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18 December 2010

The technique of playing on violoncello da spalla and what "da spalla" stands for

Violoncello da spalla stands for a shoulder-violoncello. Shoulder-violoncello does not necessarily stand for an all together another violoncello except that it must have been almost invariably smaller than the modern violoncello. To mention just two out of many sources, Hawkins in the end of the 18th century noted that what was called violoncello in his time was called violone in the first half of the 18th century. This evidence, apart from other evidence mentioned in my Galpin SJ article, suggests that baroque violoncello was smaller than the modern violoncello. While the matters are a lot  more complex than that (meaning the history of the violone) there is a great deal of truth in Hawkins' words. My article also mentions a small number of violoncello drawings attributed to A.Stradivari and signed as models for violoncellos, presumably, by Stradivari's own hand. It would be a valuable study to investigate the authenticity of the hand-writing and that of the ink and paper. To my knowledge there was no such a study undertaken so far. However even their authenticity would not eliminate the da spalla phase and its importance in the history of the baroque violoncello. More theoretical info can be found in D.Badiarov in the Galpin SJ, G.Barnett in AMIS, M.Vanscheeuwijck in Early Music, L.Smit and others. The sound and information on playing technique can be found in the videos below.

It would be necessary to mention that my playing technique is not the only solution but just one of many. Several violoncello da spalla pioneers such as Sigiswald Kuijken, Samantha Montgomery, Ryo Terakado, Francois Fernandez,  Carlos Albuisech, Diana Roche, Jesenka Balic Zunic, Makoto Akatsu and others all have a slightly different playing technique though it invariably comes to supporting the instrument with a belt against the right shoulder.

(recorded a few years ago in Mexico)

(Excerpts from a few CDs recorded with Bach Collegium Japan)

Bach Cello Suites are also available on a CD shown on this blog as well as on my website. This CD was prepared during the spare moments of "free-time" after full-time days of violin and bow-making at Badiarov Violins. 

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