Some musings by David about the origins of the instruments.
The Linarol Consort came into existence in order to explore the soundscape of a unique viol. Known by the dry, curatorial “SAM66”, this remarkable instrument, a tenor viol made in Venice in about 1540, is the sole surviving viol of the great Venetian luthier Francesco Linarol (c. 1520 – 1577).
It is now part of the large collection of historical instruments in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, along with other types of instruments by the same maker, and viols by his son, Ventura. Following a visit to the museum in 2001, when I was fortunate enough to be able to handle, closely examine and photograph the instrument, I commissioned a set of copies made by Richard Jones, a maker who has dedicated much of his life to researching and recreating instruments after SAM66. Now approaching his 100th instrument, Richard has built up a depth of understanding for his subject second to none, and his instruments, being faithful copies of the original, have inspired us, and many others, to further investigate the possibilities of these earliest manifestations of the viol.
Although SAM66 is a tenor, we know from 16th century descriptions of what was still a new instrument, that viols were made in a range of sizes: treble, tenor, bass and the large “great-bass”. The Venetian writer, performer and pedagogue, Sylvestro Ganassi, in his two-volume tutor for the viol Regola Rubertina (1542) and Lettione Seconda (1543), describes three sizes: treble, tenor and bass, in a variety of tunings.
The German Hans Gerle in 1532, again gives three sizes, with three tunings which range from Ganassi’s tenor, through his bass and further down to a “great-bass”, tuned a fourth below the tenor. Martin Agricola, writing in Magdeburg in 1528, gives three sizes: treble, tenor and bass, but only his bass has six strings, the higher instruments having only five. Ganassi details comprehensive instructions on how the musicians are to transpose the music to keys that suit the tunings of their viols, depending on what combinations of tunings their consorts use (“Rules”) and on the key signature of each piece (“Orders”). The Linarol Consort will be using Ganassi’s “Rule 3”, in which each size of viol is tuned a fourth above the other, and which he describes as being the most common (Agricola’s consort is tuned in this way too). David Hatcher 2018
Please come and hear us play in both ‘high’ (treble, tenor, tenor, bass) and ‘low’ (tenor, bass, bass, great bass) consorts at Worcester Early Music Festival, St Martin’s in the Cornmarket, Sunday 29th April at 3pm or at St Michael’s Church, Discoed on Thursday 19th April at 7.30pm.