1. A few necessary reminders

Video documentation by Greg Harm, Tangible Media

This recital is the first in a series comprising a study of the function of the baroque violin in the context of the 21st Century. The research aims to develop, define and document a comprehensive catalogue of extended approaches for the baroque violin that may be used to create new repertoire for it in the 21st Century.

This first recital reflects upon the past practices of extended approaches to the baroque violin in its early history as a solo instrument in the 17th Century. Understanding how the baroque violin was exploited in this period is an important step to discovering the full potential of the baroque violin today.


Battalia (1673) – Biber
Capriccio Stravagante (1627) – Farina
Sonata Quarta “La Biancuccia” (1660) – Pandolfi Mealli
Sonata Representativa (1669) – Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber


Lizzy Welsh – Baroque Violin
With very special guests Alice Buckingham – Baroque Viola, Margaret Caley – Baroque Violin, Graeme Jennings – Violin, Michael O’Loghlin – Double Bass/Viola da Gamba, Eleanor Streatfield – ‘Cello, Peter Roennfeldt – Harpsichord


Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber (16441704)

Battalia (1673)

  1. Presto: II. Die liederliche gselschafft von allerley Humor [the Slovenly Society of All Sorts]: III. Presto: IV. Der Mars [Mars, the God of War]: V. Presto: VI: Aria: VII. Die Schlacht [the Battle]: VIII: Lamento der Verwundeten [Lament of the Wounded]


Sonata Representativa (1669)

Allegro: Nachtigal [Nightingale]: CuCu [Cuckoo]: Frosch [Frog]: Die Henne und der Hahn [the Hen and the Rooster]: Die Wachtel [the Quail]: Die Katz [the Cat]: Musketier Marsch [Musketeer March]: Allemande


One of the most well‐known violinists and composers for the violin of the 17thCentury, Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber was born in 1644 in the Bohemian town of Wartenberg, now known as Stráž pod Ralskem in the modern-day Czech Republic. Biber held several highly regarded positions across Bohemia in Graz, Kroměříž and finally Salzburg. Biber’s extraordinary virtuosity clearly inspired him to explore the full potential of the violin. Indeed his Rosenkranz-Sonaten of 1676 remain to this day, possibly the most comprehensive study of the use of scordatura, or retuning of the strings to alter the timbre, for the violin.

In 1670, Biber scandalously left the employ of the Bishop of Olomouc, Karl II von Liechtenstein-Kastelkorn, in Kroměříž without seeking permission. However, the relationship between Biber and Prince-Bishop Karl seems to have been quickly repaired as Biber sent many autographs of his compositions of the 1670s to the Prince-Bishop in Kroměříž where they still reside. Amongst these are the Battalia (1673), a highly programmatic work utilising various extended approaches to the stringed instruments to represent the experience of war. Battle scenes commonly appear in music written in the wake of the 30 Years War, and the Battalia includes a col legno loading of muskets, a magnificent polyphonic, and indeed polytonal, mélange of drinking songs, left hand pizzicato musket fire, slap pizzicato cannon fire and prepared string snare drums.


The Sonata Representativa (1669) is a light-hearted programmatic work, probably written for the occasion of Carnival during Biber’s time in Kroměříž. In it, Biber calls upon the performer to imitate a variety of animals by using glissandi and harmonic dissonances. The bird songs in particular are easily recognizable. However their melodies are not Biber’s original creation. Many composers of the 17th Century were highly influenced by the writings of the German Jesuit scholar and polymath Athanasius Kircher (1602–1680). In his 1650 Musurgia universalis, sive ars magna consoni et dissoni, Kircher defines a legend of melodies imitating the natural world. Biber draws heavily on Kircher’s writing. Indeed, one can imagine an educated 17th Century audience recognising the quotes of these melodies in the Sonata Representativa. 

The original scores for both the Battalia and the Sonata Representativa form part of the Music Collection of the Archbishop’s Chateau in Kroměříž, Czech Republic.


Carlo Farina (1600-1639)

Capriccio Stravagante (1627)

Introduction: La Lira [the Lyre]: Il Pifferino [the Shawm]: Lira variata [the Lira]: Qui si batte con il legno dell’archetto sopra le corde [Strike with the wood of the bow upon the string]: Presto: Adagio: La Trombeta [the Trumpets]: Il Clarino [the Cornetti]: Adagio: La Gallia [the Hen]: Il Gallo [the Rooster]: Presto: Il Flautino pian piano [the Recorder Consort]: Forte: Presto: Adagio: Il Tremulo [the Pipe Organ]: Il Fifferino della Soldatesca [the Soldier’s Fife]: Il Gatto [the Cat]: Il Cane [the Dog]: Presto: La Chitarra Spagniola [the Spanish Guitar]: Adagio

It seems inevitable in a study of the earliest history of the violin to programme a work by Carlo Farina. Born in Mantua, Italy in 1600, Farina is widely considered to have been the first musician to achieve international fame as a virtuoso violinist. Farina was one of the first of the many Italian violinists to travel north of the Alps to the German-speaking courts.

The Capriccio Stravagante was composed in 1627 during Farina’s time as concertmaster of Dresden. Fortunately, much of the first editions of the scores survive including the full cantus, or solo violin part, which is housed at Die Sächsische Landesbibliothek – Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek in Dresden, who have kindly made it publicly available.

The versatility of the violin and its consequent ability to imitate a variety of sonic experiences was likely one factor giving rise to the popularity of the instrument over the first half of the 17th Century. Farina’s Capriccio Stravagante is one of the earliest and more comprehensive examples of the full potential and virtuosity of the violin. Not only is the Capriccio Stravagante an “Amusing Quodlibet”, but it can also be viewed as one of the first pieces to define the full potential of the violin at this moment in history. The piece utilises many extended approaches including polytonality, harmonic dissonance and extended performance techniques.

In much the same way as we encounter in contemporary composition today, instructions for various techniques are given throughout the score where possible. For example, in the Capriccio Stravagante we find the first known use of col legno battuto written for the violin, where the performer is instructed to “bate con il legno del archetto sopra le corde” or, to “strike with the wood of the bow upon the strings”.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this manuscript are the Avertimenti or “a few necessary reminders” at the end of the score. These constitute a kind of legend for understanding certain techniques that should be employed at various points where there was presumably not enough room to include them in the score itself. This is strikingly similar to the modern-day practice of composers providing lists of instructions for various new techniques as required. These instructions form possibly the most conclusive evidence of the use of extended techniques on the violin at this period in history. Furthermore, the Avertimenti contain not only a description of the physical technique required, but also the desired resultant sounds.

In these Avertimenti, the violinist is instructed to play sul ponticello with the bow “half a finger’s-width from the bridge” in order to represent various wind instruments, to use glissandi (both downwards and upwards) to represent various animals including cats, dogs and roosters, to play pizzicato with the instrument held in the lap as a Spanish guitar and, interestingly, to play on the “wrong” side of the bridge in order to sound like cats escaping a scuffle.

Compositionally, Farina’s time in Dresden was his most fruitful. However he later held positions in Bonn, Parma, Lucca, Gdańsk and Vienna, where he died of the plague in approximately 1639.


Giovanni Antonio Pandolfi Mealli (16301669/70)

Sonata Quarta “La Biancuccia” (1660)

Adagio: Allegro: Adagio: Largo: Allegro: Adagio: Allegro: Presto: Adagio  

Violinist and alleged murderer, Giovanni Antonio Pandolfi Mealli (1630‐1669/70), is something of an enigma. Born in Multepulciano, Tuscany, Pandolfi Mealli is later recorded as having been employed at the Court of Ferdinand Charles in Innsbruck, Austria during which time he published the Opus 3 and 4 Sonatas for Violin and Continuo. These are the only surviving works of Pandolfi Mealli, the first editions of which are held at Bologna’s Museo internazionale e biblioteca della musica, which has kindly made them publicly available.

Rumour has it that there may not, in fact, have been an Opus 1 and 2 and Pandolfi named the Opus 3 and 4 to give the impression of being a more experienced composer. It is also possible that these works did exist and were lost when a barge transporting the Innsbruck Music Library to Vienna sunk to the bottom of the Danube in 1665.

Pandolfi Mealli’s Opus 4 contains the Sonata Quarta “La Biancuccia” (1660). Stylus fantasticus or “the fantastic style”, was a common inspiration for the violinist/composers of the 17th Century as its free form leant itself greatly towards improvisation within bursts of contrasting melodic episodes. The Sonata Quarta “La Biancuccia” is an excellent example of the stylus fantasticus where the relatively sparse melodies are embellished with improvised ornamentation. At times, ornamentation such as bow trills and glissandi are indicated in the score. In addition to these points, there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that ornamentation was expected to be improvised with much greater frequency than was notated. This was a result of limited printing symbols and the extra labour involved in marking all of these.

The Sonata Quarta “La Biancuccia” was composed for Giovanni Giacomo Biancucci and first published in 1660. Biancucci is believed to have been a famous castrato of the time, a curious fact as Pandolfi Mealli is rumoured to have fled his home country after murdering another castrato in the Duomo in Florence. Pandolfi Mealli is believed to have ended his days in exile in Spain.



Improvisation was a skill expected of all performers in the 17th Century. Improvisation between pieces in a programme was common at the time the repertoire in this programme was composed. It was intended not only as a musical-link between pieces, but also a means by which the performer could impress a personal stamp upon the performance. Therefore, the improvisation between pieces in this programme comprises of a language of sounds informed by the 21st Century experience of the performer. In this sense, the improvisations remain authentic to the individuality of the performer in the 21st Century just as they would have been unique to the individual performer of the 17th Century, informed by their experiences of their world.


Special thanks to: Kieren Naish, Vanessa Tomlinson, Graeme Jennings, Julia Fredersdorff, Lucinda Moon, Michael O’Loghlin, Peter Roennfeldt, Alice Buckingham, Margaret Caley, Eleanor Streatfield, Katherine Philp, Facilities staff of QCGU, Rebecca Lloyd-Jones, Bob and Ida Schulz, Steve Gregory, Liz Anderson, Tim Willis, Dovi Hanner, Ellie Walker, Jacob Lawrence.