3. Everything old is new again

Video documentation by Greg Harm, Tangible Media 

This recital is the third in a series comprising a Doctoral project studying the function of the baroque violin in the context of the 21stCentury. 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 21stCentury.

This recital consists of new works for the baroque violin. The first piece I commissioned for this instrument is presented alongside an existing work re-imagined for the baroque violin and two brand new commissions receiving their debut performances. Each piece approaches the baroque violin in extended ways. Many of the techniques represented, such as extreme bow positions, glissandi and microtonality, were used on the baroque violin at the beginning of its life as a concert instrument in the 17thCentury. Entirely new approaches, such as combining the instrument with electronics, are also explored.

This concert demonstrates some of the exciting ways in which the technical and timbral capacity of the baroque violin may be explored and exploited further into the 21st Century.



archive (2017) – Smith
Philtre (1997) – Lim
Law II (2013) – Garsden
The Glass Violin (2018) – Connor


Lizzy Welsh – Baroque Violins
With special guest Steve Thornley – Sound Engineer


archive for re-tuned baroque violin (2017), Samuel Smith (b. 1985)

World Premiere

Melbourne-based composer Samuel Smith holds a Masters degree from the University of Melbourne.

Developed over the course of this research with assistance from Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University, archive is Smith’s first piece for baroque violin.

As was common in the baroque era, archive employs scordatura,or retuning the violin strings to atypical pitches. However, this piece uses a 21stCentury approach, whereby the tuning is based in spectralism with the top string tuned to the 7th partial of the bottom string.

Harmonic flutters exploit the volatile nature of the gut strings’ harmonic nodes, extending the timbre almost to breaking point. The extreme use of glissandi challenges the performer to an acrobatic chin-off balancing act.


Philtre (1997), Liza Lim (b. 1966)

First performance on baroque violin

Australian composer Liza Lim wrote Philtre in 1997 for Mary Oliver and Jagdish Mistry. The piece is scored for the Norwegian folk fiddle known as the Hardanger fiddle, or for solo re-tuned violin. An interpretation of the latter was presented in the second recital in this series. This performance, the first on the baroque violin, was developed with the guidance of Lim.

As discussed in the second recital, scordatura was explored widely at the beginning of the baroque violin’s history and is used in Philtre to create the illusion of sympathetic strings.

Many of the techniques explored in Philtre manifest in a similar way on the baroque violin to the gut-strung Hardanger fiddle. Complex rhythms, glissandi and ornamentation with harmonics must be navigated at slightly slower tempi to ensure all notes speak, whilst the extreme, distortion-creating sul ponticello and unison string crossings are enhanced by the organic quality of the raw-gut strings.


Law II for baroque violin and electronics (2013) – Alexander Garsden (b. 1987)

Queensland premiere

Composer, guitarist and electro-acoustic musician Alexander Garsden is based in Melbourne.

Commissioned by Elizabeth Welsh with the assistance of the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria, Law II was first performed by at the Bendigo International Festival of Exploratory Music in 2013. It has since been performed in Melbourne and Darmstadt (Germany).

Gothic and theatrical, the piece extends and exaggerates the coarser qualities of the instrument’s tone colour, climbing and then descending a mountain of gestural hyperbole. The demanding solo part is shadowed, then enveloped, by a chorus of overtones, derived from samples of the instrument refracted and filtered through granular synthesis.


The Glass Violin for baroque violin, voice, glasses and Gliderverb (2018) – Biddy Connor (b. 1972)

World premiere

Composer, arranger, violist, musical saw player and singer, Biddy Connor, lives in Melbourne, Australia.

Developed over the course of the research with the assistance of Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University, The Glass Violin is inspired by the story of Princess Alexandra of Bavaria (1826-75), who suffered from a psychiatric condition known as the glass delusion, by which she was convinced that she had swallowed a grand piano made of glass.

The piece combines the timbre of the baroque violin with voice, bowed wine glasses and iPad application Gliderverb, made by Amazing Noises. These aspects complement and contrast with the baroque violin, whose timbre is re-imagined through a 21stCentury lens by live processing.

The extreme multi-tasking required extends both performer and instrument, whilst the rondo form, complete with wine glass ritornelli, harkens back to the baroque era.

The Glass Violin is Connor’s first composition for the baroque violin and continues a long collaborative history between the composer and the performer.


Special thanks to: Kieren Naish, Graeme Jennings, Vanessa Tomlinson, Stephen Emmerson, Liza Lim, Samuel Smith, Biddy Connor, Alexander Garsden, Jodie Rottle, Steve Newcomb and Rebecca Lloyd-Jones