous
achievements inspired others to emulate his powers of attraction, among
others Antonio Vaudini, who was Tartini’s great friend and travelled
about with him for some time, for the sole purpose of accompanying him.
This eccentric association of the high and low instruments belonging
to the string quartet led to violoncellists adopting the system of
fingering employed for the smaller instrument. The old way of holding
the bow in the manner of the viol players--_i.e._ as double-bass
players frequently hold it now--was also discarded for the violinist’s
method. Then Antonionetti of Milan and Lanzetti, violoncellist to the
King of Sardinia, published some sonatas for the violoncello, which,
according to Monsieur Vidal in his “Instruments a Archét,” reveal
that the capacities of the instrument to the extent of an octave and
a half were known to them. Curiously enough, at this point the zeal
shown by the Italians in developing the violoncello somewhat cooled,
and the important invention of employing the thumb was left for the
Frenchman--Berteau. A few years before this violoncellist’s death in
1756, Michael Corrette published his “Methode, theorique et pratique,
pour apprendre en peu de temps le Violoncello ...” Paris, 1741, a work
which was the first of its kind. He still adhered to the system of
fingering the diatonic scale by stopping whole tones with successive
fingers, and his remarks relating to the several systems prevailing
among violoncellists, together with his instructions, for _three
ways of holding the bow_, are indicative of the unsettled state of
technique at that time. This condition of uncertainty among players
continued until towards the end of the century when Jean Louis Duport
published his carefully written “Essai sur le doigté du violoncelle,
et sur le conduite de l’archét.” This was the first method in which
the correct mode of fingering--_i.e._ a finger for each successive
semitone--appeared. Duport’s system was too sound to be anything else
than universally adopted, and each successive writer of violoncello
schools--Romberg, Dotzauer, Grutzmacher, etc.--have retained the
fundamental principles laid down by Duport. To-day there is little
executed by violinists that virtuosos of the violoncello cannot
accomplish, if they are inclined,--but,--talking about the obvious is
always tedious especially at the end of a long day, and we feel that
it is nearly time to bid you adieu. So much has already been written
by eminent writers on the subject of makers and players subsequent
to Stradivarius--of the German, French, and English schools--that it
would be superfluous to give a descriptive list of them here. The
question as to whether Jacobus Stainer and Joseph Guarnerius del Jesu
made violoncellos will always be one of the many subjects to argue
about. Yet, apparently they have left evidence that they did make
violoncellos. This and other doubtful points may be found adequately
discussed in such works as Laurent Grillet’s “Les Ancètres de Violon,”
George Hart’s “The Violin,” Anton Vidal’s “Les Instruments a Archét,”
Von Wasielewski’s “Die Violoncelle,” Luigi Farconi’s “Il Violoncello,
il violoncellesta e Violoncellesti,” etc., and to those who seek to
dig deeper for themselves, there is the British Museum, and the many
Museums, and storehouses, of information, to be found in every country.

Our chief aim during these chats has been to seek out the uncommon
rather than to preach, therefore we will end as we have begun, and
before parting call your attention to the handsome violoncello
belonging to that gifted artist Herr Paul Ludwig, made by a maker of
the name of “Chioddi” of whom we can find no record, and as we bid you
a regretful adieu, present you with the history of two eminent women
gamba players, and the first violoncello prodigy known in this country.

The fog has cleared and we may now dash through endless slush to our
respective homes. The pleasant hours are over, let us hope for future
meetings, but if this may not come to pass, the memory of to-day will
be ever cherished by us.

    “FEMALE violinists are rare, the violin being we do not know why
    deemed an unfeminine instrument....

    “Female violoncellists are rarer still, and we have never met with
    one. A young German lady, Mademoiselle von Katow, is delighting
    Paris by her performances.”--_The Spectator_, 14th April 1860

  [Illustration: VIOLA DI BORDONE.


    Two Eighteenth-century Women Players of the Viola da Gamba

The Empress of Germany well defined the attainments of Pericles’ ideal
woman--who was to be prized if no one spoke of her either in praise
or blame--when she announced that a woman’s life should be made up of
clothes, children, cooking and church. A century or so ago, such a
statement would have been quite unnecessary, for our great-grandmothers
welcomed each of these obligations as the sweetest duties of life.
But, somehow, for some unaccountable reason, much of woman’s tender
grace seems to have faded with the Victorian era, and to-day “_nous
avons changé tout cela_.” Children, clothes, cooking, are the very
things--except the clothes--that the modern woman, with her club and
other interests, deals with most lightly. She would far rather rush
into the battle of life and fight like her Amazon ancestry. She would
far rather assume some definite career like her brethren of the sterner
sex. Perhaps she does not cut quite such a good figure as she did
fifty years ago, but her unceasing efforts to attain prominence have
revealed her to be dowered, now and again, with an intellect capable of
undertaking all the duties dear to her departed sisters, and rendering
service in other provinces besides.

The emancipation of woman is a steady growth, and to-day there are few
professions in which she does not compete side by side with man. In the
rough and tumble of the battle, she must lose much of her ephemeral
qualities, but, fortunately, there are careers open to her in the
sphere of Art where her feminine evanescence is the principal charm
of her work. In music more especially, her emotional value and quick
instinct are indispensable, and here she retains her personality with
ease. Whatever may be the general opinion of woman’s work in the realm
of musical composition, her success as an executant is undeniable. She
cannot perhaps build Masses like Bach, or Oratorios like Handel, but
she can interpret the works of the great masters with much spontaneous
insight, and one cannot forget that she has written some of our most
popular songs. “Annie Laurie” was the work of Lady Jane Scott; Lady
Arthur Hill wrote “In the Gloaming,” and Lady Scott Gattie composed
the widely-known ballad “Douglas, Tender and True.” “The Campbells
are comin’,” “The Land o’ the Leal,” and “The Laird o’ Cockpen” were
all the work of Lady Nairne, while the languorous melody of “Juanita”
emanated from Mrs Elizabeth Morton’s pen. Undoubtedly woman’s most
appropriate place in music is as a singer, for, look back as far as
you will, you will find her occupied in singing. The Egyptian women
danced and sang to the accompaniment of clapping hands. The Hebrew
women pointed the story of their songs with dramatic actions; they
sang gaily at festivals, and chanted dirges at funerals, and, although
the men--mark you--_might_ join in if they felt inclined to do so,
yet the women were the acknowledged leaders. Then, again, one of the
cherished duties of those graceful women--the Greek Muses--was to sing
songs at the banquets of the immortals, and the principal occupation
of the Sirens, who sat upon rocks, was to sing ditties to the passing
mariners. The record of woman’s singing is certainly ahead of man’s,
and it is regrettable that in these days she does not continue to be
ahead of him. It should be woman’s prerogative to sing, while men could
monopolise the more technical branches of music, such as composing,
and playing the flute and string and brass monsters. Go to one of the
fashionable concerts devoted to that poor pale thing, “The Modern
Ballad,” and see if the incongruity presented by six feet of muscular
manhood warbling about stars kissing, and moons flirting, does not jar
your sense of the fitness of things. Listen to the same sentiments
voiced by a woman, however, and you will find the incongruity vanishes,
and mere trash becomes sentiment.[32]

Unfortunately every woman is not blessed with a melodious singing
voice, yet the instinct to sing being in her, she has turned to the
best imitation of the human voice she can find--_i.e._ the violin and
the violoncello. To-day these instruments, and even the viola, count
innumerable votaries, both professional and amateur, among the fair
sex, but who was the first brave lady to “saw the catgut with the
horse’s tail” history does not recount. Where history fails however
myth steps in and supplies us with the information that the invention
of producing musical sounds from a stretched string originated in the
twang of Diana’s hunting bow. Then the beautiful poetess Sappho--whose
name has been handed down to us much besmirched for the reason that she
was in advance of her time--is assigned the honour of inventing the
fiddle-bow mounted with horse hair. St Cecilia--whose name now graces
numberless Musical Societies--is said to have united instrumental with
vocal music in divine worship, about the year 230. Little is known
accurately of this saint, but legendary lore pronounces her to have
been a noble Roman lady who embraced Christianity, and was forced by
her parents into a union with a pagan named Valerian. She eventually
converted both her husband and his brother to her faith, and they all
three suffered martyrdom for their convictions. The passing phase in
her history which relates that she frequently united instrumental music
with that of her voice in praising the Lord, has inspired artists to
paint and mould her in an attitude of praise with the organ and other
musical instruments by her side. Whether she played the viola da
gamba, or indeed any instrument, is a fact now lost in oblivion; in any
case Domenichino has exquisitely represented her in the act of drawing
the bow across a handsome bass-viol in his immortal picture now in
the Louvre Collection in Paris. After St Cecilia a prominent English
lady, who was the daughter of “Old King Cole” of fiddling fame, was a
skilled musician according to Geoffrey of Monmouth. She is apparently a
solitary example of feminine musical talent in England at that date.

The position occupied by woman in the music of mediæval times had
greatly deteriorated from that occupied by St Cecilia, yet she was
still thought worthy of portrayal, and we find a picture of her playing
a viol with four strings on the painted roof of Peterborough Cathedral,
which dates from about the year 1194. Two years later the names of
several lady minstrels or “jongleuresses” figure in the code of laws
which the Corporation of Minstrels presented in 1321 to the “Prefect”
of Paris for signature. Heading the women is “Isabel la Roufelle,” and
after her “Marcel la Chastaine, Liegart, fame Bieuveignant, Marguerite,
la fame au Morne,” etc., and lastly “Adeline, fame de l’Angloise” and
“Isabian la Lorraine.” The significant “fame” (wife) which occurs
several times in the above list helps us to a peep at the life of
the faithful spouse of the jongleur. Decidedly her attainments as a
female jongleur, roaming the country with her husband, were absolutely
opposed to the dictum of Pericles. The lives of these women were hard,
and they were but poorly paid in comparison to their male brethren.
It is on record that the Queen’s male “fiddler” in 1497 was paid “in
rewarde” £1, 6s. 8d. while the two shillings paid by Henry VIII. to
“a woman that singeth with a fiddle” is a pathetic revelation of the
proportionately low value set upon woman’s artistic efforts at that

Among early amateurs of the bass-viol we find Anne of Cleves, who
frequently amused her self by playing on a viol with six strings
after her retirement from the turgid trials of her matrimonial
life. The picture of a lady similarly occupied, which occurs in a
fifteenth-century manuscript entitled “Les Echecs Amoreux,” shows us
that the French ladies were also votaries of the viol at that time. In
truth, the bass-viol was then a very fashionable instrument both in
Europe and England. Shakespeare, who echoed the doings of the day with
unerring exactitude, frequently employs the viol in a synonymous sense
as, for instance, in _Pericles_, where the character that gives the
title addresses his daughter, Antiochus:

  “You’re a fair viol and your sense the strings
  Who, finger’d to make man his lawful music,
  Would draw heaven down.”

Again in _Richard II._ the Duke of Norfolk, upon realising the full
despair of the word “banishment,” bursts forth into the grand speech

  “And now my tongue’s use is to me no more
  Than an unstring’d viol or a harp.”

In _Twelfth Night_ playing the viola da gamba is mentioned as
significant of good character. When Maria calls Sir Andrew Aguecheek a
fool and prodigal, Sir Toby Belch defends him with:

  “Fye, that you’ll say so! he plays o’ the viol di gamboys....”

In a ballad of the time of Charles I., which occurs in Mr Chappelle’s
book, “Music of the Olden Time,” among the lady’s numerous
accomplishments it is recorded that:

  “She sings and she plays
  And she knows all the keys
  Of the viol de gambo, or lute.”

In Mr Pepys’ day, ladies cultivated the viola da gamba with great zest,
and were not frowned upon for doing so, but the woman was bold who
dared to play the violin. Indeed, the antipathy against that instrument
for ladies was still felt at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
Spohr, writing from Gotha in 1806, mentions his beloved Dorette’s skill
as a violinist. But although admiring her aptitude for that instrument
he was averse to seeing his future wife adopt it: “I advised her to
discontinue the practice of that instrument so unbecoming to females,”
he remarks in his most lofty manner. Mr Pepys, under the date 6th June
1661, makes a similar allusion to women playing the violin: “Here came
two young gentlewomen to see Mr Holland, and one of them could play
pretty well on the viallin, but how these ignorant people did cry her
up for it!” Very different is the diarist’s manner of recounting the
performance of a certain Mrs Jaggard on the viola da gamba: “After
dinner I to the office ... but business not coming we broke up, and
I thither again and took my wife ... to visit my Ladys Jemimah and
Paulina Montagu and Mrs Elizabeth Pickering, whom we find at their
father’s new house in Lincoln’s In Fields; but the house all in dirt.
They received us well enough; but I did not endeavour to carry myself
over familiarly with them; and so after a little stay, there coming in
presently after us my Lady Aberguenny and other ladies, we back again
by coach ... and thence to Jaggards again where a very good supper and
great store of plate, and above all after supper Mrs Jaggard did at my
entreaty play on the Vyall, but so well as I did not think any woman
in England could and but few masters. I must confess it did mightily
surprise me, though I knew heretofore that she could play, but little
thought so well.” Mr Pepys himself took keen pleasure in playing the
viol, and prided himself in being the possessor of “as good a theorbo
viall and viallin as is in England.” Mrs Pepys was also permitted by
her lord to play the viol, and a certain Mr Gregory, carefully selected
by Mr Pepys, “he being an able and sober man,” gave her lessons. The
third member of the Pepys’ _ménage_ to play the viol was Mrs Pepys’
maid, the coquettish Mercer, who had as pretty a talent for dancing
a jig which, according to the gallant Mr Pepys, “she does the best I
ever saw,” as playing on that instrument. Professional lady gambists
were apparently few in England in the eminent Diarist’s time, but
in France they already figured in the Musique du Chambre du Roi, as
a Mademoiselle Heléne Sercamann is mentioned among the “Basses de
viole” in 1694. A year later there were three lady “Basses de viole,”
Mademoiselles de Caix l’aîne, de Caix cadette, and de Caix troisième,
with their brother in the same band. The French viola da gamba player,
Sainte Colombe, had two daughters who played with him at concerts at
his house. One of them, says Titon du Tillet, played the viola da gamba
and the other the “dessus” or treble viol, and together with their
father they frequently played trios.

In the eighteenth century the cult of the gamba amongst English ladies
was at its height. It became an indispensable piece of furniture in
every house, and no drawing-room was complete without a viola da gamba
hung upon the wall, and oh! what a godsend it proved when a dull
visitor strained the hostess’s powers of entertainment to their last

It was in this century that Dr Burney in his colossal “History of
Music” says: “This year and the preceding year [1721-22], Mrs
Sarah Ottey frequently performs solos at concerts on three several
instruments: harpsichord, bass-viol, and violin.” Although this little
paragraph has been frequently quoted, no one appears to have cared
to peer deeper into Mrs Ottey’s career. For some reason she has been
allowed to live solely on the reputation of these few lines. Thanks,
however, to the fact that our British Museum owns Dr Burney’s valuable
collection of newspapers, the felicity of digging up a little more
of Mrs Sarah Ottey has been possible to us. Apparently her first
appearance took place on the 9th March 1720, for _The Daily Post_ of
5th March of that year contains the following advertisement:--

    At Stationers’ Hall, near Ludgate, on Wednesday next being the 9th
    of March, will be performed a Consort of Vocal and Instrumental
    Musick by the best Masters. For the benefit of Mrs Sarah Ottey,
    wherein she will perform several Pieces alone on the Harpsichord,
    Bass Viol, and Violin. To begin exactly at Six a Clock. Tickets
    to be had at 5s. each, at Mrs Anderson’s at St James’s-Gate, at
    Rosine’s, White’s, and Williams’s Chocolate Houses, at Mr Hare’s in
    Cornhill, Mrs Ottey’s in Honey-Lane Market, and at the Hall-Door
    the said night.

Her next important appearance took place two years later at the
“Theatre Royal in Lincoln’s Inn Fields,” where she performed on
the three several instruments on the 27th of February 1721. The
entertainment was announced “For the Benefit of Mrs Ottey.” A
year later she is advertised to play at the same theatre, and the
announcement gives the added information that Mrs Ottey’s husband had
something to do with the “Carpenter’s Arms,” and that it is her last
appearance. These quaint old advertisements are always amusing, so we
will not hesitate to give the announcement of the fair gambist’s final
appearance in full.


    At the Theatre Royal, in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, on Tuesday being the
    27th February, will be perform’d a comedy call’d Love makes a man,
    or The Fop’s Fortune, in which will be performed several pieces
    of musick on the bass-viol, harpsichord and violin by Mrs Ottey
    (being the last time of her appearing in publick), with several
    entertainments of dancing.

    Tickets to be had at Mr William’s coffee-house in St James’s
    Street, and at Mr Ottey’s at the Carpenter’s Arms in Honey-Lane

Apparently Mrs Ottey’s career as an _artiste_ extended over but three
years--that is, of course, if we are to believe the announcement that
it was her last appearance in public on the 27th February 1722/3.
In these days such a statement would imply that the said _artist_
or _artiste_ was good for several farewell performances, and a tour
round the world as well. But the subjects of King George I., being far
removed from twentieth-century customs, were perhaps more veracious
in their notifications. Mr and Mrs Ottey having feathered their nest
at the Carpenter’s Arms, where the lady’s talented performances were
a great attraction to the patrons of the tavern, a little stretch of
the imagination may easily see them migrating to a snug little farm in
the country, where their dreams of rose bowers and new milk could be
indulged in freely for the rest of their lives. Whether this was the
true cause of Mrs Ottey’s withdrawal from public life or not, we cannot
say, but certain it is that she kept her word, for there is no trace
of any further concert appearances in London after the 27th February

About fifteen years after Mrs Sarah Ottey’s last bow to a London
audience, a baby, who was destined to become a beautiful and talented
woman, was presented to Thomas Ford by his wife, _née_ Champion. The
auspicious event took place in a house near the Temple, on the 22nd
February 1737, and created the usual stir among the happy couple’s
relations, who moved among the _haute monde_. Thomas Ford himself
was a clerk of the arraigns, one of his brothers was the Queen’s
physician, and the other--Gilbert Ford--occupied a high position as
Governor-General of Jamaica. As niece of two such eminent men, and also
being dowered with a wealth of beauty and talent, Ann--as her parents
christened her--grew up among gentle surroundings, and was received
by, and made a favourite of, the most fashionable society. Long
before she was twenty, she had tasted of the intoxicating delights of
admiration to an extent which would have been sufficient to turn most
young girls’ heads. Hone had painted her in the character of a muse,
the Earl of Chesterfield had extolled her dancing, and many a lordly
_beaux_ had fluttered at her feet. But although she flirted, and played
many a dangerous game with her admirers, Ann Ford was endowed with an
intellect that sought for something else besides the pastime of varied
flirtations. “She is excellent in music, and loves solitude,” wrote one
lord to another about her, “and has unmeasurable affectations.”

Not the least of these so-called “affectations” alluded to by her
adorer, were Ann Ford’s musical gifts, which she developed with all the
powers of her culture-loving mind. Her voice and singing were praised
by the most excellent critics of the day, and by many she was esteemed
to be quite equal to the favourite Mrs Billington as a vocalist. In
one respect, there is no doubt that she surpassed the latter, for
one of Ann Ford’s most admired characteristics was the delightful
manner in which she could accompany her songs on the guitar or viola
da gamba. Like attracts like, and it was only natural, the talents
of this clever lady in due course drew the attention of the best
musicians of the day. She established a sort of musical _salon_ which
was held each Sunday at her house, and to these came Arne, Tenducci,
Rauzzini, Pinto, and a host of musical celebrities and fashionable
dilettanti. Nothing delighted the music-loving hostess more than these
weekly opportunities of welcoming her artist friends, but there was
one sting to be found in her cup of happiness, which took the form of
her truly British parent, Ford _père_. He objected strongly to his
daughter’s public display of her talents, and neglected no opportunity
of showing his disapproval. In spite of his remonstrances, in spite
of his displeasure, his spirited daughter still continued to hold her
_réunions_ each week, and also frequently performed at her friends’

The abrupt ending of a more than ordinary _affaire de coeur_ with
a married man, “a Person of Distinction” brought the climax. Ann
Ford decided to fly in the teeth of her parent’s displeasure. She
would give a series of Subscription Concerts at the Little Theatre
in the Haymarket. In vain did the father forbid the whole thing, and
finally resorting to threats, the daughter flew from the paternal
roof to the house of a friend. Immediately Ford _père_ procured a
magistrate’s warrant wherewith he secured the person of his wayward
child and brought her home. But neither warrants, nor lock and key,
could deter Ann Ford from her purpose, and she managed to elude her
father’s vigilance and escape again. The sensationalism caused by these
incidents brought friends old and new thronging round the distressed
lady. The heart of aristocracy was touched, and the first of Ann
Ford’s series of subscription concerts on the 18th March 1760 furnished
her with £1,500. Still her troubles were not at an end, for her father,
on the night of the concert, employed a number of ruffians to surround
the theatre and these were only dispersed by Lord Sackville’s threats
to send for a detachment of the Guards.

The programme of this first concert was included in the following
advertisement which appeared in _The Public Advertiser_ on the 17th
March 1760:--


    will be to-morrow the 18th instant at the Little Theatre in the
    Haymarket. As the Pit, Boxes, and Gallery are the same Price, the
    latter will be equally illuminated with wax-candles.

    First Part. Overture of Pasquali: Song by Miss Ford, Voi Legete;
    Concerto Hautboy, Mr Simpson; Song, Miss Ford, Gentle Youth, etc.;
    Solo, Miss Ford, on the Viol di Gamba.

    Second Part. Concerto Bassoon, Mr Miller; Song, Miss Ford, Sparge
    Amar; Solo Violin, Mr Pinto, Song, Return O God of Host, Full piece
    of French Horns.

    Tickets at half-a-guinea each, to be had at the Theatre; at Mr
    Deard’s; at Mr Garden’s in St Paul’s Church Yard; and at Mr Walsh’s
    in Catherine-Street. No Persons to be admitted behind the Scenes.

    To begin at Seven o’Clock.

    No more tickets will be delivered than the house will contain.

The second concert took place on the 25th of March, when she is
announced to take the “Vocal Parts” and play “a solo on the Viol di
Gambo” as well as “a Concerto on the Guittar.”

Money being plentiful, the announcement of Ann Ford’s third concert
on the 7th April is more lavishly displayed, the solo on the “Viol
di Gambo” being, in particular, inserted in large type as a special
attraction. For Monday, the 14th April, she requisitioned the services
of three other artists. The programme for this concert appears in _The
Public Advertiser_ of Friday, 11th April 1760, in the following order:--


    will be on _Monday_ the 14th instant, at the Little Theatre in the

    The vocal Parts by Miss Ford, who will play a solo on the



    Non fai qual pena fia. Song. Concerti Traversa by Sen. G. Sweet
    Bird. Song. Solo, Viol di Gambo. Concerto Violoncello, Sen.
    Pasqualini. Hush ye pretty warbling Choir. Song. Solo Violin, Mr
    Pinto. Duetto, Caro Spiegar Voirei.

    Lesson on the Guittar, and (by particular Desire) the 104th Psalm.


    Tickets to be had.........

    To begin at Seven o’Clock.

Her fifth and last concert took place on Tuesday, 22nd April, when,
besides taking the “vocal parts,” she played a solo and accompanied
herself in a song (“Oh! Liberty thou choicest treasure”) on the Viola
di Gambo, also performing “a lesson on the guittar” and singing “a Hymn
set by herself,” which she accompanied on the lute.

These five concerts completed the series announced and for the rest of
that year Ann Ford abstained from further appearances on the concert
platform. During the interval, she occupied herself in addressing a
brilliant little pamphlet to her former lover, which was intended
to contradict the scandalous imputations which were being noised
abroad concerning her friendship with the married man. This letter
was published in 1761, under the title of “A Letter from Miss F..d
to a person of distinction.” The pathetic manner in which she chides
his lordship for his attempt to overthrow her virtue, and her gentle
despair at his sudden unfriendliness towards her, reads more like the
attempt of a clever woman to raise public sympathy on her behalf rather
than genuine dejection. The “person of distinction” whom she addressed
replied to her in a somewhat derisive letter, in which he endeavours
to reveal Miss Ford’s _pique_ to arise from the fact, that he and
his spouse did not support her subscription concerts handsomely. The
publication of such letters certainly did neither party good, though
from the point of view of literary excellence, Ann Ford surpassed her
lordly lover.

Having become entirely dependent on herself through her direct
opposition to her father’s wishes, Ann Ford again made another bid
for public favour at the end of the following year. From the 24th
to the 30th of October she was announced to sing “English airs
accompanying herself on the musical glasses” daily in the large room,
Cock’s Auction-room, Spring Gardens, and before the following year she
published her “Instructions for playing on the Musical Glasses.” This
was before the introduction of the “armonica” by Marianne Davies, so
that the instrument employed by Ann Ford consisted simply of a series
of glasses containing various quantities of water. This sort of art
could have hardly been to her taste, and she very soon threw it up.
In the following month she accompanied her friends, Lady Elizabeth
Thicknesse and her husband, Philip Thicknesse, to Landguard Fort, of
which the latter was Lieutenant-Governor. Shortly after their arrival
Lady Thicknesse gave birth to a son, whom she lived to see only a few
months old, as she died on the 28th March 1762. Circumstances thus
threw the whole care of the child upon Ann Ford, and so devoted and
sympathetic a foster-mother did she prove herself to be that, six
months after his wife’s death, Philip Thicknesse made Ann Ford his
(third) wife.

For some years after this event Ann Thicknesse lived a life of
peaceful happiness, residing in the summer months at Felixstowe
Cottage. This residence was the subject of an enthusiastic article in
“The School of Fashion,” 1800, and Gainsborough’s sketch of it was
published in _The Gentleman’s Magazine_ (vol. ii. 1816). During the
years of her married life, Mrs Thicknesse turned her attention to
literature, and while residing in Bath, from 1778 to 1781, wrote her
sketches of the “Lives and Writings of the Ladies of France,” which
filled three volumes.

In 1792, an abrupt ending to this placid existence was caused by
the sudden death of Philip Thicknesse at Boulogne, where Ann and
her husband had made a temporary halt on their way to Italy. In
spite of the danger entailed by English people in France at that
time, Ann Thicknesse intrepidly remained in that country after her
husband’s death, and paid for her temerity by arrest and confinement
in a convent, where she remained for two years. With the execution
of Robespierre and the liberation of all prisoners who could prove
themselves capable of earning their own living, Ann Thicknesse easily
gained her liberty and returned to England. In 1800 her novel, “The
School of Fashion,” in which she introduced many well-known characters
under fictitious names (she herself figuring under the guise of
Euterpe) appeared.

The latter years of this brilliant woman’s life were spent with a
friend who lived in the Edgware Road, and she died there, at the age of
eighty, on the 20th January 1824. It is given to few to pass through
such an eventful life as Ann Ford’s, and live to such ripe years.
Beautiful, popular, a gifted linguist and musician, all these conspired
to make her a prominent figure among the women of her day. Hone and
Gainsborough painted her portrait, fashionable society raved about
her and read her writings, and--she played upon a favourite viola da
gamba “made in 1612, of exquisite workmanship and mellifluous tone.”

  _By Particular Desire_
  At the little Theatre in the Haymarket.
  This Day, April 23, there will be a Concert of
  The vocal parts by Signor TENDUCCI, Signora CALORI,
  and Signor QUALICI.

    THE Solos by young Performers, who never appeared in Public,
    as a solo of Signor Giardini’s on the Violin by his scholar,
    Master Barron, thirteen years old; a Lesson on the Harpsichord by
    Miss Burney, nine years old; with a Sonata of Signor Giardini’s
    accompanied by a Violin; a Sonata on the Violoncello by Master
    Cervetto, eleven years old; a Duet on the Violin and Violoncello by
    Master Barron and Master Cervetto; a Quartette by Miss Schmeling,
    Master Barron, Master Cervetto and Miss Burney. With several full
    Pieces by a select Band of the best performers.

    The doors to be opened at five o’clock. To begin at seven. Pit and
    Boxes laid together at Half-a-guinea. Gallery, Five shillings.
    Tickets to be had at Arthur’s, St James’s Street; at Mr Walsh’s
    music-shop, Catherine Street; at Mr Johnson’s music-shop,
    Cheapside, and at the Theatre; where Ladies are desired to send
    their servants to keep places.--_Public Advertiser_, 23rd April

  [Illustration:  _Thos. Jenkins, Pinxt._    _Js. McArdell, Fecit._
                                 BENJAMIN HALLET.]


    An Eighteenth-century Violoncello Prodigy

“Children brought up in musical families entertained by the sound
of musical instruments so soon acquire a musical sense as in some
instances to be regarded as prodigies. Mozart began to compose at
the age of five; and in a paper read by Dr Burney before the Royal
Society, it is affirmed that Crotch played the air of ‘Let ambition
fire thy mind’ when only two years old.” Thus does that enthusiastic
musical amateur, Mr William Gardner, half-a-century ago remark on
the environment calculated to produce that overwhelming phenomena of
modern times--the prodigy. So accustomed have modern audiences become
to the appearance of child _virtuosi_ on the concert platform that
the announcement which appeared the other day, of a concert at the
Alexandra Palace where the orchestra would be entirely composed of 1000
girl and boy violinists, did not create any sensation. Certainly the
novelty of the prodigy has somewhat worn off, and for this reason it
is not a little refreshing to look back and see him when his numbers
were less numerous.

In the accompanying illustration, reproduced from an old print in the
possession of Dr William Cummings, we have the dual interest of a
boy under nine years of age who could play both the violoncello and
flute, and affected a certain sensationalism by clothing himself in
petticoats. No biography of this youthful wonder--who was apparently
the _first_ violoncello prodigy--is extant, but by the aid of newspaper
advertisements it has not been difficult to trace some of this
interesting little boy’s youthful career as an artist. In the first
place it may be noticed that the picture is engraved by M‘Ardell,
one of the most celebrated engravers of his day, after the painting
of Thomas Jenkins. The latter was a Devonshire man who studied in
London under Hudson, but eventually gave up painting, and went to
Rome, where he set himself up as a banker and dealer in antiquities.
He was not particularly prosperous in his new undertaking, however,
and his misfortunes came to a climax when the French occupied Rome in
1798, and confiscated all his property. At the foot of the picture is
written “Benjamin Hallet, a child not yet five years old, who, under
the tuition of Mr Oswald, Performed on the Flute at Drury Lane Theatre
An^o 1748, for 50 nights with extraordinary skill and applause, and
the following year was able to play his part in any Concert on the
Violoncello” truly a most accomplished little artist, and worthy pupil
of Mr James Oswald--popular composer, flautist, and music publisher of
the day.

Looking among the advertisements to be found in _The General
Advertiser_ for the year 1748-1749, we came across the following which
occurs frequently in that year and confirms part of the statement on
the picture:--


  Not acted there.

    By His Majesty’s Company of Comedians. At the Theatre Royal in
    Drury Lane this day will be performed the last new comedy called


  Young Belmont by MR GARRICK.

    Sir Charles Raymond, Mr Barry; Faddle, Mr Wodward; Col. Raymond, Mr
    Havard; Sir Roger Belmont, Mr Yates; Villian, Mr Winstone; Rosetta,
    Mrs Pritchard, and

  Fidelia by Mrs Cibber
  With Entertainments, viz.
  Act I. (By Desire) A piece of Music on
  the flute by _the child_.

Again on the 23rd January in the same paper we find _A New Way to pay
Old Debts_ advertised to be performed at the same theatre, and among
the items included in the entertainment section are,

    Act I. A Concerto on the Flute by _The Child_.

    Act II. A Piece of Musick by _The Child_.

The ‘Piece of Musick by the Child’ was evidently a youthful composition
and may be the identical MS. mentioned by Musgrave in his “Obituary.”
Musgrave’s entries meant a great deal to himself, but they are very
puzzling to those not initiated into the secret. Thus the entry
“Benjamin Hallet, MS. (Music)” without date and no indication as to
where it may be found, led us to a good deal of research which proved
quite fruitless.

To be associated with such shining lights as Garrick, Yates, and the
charming Mrs Cibber was an excellent send-off for “the child” and he
was doubtless the recipient of much petting from the men and women
of birth and genius who frequented the theatre. Who little Hallet’s
parents were, we have been unable to discover, the only likely clue
to his father is found at the foot of Benjamin’s “benefit” programme
quoted later. There it is announced that tickets may be had of Mr
Hallet in Exeter Court, near Exeter Exchange, in the Strand, but what
was the exact relationship between this gentleman and the prodigy is
only a matter of conjecture. The London Directory for 1749, gives the
name of “Crowley Hallet, Old Swan Lane, Thames Street,” and that of the
year 1752 announces that “Crowley Hallet was living near Fishmongers’
Hall, Thames Street.” In the year 1754 there was a “Captain John
Hallet, Royal Exchange, Assurance Director, and Ships’ Husband” living
in “Love Lane, Aldermanbury.” Of these two, Crowley Hallet--whose
address presupposes him to have been a tradesman--was more likely to
have been Benjamin’s father, for the advertising genius of the day
was a great stickler for _class distinction_. If a person of genteel
birth appeared--by chance--on the stage or concert platform, they were
invariably announced as a “gentleman,” or “gentlewoman,” or as in the
following advertisement of a seventeenth-century prodigy, in _The
London Gazette_ for 26th November 1694:--“The Consort of Musick in
Charles Street Covent Garden will begin again next Thursday with the
addition of two new voices, _one a young gentlewoman of 12 years of

Had Benjamin Hallet been able to claim a “Captain” for his father, he
would certainly have been accorded the distinction of being a “_young
gentleman not yet nine years of age_.” But surmise is of little use,
for Benjamin’s parents have faded into the land of oblivion and left no
trace of themselves except in their talented offspring.

The next we hear of “the child,” is three years later when he is
announced in _The General Advertiser_ to appear in “The Old Woman’s
Oratory, conducted by Mrs Mary Midnight.” This entertainment was one of
the most humorous and up-to-date amusements of the period. It continued
to exist for many years on and off, and was eventually taken up by
Colley Cibber, whose drolleries gave it a further lease of life. The
names of the original promoters do not appear on the playbills, but the
name of “Mrs Mary Midnight” perhaps but thinly veils the half-crazy
personality of Christopher Smart, the leader and prime spirit of the
choicest wits of the day. Poor Smart was twice confined to Bedlam for
taking the injunction, “pray without ceasing” too literally, but in
spite of his evident madness on this point, he was otherwise sane, and
few could surpass the neat wit and epigram that flowed so freely from
his ready pen. Under the pseudonym of Mary Midnight (a name said to
have been suggested to Smart by some booth at St Bartholomew’s Fair)
he brought out a magazine which he called _The Midwife, or the Old
Woman’s Magazine_ by Mrs Mary Midnight. This purely satirical weekly
was published by good John Newberry whose name Goldsmith epitomised in
the lines:

  “What we say of a thing that has just come in fashion,
  And that which we do with the dead,
  Is the name of the honestest man in the nation,
  What more of a man can be said.”

On the 24th of December 1751, a long list of the attractions to be
found at “The Old Woman’s Oratory,” is given in the front page of _The
General Advertiser_. The entertainment is announced to take place at
“the New Theatre in the Haymarket, and to be conducted by Mrs Mary
Midnight and her family. Being the second time of their appearance
in public.” The first act opened with “A grand piece for the Kettle
Drums and Trumpets,” after which, “Mrs Midnight made her Inauguration
Speech.” The third act consisted of, 1. “Speech of Old Time to the Good
People of Britain. 2. Solo on the violoncello by Cupid” [the God of
Love was impersonated by little Hallet]. “3. A Song by Mrs Midnight. 4.
Another Solo by Cupid. 5. Overture to Alexander. An occasional Prologue
by a Gentleman, and an Epilogue to be spoken by Master Hallet in the
character of Cupid. The doors to be open at Eleven o’clock, in the
morning, and the concert to begin exactly at Twelve.”

The hour at which this entertainment took place was prohibitive to
the city clerk or tradesman, but to the beaux from the neighbouring
coffee-houses, and the _belles dames_ fresh from their lengthy
_toilette_, Mrs Midnight’s entertainment proved vastly amusing. Thus
little Hallet was again amongst the _élite_ of the land.

_The Midwife, or Old Woman’s Magazine_ for 1752, which claims to
contain “all the wit and Humor, and all the Learning, and all the
Judgement that there was ever, or ever will be inserted in all other
Magazines or any other book what-so-ever. So that those who try
this book will read no other. Published pursuant to several Acts of
Parliament, and by the permission of their most Christian and most
Catholic Majesties: The Great Mogul and the States General.... Printed
by Mary Midnight and sold by T. Carman in St Paul’s Church Yard, Price
three Pence,” gives several of the poems and pieces said to have
been spoken at the “Old Woman’s Oratory.” Among these we came across
the following lines, which were assigned to Benjamin Hallet in the
character of Cupid:--


  “From fair Venus on Wing,
  A joyous Embassy I bring,
  Her Majesty this Mandate sends,
  ‘That Virtue now and Love be Friends,
  That Beaux and Belles should cease to roam,
  And every heart should find a Home;
  That their joint labours they bestow
  To make more business for my bow.
  That Men mayn’t fail by lewd Transgression
  But grow immortal by Succession.’
  Now while to the ethereal Sky,
  By Mammy’s Order, swift I fly,
  Let Mary Midnight o’er the Nation
  Reign Queen of Love by Deputation.”

A footnote at the end of these lines states Hallet to be “a child not
nine years old, who plays upon the violoncello, and in every other
respect has a capacity greatly beyond his Years. N.B. He is shortly to
have a benefit, at which ’tis hoped all Mrs Midnight’s Friends will do
him the Honour of their Presence.”

Benefits were far more common in Hallet’s time than they are now. From
the great Garrick down to the scene-shifter, all the _personnelle_
of the Theatres had their “Benefit” in the Autumn. Concerts were
not so numerous, but concert artists also not infrequently adopted
the practice. Contemporary with Hallet Dr Arne’s little son, who
was possessed of a wonderful singing voice, gave benefit concerts
at which he both sang and played the organ. Then again, there was a
sweet singer, Master Mattocks; and a Miss Davies, “a child nine years
old,” who gave a concert in the Great Room in Dean Street, Soho, and
distinguished herself by playing a “concerto of Mr Handel’s on the
Harpsichord”; and a youthful dancer called “The little Swiss,” all of
whom had their benefits. Hallet was not “alone in his glory,” there
were several child prodigies for him to compete with, and one cannot
help admiring him all the more, for a talent that can cope with rivalry
and hold its own, must be of no mean order.

Unfortunately musical journalism did not begin in England until the
beginning of the last century, so there is no possibility of gauging
Hallet’s capacities in this manner, but, doubtless, his benefit concert
met with a large measure of support and success, for the following
programme given in _The General Advertiser_ for 6th February 1752, is
of an attractive character:--

  At the particular desire of Several Persons
  of Quality

  For the Benefit of BENJAMIN HALLET

  A child of Nine Years of Age

  At the New Theatre in the Hay-market

  This day will be exhibited a Grand Concert of


  By Gentlemen mask’d after the Manner of the
  Grecian and Roman Comedy. Boxes 5s. Pit 3s.

  At the same time will be performed


  To be concluded by Mrs Mary Midnight and
  her family.

  To be divided into Three Acts.

  Act the first will contain

    1. A grand Piece with Kettle-Drums and Trumpets. 2. Solo on
    the Violoncello by Cupid. 3. The Inauguration speech by Mrs
    Mary Midnight. 4. Concerto for two Clarinettes. 5. Mr Handel’s
    Waterpiece, with a Preamble on the Kettle-Drums.

  Act the Second

    1. A full piece. 2. A piece by Signor Bombasto. 3. The Speech of
    Mrs Midnight in Defence of her Existence. 4. Solo on the Cymbalo.
    5. Overture in Otho. 6. An Oration on the Salt-Box by a Rationalist.

  Act the Third

    1. An Italian Song by Signor Bombazeno. 2. A new dissertation by
    Mrs Midnight. 3. A French Horn Concerto. 4. A Declamatory Piece on
    the Jew’s Harp by a Casuist. 5. March in Judas Maccabeus, with the

    With a new occasional Prologue written by a gentleman of the
    University and an Epilogue to be spoken by Master Hallet in the
    character of Cupid.

    The Doors to be opened at Six o’clock; and the Concert to begin
    exactly at Seven.

    The House will be made very warm, and illuminated with Wax Lights.

Then follows the same remark about Benjamin Hallet’s capabilities which
we have already quoted from _The Old Woman’s Magazine_, ending with the
announcement that tickets could be had of Mr Hallet, in Exeter Court,
near Exeter Exchange, in the Strand.

It is noticeable that this magnificent affair began at seven o’clock,
an arrangement calculated to admit the _Hoi polloi_, and augment
the managerial receipts, and also that the programme reveals little
Hallet to have been possessed either of a large amount of modesty or
perspicuity, for out of the fifteen or more items there announced
only two were appropriated by himself. It must be remembered that
although such masters as Handel, Buononcini, Arne, etc., had their
numerous admirers among the more cultured musical amateurs, still,
much of the British public were just as pleased with the Jew’s harp,
marrow bones, and salt-box as with an oratorio of Handel’s or an
aria of Arne’s. Benjamin probably realised the preference generally
felt for these instruments, and for this reason put himself and the
graver violoncello in the background at his concert, allowing the
Jew’s harp and other grotesqueries the place of honour. A most amusing
satire--among others--on the general taste for these caricatures of
musical instruments, was written by Bonnell Thornton, whose wit would
have been supreme, but for his contemporary, Kit Smart. With excellent
humour he burlesqued the use of what he termed those “Ancient British
instruments,” in an amusing lampoon entitled “Ode on St Cecilia’s
Day, adapted to the Ancient British Musick: the Salt Box, the Jew’s
Harp, the Marrow Bones, and Cleavers, the Hum Strum or Hurdy Gurdy”
(London, 1762). No one appreciated this sally more than Dr Johnson,
who, it is said, delighted in repeating extracts from it by heart. A
number of Bonnell Thornton’s quaint conceits appeared in his magazine
_Have at you all_, or _The Drury Lane Journal_, which emulated
Fielding’s _Covent Garden Journal_, but was neither so long lived nor
so successful. Under the pseudonym of “Mrs Roxana Termagant,” Bonnell
Thornton pursued his editorial labours, and introduced into its pages
many a burlesque skirmish with his contemporaries’ magazines, _The
Midwife_ and _The Covent Garden Journal_, and in the year 1752 a
witty account of a visit made by “Mrs Mary Midnight” to “Madam Roxana
Termagant” appeared.

Little Hallet was evidently a favoured _protégé_ of all the wits of
the day from his connection with one of the most popular entertainments
then in vogue, and there is little doubt that he proved an attraction,
as his name appears among the performers during the whole of the first
season and again in the following season. On the 10th April 1753 _The
Public Advertiser_ announces a concert:

  For the Benefit of
  At the New Theatre in the Hay-market.
  This Day will be exhibited

    WITH a new occasional Prologue, to be spoken by Master Hallet,
    in the character of Cupid; and an Epilogue by Mrs Midnight on a
    Jack Ass; likewise a new Song called _The Dust Cart_, by Mr Joe,
    accompanied by Sig. Bombasto. To which will be added a Grand
    Dance in the old British Taste, and a hornpipe by the great Mons.

    Boxes 5s. Pit 3s. Gallery 2s.

    Tickets to be had at Mr Johnson’s Musick-shop in Cheapside; Mr
    Peter Thomson’s in St Paul’s Church-yard; Mr Jones’s in Holborn;
    and at Mr Waylett’s in Exeter Exchange in the Strand, and at the

    This will be the last time except one, that Master HALLET will
    perform at this Theatre.

The above was in verity Hallet’s last appearance but one at the
“Old Woman’s Oratory.” He must have been at that time nearly
eleven--possibly more, for the published age of a prodigy is always
of doubtful verity--and was beginning to assume proportions quite
unfitted to the character of Cupid, so the management were compelled
to find a new _protégé_. The last appearance of little Hallet on any
concert platform is to be found in _The Public Advertiser_ for Monday,
12th November 1753, at an entertainment given at “The Five Balls,” New
Church in the Strand.

  For the Benefit of a Gentleman who has
  wrote for the Stage.
  To-morrow, the 13th of November, will be a
  Concert of Vocal and Instrumental


    In Act I. an overture of Mr Handel’s accompanied with French Horns.
    A concerto of Geminani’s on the violin. _God gave great George our
    King_, by Signor Bascado Squeekerini. The act will conclude with
    a grand Piece of Musick. In Act II. a trio on the Viol d’Amore by
    Mr Grosman. A Solo on the little Flute by Master HALLET. _Would
    you take the Moon-tide Air_, by Signor Bascado Squeekerini. A
    Concerto on the French Horn will conclude the Act. Between Act I.
    and II. will be hum’d a HUMEROUS FISK. In Act III. a Concerto on
    the Bassoon by Mr Baumgarten. _The Sweet Rosy Morning peeps over
    the Hills_, etc. by Signor Bascado Squeekerini. The March in Judas
    Maccabeus, accompanied by the Side-Drum, concluded with a Preamble
    on the Kettle-Drums.

This is the last time Benjamin Hallet is advertised to play either the
flute or the violoncello in that year, and many years to follow. As far
as we have been able to discover, this appearance marked the end of the
career of this first violoncello prodigy.

His activity extended only over five years, beginning at Drury Lane
Theatre where he played the flute, and ending with the above concert
where he again reverted to the first instrument of his adoption.


  A Complete
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[1] “History of the Violin,” by Sandys and Forster.

[2] Monteclair first introduced the double-bass into the Paris Opera
orchestra in 1730.

[3] “Memories of Music.”

[4] _Vide_ “Flowers from a Persian Garden,” by W. A. Coulston. London,

[5] Samuel Butler in “Hudibras” says--that brave Crowdero’s

  “Grizzely beard grew long and thick
  From whence he strung his fiddlestick.”

[6] _Vide_ A. Christianowich: “Exquise Historique de la Musique Arabe.”
Cologne, 1883.

[7] “The Troubadours and Courts of Love,” J. F. Rowbottham. London,

[8] “The Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians,” Edward W. Lane.

[9] Persian Treatise on “The Reasons of Modulations in Chants,” by
Abd-ul-cadir, 1418. This MS. is in the University of Leyden.

[10] An interesting and authentic rebec, is to be seen in the Donaldson
Museum, at the Royal College of Music.

[11] “Lettres de Remission,” quoted by Laurent Grillét, “Ancêtres du

[12] This play was first performed at Chambord, 14th October 1670.

[13] There is a fine Kerlino viola included in the Donaldson
Collection, dated 1452. This was shown at the South Kensington Special
Loan Exhibition in 1872. A similar example of the maker’s work, though
not in such a high state of preservation, is in the Musée of the
Conservatoire de Musique in Brussels.

[14] A facsimile representation of this viol and the title-page is
included in Mr Heron Allen’s “De Fidiculis Bibliographia,” and “The
Violin,” No. 5, a monthly, edited by Mr J. M. Fleming.

[15] I lived in the woods, until I was slain by the relentless axe.
Whilst I was alive I was silent, but in death my melody is exquisite.

[16] Reproduced in Von Wasielewski “Die Violoncelle.”

[17] All trace of this composition is apparently lost.

[18] Play the Crwth.

[19] “The Nursery Rhymes of England,” edited by James Orchard Halliwell.

[20] The “Archives Curieuses,” by Cimber et Danjou records the gift of
300 livres to De Bäif by Charles IX., “en consideration des services
qu’il lui a de longtemps faits en sondict état.”

[21] By Cimber et Danjou.

[22] Mr Betts made a copy of “The King,” which is now in the possession
of a lady of title in Scotland.

[23] Contralto-viol.

[24] Low tenor-viol.

[25] High tenor-viol.

[26] Tenor-viol, which later became the tenor violin or viola.

[27] Tailles were tenor and contralto viols.

[28] “The Violin.” Fifth Edition. Bernard Goodwin. Glasgow, 1895.

[29] _Vide_ “Gio. Paolo Maggini,” by Lady Huggins, published by Messrs
Hill & Sons.

[30] These letters have been collected into a neat little volume,
entitled “Readiana,” by Chatto & Windus. London, 1882.

[31] “Das Neu eröffnete Orchestre.” Hamburg, 1713.

[32] Henry C. Lunn, in his “Musings of a Musician” (London, 1846),
admirably describes the way “to make a Fashionable Ballad” in his
“Proposals for a Musical Cookery Book”: “Having procured some words,
pick them to pieces and pare them down to your liking. Then spread them
out upon a sheet of paper, and take a handful of sweet passages (which
all good cooks keep by them in a drawer) and sprinkle them over the
paper. Add as much spice as will lie upon two shillings, and garnish
with any little embellishments you can think of.”

[33] _Daily Courant_ of 17th February 1722/3.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

Transcriber’s note:

    Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

    Archaic or alternate spelling that may have been in use at the time
    of publication has been retained from the original.

    Inconsistent use of diacritical marks has been retained from the

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