Viola

Brief description


  • Name: Viola
  • Spelling
    • German: Viola
    • French, italian: viola
  • Classification: Chordophone, necked lute, stringed instrument
  • Head: Scroll, pegbox, 4 side-mounted pegs
  • Neck: Top nut, fretless fingerboard
  • Body: Length: approx. 39-42 cm, box form. Belly with F-shaped sound holes, back, ribs.
  • Strings: Length of the vibrating strings: approx. 37-38.9 cm, 4 strings, tuned to intervals of a fifth: C3, G3, D4, A4. Material: gut, silver or aluminum-wound, often steel.
  • Bow: Length: 74 cm; rod, point, adjustable frog
  • Mute: Comb-shaped device made of metal or maple which damps the vibration of the bridge.

It is constructed using the same components as the violin, the only difference being the larger size. Its stately and dark timbre contrasts sharply with that of the violin and makes the viola perfectly suited as the violin family's middle voice.

Its bow is a little heavier than the violin bow and the horsehair a little broader.

The characteristic sound of the viola is a result of the following factors: The viola is tuned to a fifth lower than the violin (C3 = 4th string, G3 = 3rd string, D4 = 2nd string, A4 = 1st string). This means that the frequencies of the two instruments are in a ratio of 2:3. If this ratio were applied to the actual size of the instruments the viola's body would have to be 12 cm longer (i.e. around 54 cm) than it actually is (around 42 cm). In other words, the viola is too small in proportion to its tuning and this is the reason for its distinctive timbre. The ratio of the natural resonance of the body to the tuning is different on the two instruments: on the violin the natural resonance is about six half notes above the lowest note, on the viola eleven half notes.

20th century composers helped the viola to escape from the shadow of the brighter-sounding violin by writing solo works for it.

History

The desire for a “dark” timbre

The history of the viola is closely linked to the development of the other instruments in the violin family, which were first made in northern Italy between 1530 and 1550. It may be assumed that the alto, tenor and bass versions emerged soon after the soprano instrument. Illustrious names such as Andrea and Nicola Amati, Gasparo da Salò, Andrea Guarnieri and Antonio Stradivari were already associated with cities such as Milan, Brescia, Cremona and Venice at this time.

The names of all stringed instruments are derived from the term “viola”; in the 16th and 17th centuries it described two families of stringed instruments, the viola da braccio and the viola da gamba. The appellations da braccio and da gamba have two meanings; on the one hand they describe the playing position. Da braccio is Italian for “played on the arm” and refers to the horizontal playing position. Da gamba means “played at the leg” and refers to the vertical playing position.

On the other hand they also describe the two instruments' characteristic construction: The viola da braccio, the forerunner of the instruments of the violin family, had low ribs, a rounded back, F-shaped sound holes, a fretless fingerboard, a neck raised from the body with a scroll and four strings across a curved bridge, which meant that they could be bowed individually. The viola da gamba had high ribs, a vaulted belly, a flat back and C or F-shaped sound holes. The body extended upwards toward the neck, the fingerboard had seven frets and the five to seven strings lay across a rather flat bridge which meant that the bow could play more than two adjacent strings at once.

In terms of construction and sound the violoncello also belongs to the violin family but is played da gamba.

The splitting of the middle register

In the 16th century it was customary for alto and tenor instruments to be made in different sizes but with exactly the same tuning. The alto and tenor versions of the viola were generally tuned as follows: C3, G3, D4, A4, in other words, the same tuning as the modern viola. This tuning was a fifth lower than the soprano tuning (G3, D4, A4, E5) and two fifths higher than the bass tuning (Bb1, F2, C3, G3). Because the alto and tenor tunings were so far apart from the bass tuning, larger instruments in the true tenor tuning (F2, C3, G3, D4) began to be made. Tenor violas in the “alto tuning” remained in use, however.

In 16th and 17th century France five-part string ensembles were the norm. The middle register was played by three violas in the same tuning but of various sizes (cinquième, haute-contre, taille). The court string ensemble called the 24 “violins du roi” laid the foundation for the five-part string orchestra.

There were, therefore, three types of instrument: the alto violas in the alto tuning, whose body (40-42 cm) corresponded to that of today's standard; the tenor violas, 42-45 cm long, with a relatively short neck and in the same tuning; and the “genuine” tenor instruments tuned to F. The overlapping in the middle register was one of the most distinctive features of the string orchestra of that time and led to a reallocation of tasks in the period that followed.

The seven-stringed lira da braccio was used to accompany vocal performances in the 16th century. It had a flat body and a flat bridge.

Roles are clearly defined

The 17th century saw a shift in the requirements made of stringed instruments. The growing popularity of baroque opera also had consequences for the development of the orchestra: The need to project the splendor of baroque music and fill large rooms with it meant that the powerful and brilliant da braccio violins finally gained predominance over the softer and more mellow-sounding da gambas.

The composition of the string ensemble also changed, abandoning the five-part ensemble in favor of the four-part with two violins, an alto viola and a violoncello as bass. This development, which was completed in around 1750, signaled the death-knell of the tenor viola, which, although full-sounding, was not particularly agile. From the middle of the 18th century the violoncello, which was actually the violin family's bass instrument, emerged to take on the role of playing the lower middle (tenor) register. The thumb position enabled the cello to rise high into the tenor (and even alto) range and bridge the gap left by the tenor viola. This new allocation of roles in the middle register contained the area of overlapping which has remained obligatory to this day.

The first instructional works for the viola began to appear in around 1780 and were written for experienced violinists, which demonstrates the great similarity of the two instruments' playing techniques.

Modernization around 1800

Because music was now being performed more often in concert halls, and also because François Tourte (1747-1835) had strengthened the bow, a succession of changes to the construction of the instruments in the violin family, including the viola, were made at the turn of the 19th century. The strings were made heavier and their tension increased to improve projection; the neck was set at a slight backward angle to the body and was now longer, retaining the same circumference along its whole length to make it easier for the left hand to slide up and down to different positions. At the same time the body, bridge and bass bar were reinforced.

Absolute equality

It was not until the end of the 19th century that the viola gained the same status as the violin. The great difficulty was to find the perfect balance between size and ease of playing, as is shown by several attempts to improve the instrument's construction which led to the development of various different types of viola in the first half of the 20th century. Smaller instruments are easier to play, but their sound is too soft; larger instruments produce the desired volume but are harder to play. In 1875 Hermann Ritter made a so-called viola alta which had a body 48 cm long. Although Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss appreciated its powerful sound and made use of it in the orchestra, it presented the musicians with considerable difficulties - which were even detrimental to their health. In the 1930s the Englishman Lionel Tertis made a model with a 43 cm long body, which successfully combined size (= volume) and ease of playing. Its full, deep and warm sound was impressive. As a rule larger instruments (approx. 43 cm) are used by professional musicians, while smaller models (approx. 40 cm) are intended for amateurs.

Notation

The viola is a non-transposing instrument notated in alto clef, and in treble clef from the second octave above middle C.

The viola's range lies mainly between C3 and G5, that is, within the alto clef's domain. To avoid excessive use of ledger lines both alto and treble clef are used, although a change of clef only occurs where it is justified by the length of the passage. If the clefs are changed too often the score becomes hard to read. Alto clef has middle C on the middle line of the staff.

Notation for viola contains the same distinctive features as violin notation. These refer to the fingering and bowing techniques.

Bowing notation (right hand)

As a rule many bowstrokes which come under staccato are not notated but played in the appropriate manner by the violinist. If the composer desires a particular kind of bowstroke he writes it into the score.

Melodic phrases which are to be played with a single stroke are linked by a phrasing slur. The change of bowing can occur on a single note.

Détaché / Detached
Non-legato technique, strokes alternately up and down without the bow being lifted from the string.

  1. Détaché or detached is often written explicitly into the score.
  2. Strong détaché is indicated by a dot above the note.
  3. The strongest détaché consists solely of downstrokes. The bow is lifted from the string after every stroke.

Martelé
Hammered stroke (in Italian martellato = hammered).
Every stroke, whether up or down, is ended abruptly, the bow remaining on the string.

Sul tasto and sul ponticello
Because of the effect it has on timbre the place where the bow should make contact with the string is often written into the score. Sulla tastiera (or sul tasto, sur la touche meaning on the fingerboard, sul ponticello on the bridge.
Most playing techniques are possible both sul ponticello and sulla tastiera.

Col legno (with the wood, French: avec le bois)
Hitting or bowing the string with the wood of the bow. The first technique produces a hammer effect and is used for repeated figures. The latter sounds cracked, rough and dry and is of indeterminate pitch.

Pizzicato
Plucked.

Changing from pizzicato to arco
The change from bowed (arco) to plucked (pizzicato) and back is always written in full. (The part is to played pizzicato until arco is written).

“Bartók pizzicato” (“snap” pizzicato) The string is lifted with two fingers of the right hand so that it snaps back onto the fingerboard when let go. This produces a very resounding sound which is used for percussive effects. Notation: a circle with a tail pointing either upward or downward above each note.

Measured bowed tremolo
The repetition of a note with no accent or rhythm by means of very fast up and downstrokes at the point. The impression given is of a “trembling” sound, which is used especially for dramatic effect and tonal intensification. Double stops can also be played tremolo. The bow tremolo is usually measured, i.e. the number of strokes corresponds exactly to the notated division of the whole note value which determines the length of the tremolo. This kind of tremolo must be played in absolute synchronization by all the violinists. Freely playable tremolo also exists.
Tremolos have been part of the strings' standard repertoire of effects since the beginning of the 19th century.

Unmeasured bowed tremolo

Behind the bridge
The string is bowed between the bridge and the string tuner.
An X is written on the staff at the pitch levels corresponding to the open strings which are to be played. The pitch heard is indeterminate, the different strings produce various pitches.

Notation for fingering (left hand)

Natural harmonic
There are three types of notation:

  • Pitch notation:
    A note with a small circle above it indicates where the string were to be fingered if the “normal” note were being played. It is in this way that the fingering is notated that corresponds to the actual harmonic sounded. It is left to the musician's discretion which node he or she chooses. (Harmonics can be fingered at any one of their nodes.) The string is often indicated under the note too (e.g., sul G).

  • Finger notation:
    One of the possible fingerings (vibration nodes) is represented by a note in the form of a diamond. The fingering given is always the one that is easiest to perform (i.e. is nearest the nut). The sounding pitch of the harmonic cannot be ascertained from this notation.

  • Fingering and pitch
    Some composers add the sounding pitch in brackets above the finger notation.

Artificial harmonics
The finger that firmly presses the string is notated as a pitch with the desired note value. The finger that lies lightly on the string - generally a fourth above the stopping finger - is notated as an empty, “white” diamond, that is, they always look like whole notes, regardless of the real note value.

Portamento
An audible slide of the finger along the string with accompanying change of position. The effect is of two notes being joined together in a suggestion of a glissando.

Con sordino
Con sordino (with mute) calls for the use of the mute, which is not to be removed until instructed to do so by the term senza sordino.

Triple and quadruple stops
Triple stops (three-part chords) and quadruple stops (four-part chords) are notated as chords and played as arpeggiated chords (each note in quick succession, from the lowest to the highest note). When playing four-part chords, the two lowest notes are played first, then the two highest.

Pizzicato
Pizzicato with the left hand is indicated by a + above the note. Alban Berg: Violin Concerto.

Finger tremolo
Two notes are played as a tremolo on the same string as follows: the finger in the lower position fingers the string and keeps it pressed down while the other finger quickly and repeatedly stops and releases a higher note. In contrast to the bow tremolo, when rapid up and downstrokes produce the tremolo effect, bowing here is smooth and even over the string. The result is a kind of trill.

Su una corda
The instruction to play a cantilena on a particular string (e.g., sul G). Su una corda means “on one string”.

Range

Range of the viola: C3 - A6 (harmonic E7).

  • C string (C3-D4)
  • G string (G3-A4)
  • D string (D4-E5)
  • A string (A4-E6, A6)

Sound production

Sound is produced by moving the bow over the string or by plucking it with the right hand. Pitch alterations are achieved by pressing down the string with the fingertips of the left hand on the fingerboard. This shortens the vibrating portion of the string and raises the pitch.

Fingering

Change of string and change of position

Four strings with an interval of a fifth are available: C3 (4th string), G3 (3rd string), D4 (2nd string), A4 (1st string).

During playing the left hand plays in various positions.

In 1st position the hand is at the uppermost end of the fingerboard in front of the top nut. No strings are fingered, since 1st position includes open strings.

In the 2nd position the forefinger is a diatonic degree nearer the bridge, i.e. a whole tone higher. By climbing one diatonic degree at a time toward the bridge the musician reaches the next position. 8th position is an octave higher than 1st .

Lower positions are much easier to play than higher ones. In each position each finger (the forefinger is the 1st, the middle finger the 2nd, the ring finger the 3rd and the little finger the 4th) covers one diatonic degree, that means that a partial scale of a fourth is playable on each string. Chromatic notes (raising or lowering the diatonic degree concerned) are played by the finger responsible for the corresponding diatonic degree.

An example of the same note played on two strings - with the effect of reinforcing the sound:

A few examples for double stops:

Note

The fingering and bowing of the viola is the same as on the violin, albeit with a few restrictions:

  1. The fingers must spread further due to the instrument's larger proportions.
  2. Because its soundbox is bigger the viola cannot reach such high positions as the violin. Generally speaking the 5th position is the highest reached on the three bottom strings (C, G, and D strings), while the 8th position (or in extreme circumstances the 11th) is the maximum on the top string (A). Prolonged playing in high positions is difficult because it is relatively hard for the left hand to reach the part of the fingerboard above the soundbox.
  3. The same double and multiple stops are playable on the viola as on the violin. These are a fifth lower, in keeping with the instrument's tuning. Double stops that require a wide spread (up to the octave) should be avoided. Quadruple stops in high positions are particularly difficult and are not called for in orchestra literature.

Playing Techniques (left hand)

General

All techniques that can be used on the violin can also be used on the viola. There are, however, some restrictions.

Double stops that require a wide spread and prolonged playing in high positions should be avoided. Passages and cantabile lines can be performed well in the middle and low registers - the viola's most characteristic range - and sound richest here.

Double stops

The same double and multiple stops are playable on the viola as on the violin. These are a fifth lower, in keeping with the instrument's tuning.

Two-part fingering on adjacent strings. The easiest double stops are those with an open string (all intervals are possible, including very wide ones). On the viola double stops up to the octave are used. The fingering of larger intervals such as fifths and sixths is easier than that of thirds and fourths.

Triple stops

Three-part fingering. The easiest triple stops are those with three or two open strings. Triple stops containing one open string are relatively easy; in terms of intervals the same criteria apply as to double stops. Triple stops with three fingered strings are difficult to play.

The curvature of the bridge and the tension of modern bows mean that it is not possible to sound more than two strings at the same time. For this reason triple and quadruple stops, which are notated as three of four-part chords, are played as arpeggiated chords.

Quadruple stops

Four-part fingering. The more open strings and the fewer different positions are involved, the easier it is to play quadruple stops. Quadruple stops in high positions are particularly difficult and are not called for in orchestra literature. They are played as arpeggiated chords.

Finger tremolo

Two notes are played as a tremolo on the same string as follows: the finger in the lower position fingers the string and keeps it pressed down while the other finger quickly and repeatedly stops and releases a higher note. In contrast to the bow tremolo, when rapid up and downstrokes produce the tremolo effect, bowing here is smooth and even over the string. The result is a kind of trill, which is usually played freely, i.e. the number of notes is not governed by the notated metric division of the note value; the notes should simply be played as quickly as possible. The most common interval is a third, although tremolos up to a fourth can be played.

Natural harmonics

(sons harmoniques, voci armoniche)

A harmonic played on an open string. A finger touches the string very lightly at one of its nodes. Nodes are those places on the string at which its partial vibrations develop. As a result the entire string, and not just the fingered part, vibrates along several equal lengths. A partial sounds instead of the fundamental. Natural harmonics up to the fifth partial are generally called for on the viola.

Artificial harmonics

Harmonic on a fingered string. The string is fingered by the forefinger while the little finger rests lightly on it a fourth higher. As with the natural harmonic this causes the vibrating part of the string to vibrate in four parts. The pitch that sounds is two octaves above the fingered note. This is the most common artificial harmonic. Every note from a particular pitch upward can therefore be produced as an artificial harmonic.

Vibrato

The violinist transfers the vibrations of the left hand onto the string. The result is fluctuating pitch and loudness. The vibrato depends on the extent of these fluctuations and the speed. There are three types of vibrato: finger, hand and arm vibrato. Vibrato playing helps to achieve greater expression.

It was not until the 19th century that vibrato playing became widespread; early music was played for the most part without vibrato. The technique only found its way into orchestral playing in the 20th century.

Portamento

An audible slide of the finger along the string with accompanying change of position. The effect is of two notes being joined together in a suggestion of a glissando. Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) made frequent use of this means of expression in his symphonies.

Glissando

Can be played without effort on all bowed string instruments.

Finger pizzicato

The left hand touches a string and plucks it. The plucked note is usually accompanied by bowed notes on strings which are not being played pizzicato. “Normal” pizzicato is performed by the right hand.

Con sordino

(with mute)

The mute reduces the number of higher partials - over 2000 hertz -, making the sound considerably quieter, darker and thinner.

Scordatura

Changing the strings' tuning is done to make certain keys easier to play and to alter the timbre (for the latter: in W. A. Mozarts Sinfonia concertante E-flat major (K. 364/320d, 1779), where the solo viola is tuned a half tone higher).

Playing Techniques (right hand)

Détaché

Non-legato technique, bowstrokes alternately up and down without the bow leaving the string. Articulation of individual notes, clearly separated from neighboring notes. The bow changes direction on each note.

Martelé

Accentuated détaché. Hammered bowing (in Italian martellato = hammered).

Every stroke, whether up or down, is ended abruptly, the bow remaining on the string. The result is a hard sound, like a hammer-on, with brief pauses between. Short, individual strokes are usually performed at the point.

Ponticello

(at the bridge)
The bow makes contact with the string near the bridge. The nearer the bridge the string is bowed the greater the volume. The timbre becomes brighter but at the same time glassy, shrill, eerie, pale and thin. The number of partials increases. The technique is used as a tremolo to produce eerie effects.

Sul tasto

(on the fingerboard)
The bow makes contact with the string near the fingerboard. The nearer the fingerboard the string is bowed the weaker and softer the sound. The number of partials decreases. The effect is a muffled and flute-like sound (the technique is often also called flautando ).

Most playing techniques are possible both sul ponticello and sulla tastiera.

Legato stroke by stroke

Each note is played by one stroke. The direction of the bow is changed quickly and imperceptibly, the bow remaining on the string. The technique is not indicated by a slur.

Legato on a single stroke

A group of notes is played with a single stroke so that one note flows into the next without a break. This technique is always indicated by a slur.

Louré

(heavy legato)
Several notes are played with one stroke. Although there are slight breaks between the notes the impression of legato remains. Applies to repeated notes or notes with the same value.

Portato

(related to louré)
Several notes on the same stroke, each one being slightly accented and sustained to its full value. The impression created is one of non legato. This technique applies mainly to repeated notes or notes with the same value such as scales.

Pizzicato

Plucking of the strings with the right hand. This technique originated on the lute in the 16th century and is applied to chords as well as single notes.

“Bartók" pizzicato (“snap” pizzicato)
The string is lifted with two fingers of the right hand so that it snaps back onto the fingerboard when let go. This produces a very resounding and percussive sound.

Staccato

A series of short strokes in the course of one whole stroke, usually an upstroke.

Strong staccato: As with martelé playing the bowstroke is in one direction only, the bow coming to rest on the string between each partial stroke.

Flying staccato: The bow is lifted from the string between the notes.

Spiccato

Leaping staccato, produced by beginning a new bowstroke for every note (as with détaché playing one up and downstroke per note). The leaping effect results from the elasticity of the bow, which swings to and fro and is controlled by the right hand. Spiccato is indicated by a staccato dot over each note. No slur.

Sautille

(saltato)
A rapid and light spiccato, which is uncontrolled. A leaping staccato performed with short détaché strokes, during which the bow is not controlled by the right hand. The bow falls onto the string with the force of its own weight. It stays nearly in the same spot in the direction of bowing, the strokes are short.

The bow can bounce two to three times, resulting in short groups of repeated notes (typical in chords as an accompaniment figure). Many piano or pianissimo staccato effects are in fact performed sautillé in the orchestra.

Ricochet

Thrown, several saltato leaps on one stroke. The bow does not fall on the string with the force of its own weight but is thrown onto it so that the leaping effect continues in the same direction. Following its first impact on the strings the bow performs a precise number of leaps, usually three or four. Groups of three or four notes can therefore be played before the bow has to be thrown again. As far as p and mf. Possible on both the upstroke and the downstroke.

Bow tremolo

(bow vibrato)
The repetition of a note with no accent or rhythm by means of very fast up and downstrokes at the point. The impression given is of a “trembling” sound, which is used especially for dramatic effect and tonal intensification. Double stops can also be played tremolo. The bow tremolo is usually measured, i.e. the number of strokes corresponds exactly to the notated division of the whole note value which determines the length of the tremolo. This kind of tremolo must be played in absolute synchronization by all the violinists. Freely playable tremolo also exists.

Tremolos have been part of the strings' standard repertoire of effects since the beginning of the 19th century.

Tenuto

Sustaining of a note given its full value.

Sound characteristics

Dark, stately, reedy, warm, distinctive, full, lively, singing, eloquent, introspective, sensuous, round, muffled, solemn, austere, muted, rough, wafting, veiled, sonorous, powerful, robust.

The viola's characteristic range is in the low and middle registers (C3-G5).

Sound characteristics of the individual strings

Dark, stately, reedy, warm (the bottom three strings).

  • C string (C3-D4)
    Has a fundamentally powerful, resonant, clear, pleasing, rich and dark timbre which is used among other things to convey a feeling of foreboding. It can also evoke very somber and gloomy moods. The same notes played on the cello sound more powerful and intense.

  • G string (G3-A4)
    Sounds rather bland, cannot assert itself particularly. It is weaker and projects less well than the same notes on the violin and is suitable as a filling-in part and for figurations.

  • D string (D4-E5)
    Sounds rather bland, cannot assert itself particularly. It is weaker and projects less well than the same notes on the violin and is suitable as a filling-in part and for figurations.

  • A string (A4-E6, A6)
    Contrasts starkly with the other strings, has an individual character, penetrating, austere, nasal, rough, forceful and distinctive. It is noticeably different from the rest of the string orchestra and is used to express sentimental moods and pain (played forte).

Sound Combinations

Viola + string orchestra

Viola + viola

The sound of the violas as a group achieves an austere charm which is used for melodic tasks at dramatic turning points, especially in the opera orchestra.

Viola + violin

Produces a mellow and full sound which is dominated by the violins. Gives the impression that the sound is reinforced. Octave combinations of the 1st and 2nd violins with the violas produce a broad, expansive and carrying effect, although such combinations are generally too weak to supply a firm foundation unless they have the support of the cellos playing in unison. Double and triple octaves played by the 1st and 2nd violins with the violas and cellos are most effective when the orchestra reaches melodic high points. The viola never matches the projecting volume of the violin.

Viola + cello

The cello sounds more powerful and more intense. Played together the two instruments produce a full sound which is dominated by the cellos. In the upper register the viola takes away some of the cello's brightness and the sound becomes more mellow. In the highest register the bright elements reinforce each other. In octaves an expansive and harmonious effect is produced for cantilenas in the tenor register.

Viola + double-bass

The violas can sound like a partial of the double-basses. It is particularly important to balance the respective dynamic levels.

Viola + harp

The strings' pizzicato blends well with the harp. Pizzicato is often used as a “harp substitute”.

Viola + woodwinds

There is a great affinity between the strings and the woodwinds. Generally speaking woodwinds provide the strings with more volume and power, while the strings make the woodwinds more mellow, especially when playing in unison. If the strings are playing with a single woodwind instrument in different registers the latter can assert itself.

In high registers and played forte or fortissimo the viola is perfectly capable of matching the woodwinds for intensity and acerbity of sound, an effect that is intensified when the groups play in combination. In piano passages, on the other hand, the viola lends the woodwinds a more mellow sound.

Viola + oboe

The high notes (A string) are to a certain extent related in timbre to the oboe.

Viola + brass wind instruments

The combination of violas and the majority of the brass produces a relatively homogeneous sound. Particularly harmonious effects are achieved by piano playing in octave combinations. As a rule though, the tonal blend with the woodwinds is better.

The blend is strongly influenced by the playing technique employed by the strings (pizzicato, col legno). The use of the mute on brass instruments makes them sound similar to the strings and improves the blend. If the two groups are joined by the woodwinds, particularly the clarinets, the blend between strings and woodwinds is improved.

Viola + trumpet

An interesting sound combination in piano passages and in octaves.

Viola + horn

The horn achieves the best blend of the brass section with the violins, especially in combination with the cellos.

Viola + trombone, tuba

Poor blend.

Repertoire (selection)

Solo viola

  • Luis-Casimir Escoffier

    • 24 Préludes (op. 22), 1850
  • Max Reger

    • 3 suites (op. 131d), 1916
  • Paul Hindemith

    • sonata for viola solo (op. 11,5), 1919
    • sonata, 1937
  • Johann Nepomuk David

    • sonata (op. 31,3), 1943
  • Igor Stravinsky

    • Elegy, 1944
  • Bernd Alois Zimmermann

    • sonata, 1955
  • Luciano Berio

    • Sequenza VI, 1967
  • John Cage

    • Music for viola, 1984
  • György Ligeti

    • sonata for viola solo, 1994

Chamber music

  • Antonio Vivaldi

  • Wilhelm Friedmann Bach

  • Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach

  • Johann Christian Bach

    • 6 trios
  • Georg Philipp Telemann

    • trio sonatas
  • Johann Gottlieb Graun

    • sonatas
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    • 2 duets for violin and viola (K. 423, 424), 1783
    • Kegelstatt trio (K. 498)
  • Mikhail Glinka

  • Joseph Haydn

    • string trios
  • Michael Haydn

    • concerto C-major for viola and organ
  • J. G. Albrechtsberger

    • trios (2 violas, bass)
  • C. Ditters von Dittersdorf

    • 6 sonatas (2 violins, viola)
    • From 1800 arrangements of horn or cello sonatas for viola.
    • Duets for violin and viola.
    • Pieces for viola and cello (2 violas and cello)
    • Various string trios: 2 violins + bass (old) > violin + viola + cello (today's standard scoring). 2 violins + viola.
    • string quartet (string quartets with 2 violas)
    • string quintet with 2 violas
  • Johann Nepomuk Hummel

  • Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy

Viola + piano

  • Robert Schumann

    • Märchenbilder (op. 113), 1851
  • Anton Rubinstein

    • Charakterstücke (op. 11,3.), 1855
  • Franz Liszt

    • Romance oubliée (1880)
  • Alexander Glasunow

    • Elégie (op. 44), 1893
  • Johannes Brahms

    • 2 sonatas for viola and piano (op. 120), 1895, originally for clarinet and piano
  • Max Reger

    • sonata for viola and piano (op. 107), originally for clarinet
  • Arthur Honegger

    • sonata for viola and piano, 1920
  • Nicolai A. Roslavec

    • 2 sonatas for viola and piano, 1929, 1930
  • Darius Milhaud

  • Paul Hindemith

    • sonata for viola and piano (op. 11,4), 1919
    • sonatas (op. 25,4), 1922
    • sonata, 1939
  • Dmitri Shostakovitch

    • sonata (op. 147), 1975
  • Bohuslav Martinů

  • Paul Dessau

  • Hans Werner Henze

    • sonata, 1979

Viola solo and orchestra

  • Georg Philipp Telemann

  • Carl Stamitz

  • Michael Haydn

  • Johann Christian Bach

  • Alessandro Rolla

    • concerto for viola and orchestra F-major
    • duo concertant for violin and viola (op. 4,2)
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    • Sinfonia concertante (KV 364), 1779
  • C.M. von Weber

    • Andante e Rondo ungarese
  • Hector Berlioz

    • Harold in Italien, 1834
  • Max Bruch

    • Romanze (op. 85), 1911
  • Emil Kreuz

    • concerto for viola and orchestra (op. 20), 1893
  • Richard Strauss

    • Don Quixote
  • Paul Hindemith

    • Chamber music Nr.5 (op. 36,4), 1927
    • Concert music (op. 48), 1930
  • Zoltán Kodály

  • Béla Bartók

    • concerto for viola and orchestra (completed by T. Serly 1945-1949).

Strings in the orchestra, string orchestra

  • Johann Sebastian Bach

    • Brandenburg concertos No. 3 and 6
  • P. Locatelli

    • Concerti grossi
  • Fr. Geminiani

    • Concerti grossi
  • Georg Philipp Telemann

    • concerto for viola solo
    • Telemann was the first composer to substitute the viola for the viol in trio sonatas.