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History Of The Viola

We’ll hear a thousand years of rich, deep music and history. The history of the viola.

Garth Knox on the Medieval Fiddle (Dániel Vass / ECM Records)

Garth Knox on the Medieval Fiddle (Dániel Vass / ECM Records)

In the world of stringed instruments, the humble viola takes some hard knocks.  It’s not the virtuoso’s violin.  Not the soulful cello.  It’s in between.  A little gawky.  Earthy.  Hard to get just right.  “What is the range of a viola?” goes the old joke.  “As far as you can kick it.”

But the viola hangs in.  The “middle voice.”  It was there in medieval days, with praise and visions.  Dance.  And it’s there now, with a new sound.

This hour, On Point:  A thousand years of the earthy “middle voice” – the viola.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Garth Knox, a prize-winning violist and composer. His new collection of works is: “Salterello.”

From Tom’s Reading List

Guardian “The viola is emerging from the shadows: Garth Knox’s utterly original recital combines its dusky tones in new music – by Kaija Saariaho (with electronics) and Knox himself (a flash of moody Piazzolla) – with music for the larger viola d’amore and medieval fiddle.”

NPR “A lot of babies were thrown out with the bath water,” he says in an interview with All Things Considered host Robert Siegel. “And I thought the viola d’amore was a particularly big baby that had been thrown away by mistake. I and others are trying to bring it back and show just how beautiful it can be.”

VIOLA JOKES: How do you keep your violin from getting stolen? Put it in a viola case. Check out more viola jokes here and post your favorites in the comments section here.

Video

Viola Spaces no 6 – Harmonic horizon – Garth Knox

Video

Kaija Saariaho’s “Vent nocturne,” for viola and electronics – performed by Garth Knox

Playlist

Salterello #1 (14th Century Traditional)
Viola Spaces Movement #4, “Rapid Repeat” (2009 Garth Knox)
Ave, generosa (12th Century Hildegard von Bingen)
Pipe, Harp, and Fiddle (Traditional)
Music for a While (1692 Henry Purcell)
Concerto for viola d’amore in D minor, #1 (18th Century Antonio Vivaldi)
Black Brittany (early 19th Century Traditional)
Flow my Tears (16th Cenutry John Dowland)
Viola Spaces, #8 “Up, Down, Sideways, Round” (2009 Garth Knox)
Vent nocturne #2 (2007 Kaija Saariaho)
Fuga libre (2009 Garth Knox)
Salterello #2 (14th Century Traditional)

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