Groß Geigen, Vyolen, Rybeben - Large-size String Instruments in North-Alpine Sources around 1500

Study session of Schola Cantorum Basiliensis – University of Early Music (SCB) in cooperation with the Musicmuseum Basel, 5.-6. June 2015


Martina Papiro (SCB – FHNW):

The “Gross Geige” in Art on the Upper Rhine (Graf, Grünewald, Holbein the Younger)

Since the depiction of a “Gross Geige” in Virdung’s Musica getutscht (Basel 1511), larger string instruments appear in the works of the most famous Upper-Rhine painters. Yet each artist integrates the instruments in a different manner in the various media and genres. How is the viola da gamba embedded in the context of each image? What insights can be gained concerning their cultural context?

Sabine Söll-Tauchert (Historical Museum Basel):

The Motif of the Viola da Gamba in the Works of Hans Baldung Grien (1484/85–1545)

From among the musical instruments of his time, the Upper-Rhine artist Hans Baldung Grien took a particularly close look at the viola da gamba and included it in various pictorial compositions. The present paper examines the various depictions of this instrument which the son of a family of scholars created over a period of some thirty years. Baldung featured this instrument, practically as a signifier, in connection with nudes.

Nicole Schwindt (State College of Music Trossingen):

Informal Musical Practice at the Court of Maximilian

Maximilian was a master strategist. He understood how to use the media to spread his political and cultural ideas so that even today we use their products – above all the pictures of the Triumphzug (“Triumphal Procession”) and the stories of the Weisskunig (“The White King”) – as particularly vivid and informative sources. But what about music in everyday life in the environment of the court society and the servants? A look at documentary evidence that does not have to do with representation and construction (letters, reports from emissaries, payment instructions), as well as at musical sources intended for daily use may make it possible to define the scope of the informal musical practice. It is also here that the place for instruments of the violin family is to be assumed.

Martin Kirnbauer (SCB – FHNW/Music Museum HMB):

„von saidtenspil gar mancherley“ – Rybeben at the Court of Maximilian

Almost simultaneously with the “Groß Geigen” mentioned for the first time in 1511 in Sebastian Virdung’s Mvsica getvtscht, larger string instruments with “da gamba” playing positions were also found under the name “Rybeben” at the court of King Maximilian of Austria (1459–1519). However, their pictorial representation in the Triumphzug, a cycle of pictures for the glorification of Maximilian’s reign planned starting in 1512 and preserved in several versions, are unfortunately supplemented only by a very few archival documents that allow reliable statements about their musical use.

Thilo Hirsch (SCB – FHNW/ensemble arcimboldo):

Gross Geigen & Rybeben - North-Alpine “Viola da gamba” Ensembles in the Early 16th Century

A critical examination of the early written sources of the “Groß Geigen” (Virdung, Agricola, Gerle) in connection with selected iconographical evidence and an identifiable repertoire form the basis for the reconstruction of different variants of viol da gamba ensembles between 1500 and 1550.

William E. Hettrick (Hofstra University, NY):

„Eine schöne art von dreierley geigen“: String Instruments in Martin Agricola’s Musica instrumentalis deudsch  (1529 and 1545)

Martinus Agricola (Martinus Sore, ca. 1486–1556), cantor and church musician in Magdeburg, is known today largely due to his musical treatises; two different editions of his Musica instrumentalis deudsch were issued by the Wittenberg publisher Georg Rhau (1529 and 1545). Among many other instruments, the first edition dealt with three kinds of “Geigen” by means of descriptions, woodcuts, and tuning schemes that also show the number of strings and the presence (or absence) of frets (two of these kinds correspond to the viola da gamba, while the third belongs to the history of the violin). Agricola also included a “fourth kind of string instrument,” depicted as a rebec. His second edition likewise offers three kinds of “Geigen” (the “welschen” [Italian], “polisschen” [Polish], and a small “handgeiglein”), and also describes certain details of performance practice.

Thomas Röder (Würzburg University):

Hans Gerle and Nürnberg

The lute maker Hans Gerle was active during Nuremberg’s heyday. In his Musica Teutsch, which was published in 1532, he obviously picked up on themes from contemporary specialist literature. Moreover, in the repertoire of his publications, a reference to the musical publishing business in the imperial city can be ascertained. To what extent the inclusion of the “Geygen” in his treatise took place before a factual background can still not be assessed with certainty.

Herbert Myers (Stanford University, CA):

The Rise of the "Family“ Principle of Instrument Building

Instrument historians have generally regarded the sixteenth century as the heyday of the „consort“ ideal. But there are many indications the concept had its roots in the fifteenth century and perhaps even earlier, although the evidence is far from being clear-cut. This presentation, illustrated with iconographic examples, will focus on these roots, particularly as they affect recorders, douçaines, and shawms. The contrapuntal skills of the professional instrumentalist of the fifteenth century are of particular relevance to this symposium, since they would have had a direct bearing on the nature of the string families in development at the close of the century.

Johannes Menke (SCB – FHNW):

Vocal – instrumental? Concepts of Counterpoint in the 16th Century

Today, the compositional technique of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries is still considered the high art of vocal polyphony – in contrast to the rather instrumental polyphony of Bach’s time. In my paper, I would like to consider the question of whether the counterpoint in the theoretical writings of the time was primarily thought of as vocal or not. The focus here is largely on the examples without text. On the basis of further examples from the repertoire of the time, I will discuss whether and in what sense there is a difference between vocal and instrumental counterpoint.

Marc Lewon (Oxford University/SCB – FHNW):

Auf die grossen Geygen / auch Lautten. Different Strategies for the Instrumental Appropriation of Vocal Music

As is well known, the so-called “German” lute tablature was not only used as notation for lute arrangements, but also for early viols or “gross Geigen” whose strings were tuned in the same manner. It is therefore not surprising that both families of instruments are always named in one breath in the “German” music treatises of Sebastian Virdung (Musica getutscht, Basel, 1511), Martin Agricola (Musica instrumentalis deudsch, Wittenberg, 1529), and Hans Gerle (Musica Teusch auf die Instrument, Nuremberg, 1532), and their corresponding tablatures discussed immediately adjacent to one another. In spite of all adaptability, the polyphonic practice of the professional player’s “cantar all viola,” as a parallel to the soloistic lute, does not find an equivalent in these northern sources: here, the music is always transcribed for a viol ensemble – presumably with regard for and in view of the level of the print’s affluent target audience.





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