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About seventy-five percent of early 18th century viola d'amore music is written in a form of notation called scordatura, which means, literally, 'mistuning'. A viola d'amore manuscript in scordatura tells the violinist how to tune his viola d'amore and where to put his fingers, but not what note to expect. This repertoire is all in the tessitura of the violin. The other 25% of early 18th century repertoire approached tuning and notating music for the viola d'amore in a way that held promise of being useful for all keys. The Darmstadt circle of composers, including Graupner, Locatelli, Suess, Telemann and others, preferred tuning their d'amore in fourths, in a lower, alto, tessitura. Since the late 18th century, most of the music written for the viola d'amore calls for an instrument with seven playing and seven sympathetic strings, tuned in a D major chord, A d a d' f#' a' d''.

After the turn of the 19th century, the d'amore was less used. In 1838 Gustav Schilling wrote in the Enzyklopadie der ges. Musik Wissenschaft: 'Previously, the instrument was the favorite of the cultured and scarcely any small musical gathering arose in which the Viola d'amore was missing. At present, when everything is more pretentious and noisy, it has almost entirely disappeared.'

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Copyright © 11 January 2001 Thomas Georgi, Toronto,Canada





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