The Viola d’Amore—Yesterday and Today

  • Robert Dolejší
Part of the Da Capo Press Music Reprint Series book series (DACAPO)


Although the viola d’amore was not actually of the consort viol family, as we shall see presently, yet no member of that distinguished stringed group is more deserving of the idealistic title “love viol” than this ethereal, silvery-toned instrument; and none of the viols, after having been thrust into the realm of obsolescence, has sought to rise to the musical surface more persistently. Even though the viola da gamba was the last of the family to disappear completely, reigning supreme among the strings during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when, according to Gerald Hayes, “it attracted players whose technique excelled that of performers on the violin, and refused to be displaced until the advent of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and the string quartet, where its unequal association with the violins and viola finally ostracized it in favor of the solid toned Cello,” it is the viola d’amore that has continued to find favor with various composers during the last one hundred and fifty years. Such champions of its cause as van Waelfelghem and Zoeller revived long-lost and neglected literature during the latter half of the nineteenth century; Meyerbeer, Massenet, Berlioz, Strauss, and Loeffler have been intrigued by its plaintive voice; and today, with sincere interest apparent in France, England, and Germany (witness the enthusiastic works of Casadesus, Dolmetsch, and even Hindemith), we can be assured not only of a genuine revival of all past viol literature but also of the realization of new possibilities for the viola d’amore.


Eighteenth Century Related Chord Stringed Group String Quartet Idealistic Title 
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© The University of Chicago 1939

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  • Robert Dolejší

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