Thursday, October 16, 2014

Violoncello piccolo & alto violin

A "violoncello piccolo" is a form of violoncello, akin to the cello da spalla (also called viola da spalla).

"A whiny beginning of the [Bach] 6th [cello] suite’s Praeludium (notably less securely played than what came before and after – where there were only a handful of squeaks and slips present) betrayed a few problems, not the least of which might have been the uncomfortably high register in which the suite lies for the cello, an instrument it was not written for. Most cellists use a smaller cello with an additional E string for the performance, which is akin to the baroque violoncello piccolo that these pieces were probably written for."


"Yo-Yo Ma, The New York Album...Release date: September 20, 1994...

"Béla Bartók (1861-1945) Concerto for Viola and Orchestra, Op. posthumous...

"Perhaps in Bartók's mind the draft of the Viola Concerto truly was complete. Nevertheless, the posthumous task of deciphering, arranging, filling out and orchestrating the thirteen extant pages of sketches proved to be [a] formidable one. At the [Bartók] family's request it was undertaken by Tibor Serly (1901-1978), the Hungarian-American composer and violist...

"Serly actually prepared a cello arrangement of the concerto simultaneously with the "original" viola version...Yo-Yo Ma originally intended to perform (and record) this cello version...but he was dissatisfied with the registral displacement and discovered that he could play the solo at its original pitch on the alto violin (or vertical viola), a large "viola" fitted with a long endpin and held like a cello. This instrument, part of a set of eight "violin analogues" designed and made by Carleen Hutchins at the suggestion of composer Henry Brant, is intended to carry the tonal characteristics, projection, and balance of the violin sound into the viola range."

— from the album's original liner notes—on p. 205 of


Copyright (c) 2014, 2015 Mark D. Blackwell.

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