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Swedish fiddles with sympathetic strings

Viola d'amore

According to the swedish instrument collector and hobby scientist Daniel Fryklund a Viola d'amore is an alto viola da braccio with five to seven melody strings and usually the equal amount of sympathetic strings. The instrument is a transitional form between Viols and the instruments in the violin family. Some features that are inherited from the Viols are:

  • Flat back
  • The shape of the body
  • Sound holes that are in the shape of a flash or a snake and sometimes even a circular ornamented hole carved like a rose
  • A human head instead of a regular scroll

The biggest difference between the Viola d'amore and the Viols is that the latter is held similar to the cello (in the lap) while the first is held as a violin. Viols are also freted while the viola d'amore is usually not (even though there are examples). The oldest Viola d'amores are from the late 17:th century but it reached its popularity peak during the 18:th century. There are quite a lot of classical music composed for the Viola d'amore, for instance by such composers as Bach, Telemann, Vivaldi and Leopold Mozart (Wolfgang Amadeus father). The instrument was tuned in a way which suited the tune, so called scordatura. Viola d'amore was however not only used in fashionable contexts. Fryklund writes that it was widely used during the 18:th century, even by amateurs and women (a fact which doesn't seem strange at all today but maybe was in the first part of the 20:th century) but the popularity decreased during the 19:th century. The viola d'amore had a renaissance during the late 19:th century but was never as popular as 100 years earlier. In the last decades enthusiasts have discovered the instrument, both folk musicians and classical violinists. Scordatura has always been common in many folk music traditions but is never used in classical music except by these viola d'amore players

If you have information about fiddles with sympathetic strings that you like to share with me please email info [at] resoneramera [dot] se

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