History and development of the viola d'amore
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date31/12/2100
The viola d’amore is a small bowed instrument that was in use predominantly from the second half of the seventeenth century to the end of the eighteenth. Initially, the name viola d’amore referred to a treble viol strung with wire strings, but it underwent a transformation c.1700 with the addition of sympathetic strings, with the bowed strings changing from wire to gut. The history of the viola d’amore centres on German-speaking regions of Europe, with the cultivation of the sympathetic strings stemming from Austria. While originally reserved for the wealthiest classes, evidence suggests that the viola d’amore became a widely used instrument due to the number of extant instruments in collections today. Due to the viola d’amore existing in two forms, the historical and organological context of the instrument is of paramount importance. Thus, this thesis addresses not only the viola d’amore in both its forms, but also its predecessors, the baryton and the englische violet, charting their development and ultimate influence on the invention of the viola d’amore with sympathetic strings. The suggested line of evolution is supported by measurements and observations of construction of the individual instruments, as well as physical examinations of extant specimens, and is considered in light of relevant iconography, music scores, newspaper advertisements and literary references. The research has led to the redrawing of parameters for each instrument, clearly defining the instruments’ functions and notable attributes. This thesis is the first complete organological study of the viola d’amore and other bowed instruments with additional wire strings. It presents a comprehensive review of the associated literature for each instrument concerned, as well as measurements and organological observations, with particular emphasis on design and construction. Additionally, it also considers the development of wire-strung instruments in England, briefly including: native music wire-drawing; the existence of other instruments with the name ‘d’amore’ and its variations; and lesser considered instruments with sympathetic strings such as the hardanger fiddle and trumpet marine. Finally, the conclusion is drawn that the viola d’amore with sympathetic strings may be considered as the epitome of Baroque instrumental design.