Viola
Overview
The viola
is a bowed
Bow (music)
In music, a bow is moved across some part of a musical instrument, causing vibration which the instrument emits as sound. The vast majority of bows are used with string instruments, although some bows are used with musical saws and other bowed idiophones....

 string instrument
String instrument
A string instrument is a musical instrument that produces sound by means of vibrating strings. In the Hornbostel-Sachs scheme of musical instrument classification, used in organology, they are called chordophones...

. It is the middle voice of the violin family
Violin family
The violin family of musical instruments was developed in Italy in the sixteenth century. The standard modern violin family consists of the violin, viola, cello, and double bass....

, between the violin
Violin
The violin is a string instrument, usually with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is the smallest, highest-pitched member of the violin family of string instruments, which includes the viola and cello....

 and the cello
Cello
The cello is a bowed string instrument with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is a member of the violin family of musical instruments, which also includes the violin, viola, and double bass. Old forms of the instrument in the Baroque era are baryton and viol .A person who plays a cello is...

.
The viola is similar in material and construction to the violin
Violin
The violin is a string instrument, usually with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is the smallest, highest-pitched member of the violin family of string instruments, which includes the viola and cello....

. A full-size viola's body is between 1 inches (2.5 cm) and 4 inches (10.2 cm) longer than the body of a full-size violin (i.e., between 15 and 18 in (38.1 and 45.7 cm)), with an average length of 16 inches (40.6 cm). Small violas for children typically start at 12 inches (30.5 cm), which is equivalent to a half-size violin.
Encyclopedia
The viola
is a bowed
Bow (music)
In music, a bow is moved across some part of a musical instrument, causing vibration which the instrument emits as sound. The vast majority of bows are used with string instruments, although some bows are used with musical saws and other bowed idiophones....

 string instrument
String instrument
A string instrument is a musical instrument that produces sound by means of vibrating strings. In the Hornbostel-Sachs scheme of musical instrument classification, used in organology, they are called chordophones...

. It is the middle voice of the violin family
Violin family
The violin family of musical instruments was developed in Italy in the sixteenth century. The standard modern violin family consists of the violin, viola, cello, and double bass....

, between the violin
Violin
The violin is a string instrument, usually with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is the smallest, highest-pitched member of the violin family of string instruments, which includes the viola and cello....

 and the cello
Cello
The cello is a bowed string instrument with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is a member of the violin family of musical instruments, which also includes the violin, viola, and double bass. Old forms of the instrument in the Baroque era are baryton and viol .A person who plays a cello is...

.

Form

The viola is similar in material and construction to the violin
Violin
The violin is a string instrument, usually with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is the smallest, highest-pitched member of the violin family of string instruments, which includes the viola and cello....

. A full-size viola's body is between 1 inches (2.5 cm) and 4 inches (10.2 cm) longer than the body of a full-size violin (i.e., between 15 and 18 in (38.1 and 45.7 cm)), with an average length of 16 inches (40.6 cm). Small violas for children typically start at 12 inches (30.5 cm), which is equivalent to a half-size violin. For a child who needs a smaller size, a fractional-sized violin is often strung with the strings of a viola. Unlike the violin, the viola does not have a standard full size. The body of a viola would need to measure about 20 inches (50.8 cm) long to match the acoustics of a violin, making it impractical to play in the same manner as the violin. For centuries, viola makers have experimented with the size and shape of the viola, often adjusting the proportions or shape to make a lighter instrument with shorter string lengths, but which still has a large enough sound box
Sound box
A sound box or sounding box is an open chamber in the body of a musical instrument which modifies the sound of the instrument, and helps transfer that sound to the surrounding air. Objects respond more strongly to vibrations at certain frequencies, known as resonances...

 to create an unmistakable 'viola sound'.

Experiments have tended to increase the size of the viola, in the interest of improving the instrument's sound. Hermann Ritter
Hermann Ritter
Hermann Ritter was a German viola player, composer and music historian.-Biography:Hermann Ritter studied violin at the Neue Akademie für Musik in Berlin from 1865 to 1870...

's 'viola alta', which measured about 18.9 inches (48 cm), was intended for use in Wagner
Richard Wagner
Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a German composer, conductor, theatre director, philosopher, music theorist, poet, essayist and writer primarily known for his operas...

's operas. The Tertis
Lionel Tertis
Lionel Tertis, CBE was an English violist and one of the first viola players to find international fame.Tertis was born in West Hartlepool, the son of Polish-Jewish immigrants, and initially studied the violin in Leipzig and at the Royal Academy of Music in London...

 model viola, which has wider bouts and deeper ribs to promote a better tone, is another slightly 'non-standard' shape that allows the player to use a larger instrument. Many experiments with the acoustics of a viola, particularly increasing the size of the body, have resulted in a much deeper tone, making it resemble the tone of a 'cello. Since many composers wrote for a traditional-sized viola, particularly in orchestral music, changes in the tone of a viola can have unintended consequences upon the balance in ensembles.

More recent (and more radically shaped) innovations have addressed the ergonomic problems associated with playing the viola by making it shorter and lighter, while finding ways to keep the traditional sound. These include the Otto Erdesz 'cutaway' viola, which has one shoulder cut out to make shifting easier; the 'Oak Leaf' viola, which has two extra bouts; viol
Viol
The viol is any one of a family of bowed, fretted and stringed musical instruments developed in the mid-late 15th century and used primarily in the Renaissance and Baroque periods. The family is related to and descends primarily from the Renaissance vihuela, a plucked instrument that preceded the...

-shaped violas such as Joseph Curtin's 'Evia' model, which also utilizes a moveable neck and a maple-veneered carbon fibre back, to reduce weight: violas played in the same manner as cellos (see vertical viola
Vertical viola
The vertical viola, or alto violin, is a stringed instrument with the range of a viola that is played vertically in the manner of a cello. It is the fourth-highest member of the violin octet ....

); and the eye-catching "Dalí
Salvador Dalí
Salvador Domènec Felip Jacint Dalí i Domènech, Marquis de Púbol , commonly known as Salvador Dalí , was a prominent Spanish Catalan surrealist painter born in Figueres,Spain....

-esque" shapes of both Bernard Sabatier's violas in fractional sizes - which appear to have melted - and David Rivinus' 'Pellegrina' model violas.

Other experiments that deal with the "ergonomics vs. sound" problem have appeared. The American composer Harry Partch
Harry Partch
Harry Partch was an American composer and instrument creator. He was one of the first twentieth-century composers to work extensively and systematically with microtonal scales, writing much of his music for custom-made instruments that he built himself, tuned in 11-limit just intonation.-Early...

 fitted a viola with a cello neck to allow the use of his 43-tone scale. Luthiers have also created five-stringed violas, which allow a greater playing range. Modern music is played on these instruments, but viol music can be played as well.

Method of playing

A person who plays the viola is called a violist or a viola player. The technique required for playing a viola has certain differences compared with that of a violin, partly because of its larger size: the notes are spread out farther along the fingerboard and often require different fingerings. The viola's less responsive strings and the heavier bow warrant a somewhat different bowing technique, and a violist has to lean more intensely on the strings.
  • Because of the viola's size, violists with short arms tend to use smaller-sized instruments for easier playing. The most immediately noticeable adjustments that a player accustomed to playing violin has to make are to use wider-spaced fingerings. It is common for some players to use a wider and more intense vibrato
    Vibrato
    Vibrato is a musical effect consisting of a regular, pulsating change of pitch. It is used to add expression to vocal and instrumental music. Vibrato is typically characterised in terms of two factors: the amount of pitch variation and the speed with which the pitch is varied .-Vibrato and...

     in the left hand, facilitated by employing the fleshier pad of the finger rather than the tip, and to hold the bow
    Bow (music)
    In music, a bow is moved across some part of a musical instrument, causing vibration which the instrument emits as sound. The vast majority of bows are used with string instruments, although some bows are used with musical saws and other bowed idiophones....

     and right arm further away from the player's body. A violist must bring the left elbow farther forward or around, so as to reach the lowest string, which allows the fingers to press firmly and so create a clearer tone. Unless the violist has especially large hands, different positions are often used, including half position.
  • The viola is generally strung with heavier strings than the violin. This, combined with its larger size and lower pitch range, results in a deeper and mellower tone. However, the thicker strings also mean that the viola 'speaks' more slowly. Practically speaking, if a violist and violinist are playing together, the violist must begin moving the bow a fraction of a second sooner than the violinist. The thicker strings also mean that more weight must be applied with the bow to make them speak.

  • The viola's bow
    Bow (music)
    In music, a bow is moved across some part of a musical instrument, causing vibration which the instrument emits as sound. The vast majority of bows are used with string instruments, although some bows are used with musical saws and other bowed idiophones....

     has a wider band of horsehair than a violin's bow, which is particularly noticeable near the frog (or 'heel' in the UK). Viola bows 70–74 g (2.5–2.6 oz) are heavier than violin bows 58–61 g (2–2.2 oz). The profile of the rectangular outside corner of a viola bow frog generally is more rounded than on violin bows.

Tuning

The viola's four strings are normally tuned in fifths: the lowest string is C3
Scientific pitch notation
Scientific pitch notation is one of several methods that name the notes of the standard Western chromatic scale by combining a letter-name, accidentals, and a number identifying the pitch's octave...

 (an octave
Octave
In music, an octave is the interval between one musical pitch and another with half or double its frequency. The octave relationship is a natural phenomenon that has been referred to as the "basic miracle of music", the use of which is "common in most musical systems"...

 below middle C
Middle C
C or Do is the first note of the fixed-Do solfège scale. Its enharmonic is B.-Middle C:Middle C is designated C4 in scientific pitch notation because of the note's position as the fourth C key on a standard 88-key piano keyboard...

), with G3, D4 and A4 above it. This tuning is exactly one fifth below the violin, so that they have three strings in common—G, D, and A—and is one octave above the cello
Cello
The cello is a bowed string instrument with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is a member of the violin family of musical instruments, which also includes the violin, viola, and double bass. Old forms of the instrument in the Baroque era are baryton and viol .A person who plays a cello is...

.

Each string of a viola is wrapped around a peg
Tuning peg
A tuning peg is used to hold a string in the pegbox of a stringed instrument. It may be made of ebony, rosewood, boxwood or other material. Some tuning pegs are ornamented with shell, metal, or plastic inlays, beads or rings....

 near the scroll and is tuned by turning the peg. Tightening the string raises the pitch; loosening the string lowers the pitch. The 'A' string is normally tuned first, typically to a pitch
Pitch (music)
Pitch is an auditory perceptual property that allows the ordering of sounds on a frequency-related scale.Pitches are compared as "higher" and "lower" in the sense associated with musical melodies,...

 of 440 Hz
Hertz
The hertz is the SI unit of frequency defined as the number of cycles per second of a periodic phenomenon. One of its most common uses is the description of the sine wave, particularly those used in radio and audio applications....

 or 442 Hz. The other strings are then tuned to it in intervals of perfect fifths, sometimes by bowing two strings simultaneously. Most violas also have adjusters, also called 'fine tuners', that are used to make finer changes. These permit the tension of the string to be adjusted by rotating a small knob at the opposite or tailpiece
Tailpiece
A tailpiece is a component on many stringed musical instruments that anchors one end of the strings, usually the end opposite the end with the tuning mechanism the scroll, headstock, peghead, etc.-Function and construction:...

 end of the string. Such tuning is generally easier to learn than using the pegs, and adjusters are usually recommended for younger players and put on smaller violas, although pegs and adjusters are usually used in conjunction with one another. Adjusters work best, and are most useful, on metal strings. It is common to use one on the 'A' string, even if the others are not equipped with them. Some violists reverse the stringing of the C and G pegs, so that the thicker C string does not turn so severe an angle over the nut
Nut (instrumental)
The nut of a string instrument is a small piece of hard material which supports the strings at the end closest to the headstock or scroll. The nut marks one end of the speaking length of each open string, sets the spacing of the strings across the neck, and usually holds the strings at the proper...

, although this is uncommon.

Small, temporary tuning adjustments can also be made by stretching a string with the hand. A string may be tuned down by pulling it above the fingerboard, or tuned up by pressing the part of the string in the pegbox. These techniques may be useful in performance, reducing the ill effects of an out-of-tune string until an opportunity to tune properly.

The tuning C-G-D-A is used for the great majority of all viola music. However, other tunings are occasionally employed, both in classical music, where the technique is known as scordatura
Scordatura
A scordatura , also called cross-tuning, is an alternative tuning used for the open strings of a string instrument, in which the notes indicated in the score would represent the finger position as if played in regular tuning, while the actual pitch is altered...

, and in some folk
Folk music
Folk music is an English term encompassing both traditional folk music and contemporary folk music. The term originated in the 19th century. Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted by mouth, as music of the lower classes, and as music with unknown composers....

 styles. Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , baptismal name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart , was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music...

, in his Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra
Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra
The Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra in E-flat major, K. 364 , was written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.At the time of its composition in 1779, Mozart was on a tour of Europe that included Mannheim and Paris...

 in E flat, wrote the viola part in D major and specified that the viola's strings were to be raised in pitch by a semitone: his intention was probably to give the viola a brighter tone so as to avoid it being overpowered by the rest of the ensemble. Lionel Tertis
Lionel Tertis
Lionel Tertis, CBE was an English violist and one of the first viola players to find international fame.Tertis was born in West Hartlepool, the son of Polish-Jewish immigrants, and initially studied the violin in Leipzig and at the Royal Academy of Music in London...

, in his transcription of the Elgar cello concerto
Cello Concerto (Elgar)
Edward Elgar's Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85, his last notable work, is a cornerstone of the solo cello repertoire. Elgar composed it in the aftermath of the First World War, by which time his music had gone out of fashion with the concert-going public...

, wrote the slow movement with the 'C' string tuned down to B flat, enabling the viola to play one passage an octave lower. Occasionally the 'C' string may also be tuned up to D.

Organizations and research

A renewal of interest in the viola by performers and composers in the twentieth century has led to increased research devoted to the instrument. Paul Hindemith
Paul Hindemith
Paul Hindemith was a German composer, violist, violinist, teacher, music theorist and conductor.- Biography :Born in Hanau, near Frankfurt, Hindemith was taught the violin as a child...

 and Vadim Borisovsky
Vadim Borisovsky
Vadim Vasilyevich Borisovsky was a Russian violist.Born in Moscow, Borisovsky entered Moscow Conservatory in 1917 studying the violin with Mikhail Press. A year later, on the advice of violist Vladimir Bakaleinikov, Borisovsky turned his attentions to the viola. He studied with Bakaleinikov and...

 made an early attempt at an organization in 1927 with the Violists' World Union. But it was not until 1968, with the creation of the Viola-Forschungsgellschaft, now the International Viola Society
International Viola Society
The International Viola Society, also called the "IVS" or "the Society," is an international organization dedicated to players of the viola. It is currently based in Auckland, New Zealand and sponsors annual International Viola Congresses...

 (IVS), that a lasting organization would take hold. The IVS now consists of twelve sections around the world, the largest being the American Viola Society
American Viola Society
The American Viola Society is an organization headquartered in Dallas, Texas that promotes interest in the viola by its performers, teachers, luthiers, and enthusiasts....

 (AVS), which publishes the Journal of the American Viola Society. In addition to the journal, the AVS sponsors the David Dalton Research Competition and the Primrose International Viola Competition
Primrose International Viola Competition
The Primrose International Viola Competition , also referred to as the Primrose Memorial Scholarship Competition , is an international music competition for viola players sponsored by the American Viola Society and named for the 20th century virtuoso William Primrose.The 13th Primrose International...

.

The 1960s also saw the beginning of several research publications devoted to the viola, beginning with Franz Zeyringer's Literatur für Viola, which has undergone several versions, the most recent being in 1985. In 1980, Maurice Riley produced the first attempt at a comprehensive history of the viola in his History of the Viola, which was followed with a second volume in 1991. The IVS published the multi-language Viola Yearbook (from 1979 to 1994): several other national sections of the IVS publish newsletters. The Primrose International Viola Archive at Brigham Young University
Brigham Young University
Brigham Young University is a private university located in Provo, Utah. It is owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints , and is the United States' largest religious university and third-largest private university.Approximately 98% of the university's 34,000 students...

 houses the greatest amount of material that is related to the viola, including scores, recordings, instruments and archival materials from some of the world's greatest violists.

Reading music

Music that is written for the viola differs from that of other instruments, in that it primarily uses alto clef, which is otherwise rarely used. Viola music employs the treble clef when there are substantial sections of music written in a higher register. In the alto clef, the note A4 is above the top line of the clef, D4 is in the second space down, G3 is in the space at the bottom of the staff, and C3 is two spaces under the staff. In treble clef, the note A4 is the second space, D4 is one space under the staff, and so on.

Role in pre-twentieth century works

In early orchestra
Orchestra
An orchestra is a sizable instrumental ensemble that contains sections of string, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments. The term orchestra derives from the Greek ορχήστρα, the name for the area in front of an ancient Greek stage reserved for the Greek chorus...

l music, the viola part was frequently limited to filling in harmonies
Harmony
In music, harmony is the use of simultaneous pitches , or chords. The study of harmony involves chords and their construction and chord progressions and the principles of connection that govern them. Harmony is often said to refer to the "vertical" aspect of music, as distinguished from melodic...

 and little melodic
Melody
A melody , also tune, voice, or line, is a linear succession of musical tones which is perceived as a single entity...

 material was assigned to it. If the viola was given a melodic part, it was often duplicated (or was in unison with) the melody played by other strings. A notable exception is the Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 composed by J. S. Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist, and violinist whose sacred and secular works for choir, orchestra, and solo instruments drew together the strands of the Baroque period and brought it to its ultimate maturity...

, scored for 2 violas, cello, 2 violas da gamba, and continuo, in which the two violas were placed in the primary melodic role.

There are a few Baroque
Baroque
The Baroque is a period and the style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music...

 and Classical concerti, such as those by Telemann (one of the earliest viola concertos known), Franz Anton Hoffmeister
Franz Anton Hoffmeister
Franz Anton Hoffmeister was a German composer and music publisher.Born in Rottenburg am Neckar, he went to Vienna at the age of fourteen to study law...

 and Carl Stamitz
Carl Stamitz
Karl Philipp Stamitz , who later changed his given name to Carl, was a German composer of partial Czech ancestry , and a violin, viola and viola d'amore virtuoso...

. Hector Berlioz
Hector Berlioz
Hector Berlioz was a French Romantic composer, best known for his compositions Symphonie fantastique and Grande messe des morts . Berlioz made significant contributions to the modern orchestra with his Treatise on Instrumentation. He specified huge orchestral forces for some of his works; as a...

's Harold in Italy
Harold in Italy
Harold en Italie, Symphonie en quatre parties avec un alto principal , Op. 16, is Hector Berlioz' second symphony, written in 1834.-Creation:...

was written for solo viola and orchestra.

The viola plays an important role in chamber music
Chamber music
Chamber music is a form of classical music, written for a small group of instruments which traditionally could be accommodated in a palace chamber. Most broadly, it includes any art music that is performed by a small number of performers with one performer to a part...

. Mozart succeeded in liberating the viola when he wrote his six string quintet
String quintet
A string quintet is a musical composition for a standard string quartet supplemented by a fifth string instrument, usually a second viola or a second cello , but occasionally a double bass. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who favoured addition of a viola, is considered a pioneer of the form...

s, some of which are considered to be his greatest works. The quintets use two violas, which frees them (especially the first viola) for solo passages and increases the variety and richness of the ensemble. Mozart also wrote for the viola in his Sinfonia Concertante
Sinfonia concertante
Sinfonia concertante is a musical form that emerged during the Classical period of Western music. It is essentially a mixture of the symphony and the concerto genres: a concerto in that one or more soloists are on prominent display, and a symphony in that the soloists are nonetheless discernibly a...

 in which the solo viola and violin are equally important, a set of two duets for violin and viola, and the Kegelstatt Trio
Kegelstatt Trio
The Kegelstatt Trio , also referred to as the Trio for Clarinet, Viola and Piano in E-flat, is a classical chamber music composition by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.-History:...

 for viola, clarinet, and piano. The young Felix Mendelssohn
Felix Mendelssohn
Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Barthóldy , use the form 'Mendelssohn' and not 'Mendelssohn Bartholdy'. The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians gives ' Felix Mendelssohn' as the entry, with 'Mendelssohn' used in the body text...

 wrote a little-known viola sonata in C minor
Viola Sonata (Mendelssohn)
Felix Mendelssohn's Viola Sonata in C minor was composed when he was only 15 years old. The autograph score is dated 14 February 1824. The work was not published in Mendelssohn's lifetime and it was not assigned an opus number. For the time, a viola sonata was a rare genre of chamber music and...

 (without opus number, but dating from 1824). From his earliest works, Brahms
Johannes Brahms
Johannes Brahms was a German composer and pianist, and one of the leading musicians of the Romantic period. Born in Hamburg, Brahms spent much of his professional life in Vienna, Austria, where he was a leader of the musical scene...

 wrote music that prominently featured the viola. Among his first published pieces of chamber music, the sextets for strings Op.18 and Op.36 contain what amounts to solo parts for both violas. Late in life he wrote two greatly admired sonatas
Clarinet Sonatas (Brahms)
The Clarinet Sonatas, Op. 120, Nos. 1 and 2 are a pair of works written for clarinet and piano by the Romantic composer Johannes Brahms. They were written in 1894 and are dedicated to the clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld. The sonatas stem from a period in Brahms’s life where he “discovered” the beauty...

 for clarinet
Clarinet
The clarinet is a musical instrument of woodwind type. The name derives from adding the suffix -et to the Italian word clarino , as the first clarinets had a strident tone similar to that of a trumpet. The instrument has an approximately cylindrical bore, and uses a single reed...

 and piano
Piano
The piano is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It is one of the most popular instruments in the world. Widely used in classical and jazz music for solo performances, ensemble use, chamber music and accompaniment, the piano is also very popular as an aid to composing and rehearsal...

, his Op.120 (1894): he later transcribed these works for the viola (the solo part in his horn trio is also available in a transcription for viola). Brahms also wrote 'Two Songs for Alto
Alto
Alto is a musical term, derived from the Latin word altus, meaning "high" in Italian, that has several possible interpretations.When designating instruments, "alto" frequently refers to a member of an instrumental family that has the second highest range, below that of the treble or soprano. Hence,...

 with Viola and Piano', Op. 91, 'Gestillte Sehnsucht' ('Satisfied Longing') and 'Geistliches Wiegenlied ('Spiritual Lullaby') as presents for the famous violinist Joseph Joachim
Joseph Joachim
Joseph Joachim was a Hungarian violinist, conductor, composer and teacher. A close collaborator of Johannes Brahms, he is widely regarded as one of the most significant violinists of the 19th century.-Origins:...

 and his wife, Amalie. Dvořák
Antonín Dvorák
Antonín Leopold Dvořák was a Czech composer of late Romantic music, who employed the idioms of the folk music of Moravia and his native Bohemia. Dvořák’s own style is sometimes called "romantic-classicist synthesis". His works include symphonic, choral and chamber music, concerti, operas and many...

 played the viola and apparently said that it was his favorite instrument: his chamber music is rich in important parts for the viola. Another Czech composer, Bedřich Smetana
Bedrich Smetana
Bedřich Smetana was a Czech composer who pioneered the development of a musical style which became closely identified with his country's aspirations to independent statehood. He is thus widely regarded in his homeland as the father of Czech music...

, included a significant viola part in his quartet "From My Life
String Quartet No. 1 (Smetana)
String Quartet No. 1 in E minor, written in 1876, is a four-movement Romantic chamber composition by the Czech composer Bedřich Smetana.- Background :...

": the quartet begins with an impassioned statement by the viola. It should also be noted that Bach, Mozart and Beethoven all occasionally played the viola part in chamber music.

The viola occasionally has a major role in orchestral music, for example in the Enigma Variations
Enigma Variations
Variations on an Original Theme for orchestra , Op. 36, commonly referred to as the Enigma Variations, is a set of a theme and its fourteen variations written for orchestra by Edward Elgar in 1898–1899. It is Elgar's best-known large-scale composition, for both the music itself and the...

by Edward Elgar
Edward Elgar
Sir Edward William Elgar, 1st Baronet OM, GCVO was an English composer, many of whose works have entered the British and international classical concert repertoire. Among his best-known compositions are orchestral works including the Enigma Variations, the Pomp and Circumstance Marches, concertos...

. Another prominent example is the Richard Strauss
Richard Strauss
Richard Georg Strauss was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, which include Der Rosenkavalier and Salome; his Lieder, especially his Four Last Songs; and his tone poems and orchestral works, such as Death and Transfiguration, Till...

' composition 'Don Quixote
Don Quixote (Strauss)
Don Quixote, Op. 35, is a composition by Richard Strauss for cello, viola and large orchestra. Subtitled Phantastische Variationen über ein Thema ritterlichen Charakters , the work is based on the novel Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes. Strauss composed this work in Munich in 1897...

' for solo cello and viola and orchestra.

While the viola repertoire is quite large, the amount written by well-known pre-twentieth century composers is relatively small. There are many transcriptions of works for other instruments for the viola and the large number of 20th-century compositions is very diverse. See 'The Viola Project' at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where Professor of Viola Jodi Levitz
Jodi Levitz
Jodi Levitz is an American viola player and academic. She has performed throughout Europe, South America, the USA, and the Far East as a solo violist and has recorded works for the viola on several record labels including Erato Records...

 has paired a composer with each of her students, resulting in a recital of brand-new works played for the very first time.

Twentieth century and beyond

In the earlier part of the 20th century, more composers began to write for the viola, encouraged by the emergence of specialized soloists such as Lionel Tertis
Lionel Tertis
Lionel Tertis, CBE was an English violist and one of the first viola players to find international fame.Tertis was born in West Hartlepool, the son of Polish-Jewish immigrants, and initially studied the violin in Leipzig and at the Royal Academy of Music in London...

. Englishmen Arthur Bliss
Arthur Bliss
‎Sir Arthur Edward Drummond Bliss, CH, KCVO was an English composer and conductor.Bliss's musical training was cut short by the First World War, in which he served with distinction in the army...

, York Bowen
York Bowen
Edwin York Bowen was an English composer and pianist. Bowen’s musical career spanned more than fifty years during which time he wrote over 160 works. As well as being a pianist and composer, Bowen was a talented conductor, organist, violist and horn player...

, Benjamin Dale
Benjamin Dale
Benjamin James Dale was an English composer and academic who had a long association with the Royal Academy of Music. Dale showed compositional talent from an early age and went on to write a small but notable corpus of works...

, and Ralph Vaughan Williams
Ralph Vaughan Williams
Ralph Vaughan Williams OM was an English composer of symphonies, chamber music, opera, choral music, and film scores. He was also a collector of English folk music and song: this activity both influenced his editorial approach to the English Hymnal, beginning in 1904, in which he included many...

 all wrote chamber and concert works for Tertis. William Walton
William Walton
Sir William Turner Walton OM was an English composer. During a sixty-year career, he wrote music in several classical genres and styles, from film scores to opera...

, Bohuslav Martinů
Bohuslav Martinu
Bohuslav Martinů was a prolific Czech composer of modern classical music. He was of Czech and Rumanian ancestry. Martinů wrote six symphonies, 15 operas, 14 ballet scores and a large body of orchestral, chamber, vocal and instrumental works. Martinů became a violinist in the Czech Philharmonic...

 and Béla Bartók
Béla Bartók
Béla Viktor János Bartók was a Hungarian composer and pianist. He is considered one of the most important composers of the 20th century and is regarded, along with Liszt, as Hungary's greatest composer...

 wrote well-known viola concertos. One of the few composers to write a substantial amount of music for the viola was Paul Hindemith
Paul Hindemith
Paul Hindemith was a German composer, violist, violinist, teacher, music theorist and conductor.- Biography :Born in Hanau, near Frankfurt, Hindemith was taught the violin as a child...

; being himself a violist, he often performed the premieres of his own viola works. Debussy's Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp
Flute, Viola and Harp
Flute, viola and harp are the instruments of a chamber music grouping that have become common through the establishment of ensembles that feature this set of instruments and have enjoyed new compositions written for the set...

 has inspired a significant number of other composers to write for this combination. Elliott Carter
Elliott Carter
Elliott Cook Carter, Jr. is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer born and living in New York City. He studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris in the 1930s, and then returned to the United States. After a neoclassical phase, he went on to write atonal, rhythmically complex music...

 also wrote several fine works for viola including his Elegy (1943) for viola and piano; it was subsequently transcribed for clarinet. Ernest Bloch
Ernest Bloch
Ernest Bloch was a Swiss-born American composer.-Life:Bloch was born in Geneva and began playing the violin at age 9. He began composing soon afterwards. He studied music at the conservatory in Brussels, where his teachers included the celebrated Belgian violinist Eugène Ysaÿe...

, a Swiss-born American composer best known for his compositions inspired by Jewish music, wrote two famous works for viola, the Suite 1919 and the Suite Hebraique for solo viola and orchestra. Rebecca Clarke
Rebecca Helferich Clarke
Rebecca Clarke was an English classical composer and violist best known for her chamber music featuring the viola. She was born in Harrow and studied at the Royal Academy of Music and Royal College of Music in London, later becoming one of the first female professional orchestral players...

 was a 20th century composer and violist who also wrote extensively for the viola. Lionel Tertis records that Edward Elgar
Edward Elgar
Sir Edward William Elgar, 1st Baronet OM, GCVO was an English composer, many of whose works have entered the British and international classical concert repertoire. Among his best-known compositions are orchestral works including the Enigma Variations, the Pomp and Circumstance Marches, concertos...

 (whose cello concerto
Cello Concerto (Elgar)
Edward Elgar's Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85, his last notable work, is a cornerstone of the solo cello repertoire. Elgar composed it in the aftermath of the First World War, by which time his music had gone out of fashion with the concert-going public...

 Tertis transcribed for viola, with the slow movement in scordatura), Alexander Glazunov
Alexander Glazunov
Alexander Konstantinovich Glazunov was a Russian composer of the late Russian Romantic period, music teacher and conductor...

 (who wrote an Elegy, op. 44, for viola and piano), and Maurice Ravel
Maurice Ravel
Joseph-Maurice Ravel was a French composer known especially for his melodies, orchestral and instrumental textures and effects...

 all promised concertos for viola, yet all three died before doing any substantial work on them. In the latter part of the 20th century a substantial repertoire was produced for the viola; many composers including Revol Bunin
Revol Bunin
Revol Samoilovich Bunin , was a Russian composer.-Early life and education:Brunin's father, Samuil Markovich, was an old bolshevik, a member of the Communist Party from before the revolution and was a professor of social economics at one of the Moscow Institutes...

, Alfred Schnittke
Alfred Schnittke
Alfred Schnittke ; November 24, 1934 – August 3, 1998) was a Russian and Soviet composer. Schnittke's early music shows the strong influence of Dmitri Shostakovich. He developed a polystylistic technique in works such as the epic First Symphony and First Concerto Grosso...

, Sofia Gubaidulina
Sofia Gubaidulina
Sofia Asgatovna Gubaidulina, is a Russian composer of half Russian, half Tatar ethnicity.Gubaidulina's music is marked by the use of unusual instrumental combinations...

, Giya Kancheli
Giya Kancheli
Giya Kancheli , born 10 August 1935, in Tbilisi, is a Georgian composer resident in Belgium.Since 1991, Kancheli has lived in Western Europe: first in Berlin, and since 1995 in Antwerp, where he is composer-in-residence for the Royal Flemish Philharmonic....

 and Krzysztof Penderecki
Krzysztof Penderecki
Krzysztof Penderecki , born November 23, 1933 in Dębica) is a Polish composer and conductor. His 1960 avant-garde Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima for string orchestra brought him to international attention, and this success was followed by acclaim for his choral St. Luke Passion. Both these...

, have written viola concerto
Viola concerto
The viola concerto is a concerto contrasting a viola with another body of musical instruments, usually an orchestra or chamber music ensemble. Early examples of the viola concerto include, among others, Georg Philipp Telemann's concerto in G major, and several concertos by the Stamitz clan...

s. The American composer Morton Feldman
Morton Feldman
Morton Feldman was an American composer, born in New York City.A major figure in 20th century music, Feldman was a pioneer of indeterminate music, a development associated with the experimental New York School of composers also including John Cage, Christian Wolff, and Earle Brown...

 wrote a series of works entitled The Viola in My Life, which feature concertante viola parts. In spectral music
Spectral music
Spectral music is a musical composition practice where compositional decisions are often informed by the analysis of sound spectra. Computer-based sound spectrum analysis using tools like DFT, FFT, and spectrograms...

, the viola has been sought after because of its lower overtone partials that are more easily heard than on the violin. Spectral composers like Gérard Grisey
Gérard Grisey
Gérard Grisey was a French composer of contemporary music.-Biography:Gérard Grisey was born in Belfort, France on 17 June 1946. He studied at the Trossingen Conservatory in Germany from 1963 to 1965 before entering the Conservatoire de Paris...

, Tristan Murail
Tristan Murail
Tristan Murail is a French composer. His father, Gérard Murail, is a poet and his mother, Marie-Thérèse Barrois, a journalist. One of his brothers, Lorris Murail, and his younger sister Elvire Murail, aka Moka, also write, and his younger sister Marie-Aude Murail is a French children's writer...

, and Horaţiu Rădulescu
Horatiu Radulescu
Horaţiu Rădulescu was a Romanian-French composer, best known for the spectral technique of composition.-Biography:Rădulescu was born in Bucharest, where he studied the violin privately with Nina Alexandrescu, a pupil of Enescu, and later studied composition at the Bucharest Academy of Music ,...

 have written solo works for viola.

Contemporary pop music

The viola is sometimes used in contemporary popular music, mostly in the avant-garde
Avant-garde
Avant-garde means "advance guard" or "vanguard". The adjective form is used in English to refer to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art, culture, and politics....

. John Cale
John Cale
John Davies Cale, OBE is a Welsh musician, composer, singer-songwriter and record producer who was a founding member of the experimental rock band The Velvet Underground....

 of The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground was an American rock band formed in New York City. First active from 1964 to 1973, their best-known members were Lou Reed and John Cale, who both went on to find success as solo artists. Although experiencing little commercial success while together, the band is often cited...

 used the viola, as do some modern groups such as alternative rock
Alternative rock
Alternative rock is a genre of rock music and a term used to describe a diverse musical movement that emerged from the independent music underground of the 1980s and became widely popular by the 1990s...

 band 10,000 Maniacs
10,000 Maniacs
10,000 Maniacs is a United States-based alternative rock band, which formed in 1981 and continues to be active with various line-ups.-1981–1993:...

, folk duo John & Mary
John & Mary
John & Mary is a U.S. based folk music duo featuring John Lombardo and Mary Ramsey who have had a long-time close association with alternative rock band 10,000 Maniacs.-1989-1993:...

, Defiance, Ohio
Defiance, Ohio (band)
Defiance, Ohio is an acoustic punk rock band from Columbus, Ohio. They are known for their extensive touring and intense, enthusiastic live shows. They are named after the real town Defiance, Ohio. The band features a violin, cello, and double bass...

, The Funetics, Flobots
Flobots
The Flobots are a political rock and hip hop musical group from Denver, Colorado, formed in 2000 by Jamie Laurie. Flobots found mainstream success with their major label debut Fight with Tools , featuring the single "Handlebars", which became a popular hit on Modern Rock radio in April 2008.-Early...

, Beethoven's 5th, British Sea Power
British Sea Power
British Sea Power are an indie rock band based in Brighton, England, although three of the band members originally come from Kendal in Cumbria. Critics have likened their sound to a variety of groups, from The Cure and Joy Division to the Pixies and Arcade Fire. The band are famed for their live...

, Hangedup and others. Jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

 music has also seen its share of violists, from those used in string sections in the early 1900s to a handful of quartets and soloists emerging from the 1960s onward. It is quite unusual though, to use individual string instruments in contemporary popular music. It is usually the flute or rather the full orchestra appearing to be the favoured choice, rather than a lone string player. The upper strings could be easily drowned out by the other instruments, especially if electric, or even by the singer.

Viola in folk music

Although not as commonly used as the violin in folk music, the viola is nevertheless used by many folk musicians across the world. Extensive research into the historical and current use of the viola in folk music has been carried out by Dr. Lindsay Aitkenhead. Players in this genre include Eliza Carthy
Eliza Carthy
Eliza Carthy is an English folk musician known for both singing and playing fiddle. She is the daughter of English folk musicians singer/guitarist Martin Carthy and singer Norma Waterson.-Life and career:...

, Mary Ramsey
Mary Ramsey
Mary Ramsey , currently a resident of Buffalo, NY is a member of folk duo John & Mary and lead singer for alternative rock band 10,000 Maniacs.- Biography :...

, Helen Bell
Helen Bell
Helen Bell is an English folk-influenced composer and musician playing mainly viola and fiddle.In 2000 she released her first solo album, 'Audierne', on which she was accompanied by guitarist Ed Pritchard....

, and Nancy Kerr
Nancy Kerr
Nancy Kerr is an English folk musician, specialising in the fiddle and singing. She is the daughter of London-born singer-songwriter Sandra Kerr and Northumbrian piper Ron Elliott....

. Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown was the viola's most prominent exponent in the genre of blues
Blues
Blues is the name given to both a musical form and a music genre that originated in African-American communities of primarily the "Deep South" of the United States at the end of the 19th century from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads...

.

The viola is also an important accompaniment instrument in Hungarian
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

 and Romania
Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

n folk string band music, especially in Transylvania
Transylvania
Transylvania is a historical region in the central part of Romania. Bounded on the east and south by the Carpathian mountain range, historical Transylvania extended in the west to the Apuseni Mountains; however, the term sometimes encompasses not only Transylvania proper, but also the historical...

. Here the instrument has three strings tuned g — d' - a (note that the a is an octave lower than found on the standard instrument), and the bridge is flattened with the instrument playing chords in a strongly rhythmic manner. In this usage, it is called a kontra or brácsa .

Violists

There are few truly well-known viola virtuosi, perhaps because little virtuoso viola music was written before the twentieth century. Pre-twentieth century viola players of note include Alessandro Rolla
Alessandro Rolla
Alessandro Rolla was widely acknowledged in his time as a violin and, especially, viola virtuoso, composer and teacher. His contribution to technique, repertoire and history of music is greatly underestimated...

, Antonio Rolla
Antonio Rolla
Giuseppe Antonio Rolla was an Italian violin and viola virtuoso and composer.Antonio Rolla studied violin with his father, composer Alessandro Rolla. In 1803 the family is moved to Milan where Antonio began to work at a young age...

, Chrétien Urhan
Chrétien Urhan
Chrétien Urhan was a violinist, organist, composer and player of the viola and the viola d'amore.- Career outline :His father first introduced him to the violin...

, Casimir Ney
Casimir Ney
Louis-Casimir Escoffier, known primarily by the pseudonym Casimir Ney or L. Casimir-Ney, was a French composer and one of the foremost violists of the 19th century.-History:...

, Louis van Waefelghem
Louis van Waefelghem
Louis van Waefelghem was a Belgian violinist, violist and one of the greatest viola d'amore players of the 19th century...

, and Hermann Ritter
Hermann Ritter
Hermann Ritter was a German viola player, composer and music historian.-Biography:Hermann Ritter studied violin at the Neue Akademie für Musik in Berlin from 1865 to 1870...

. The most important viola pioneers from the twentieth century were Lionel Tertis
Lionel Tertis
Lionel Tertis, CBE was an English violist and one of the first viola players to find international fame.Tertis was born in West Hartlepool, the son of Polish-Jewish immigrants, and initially studied the violin in Leipzig and at the Royal Academy of Music in London...

, William Primrose
William Primrose
William Primrose CBE was a Scottish violist and teacher.-Biography:Primrose was born in Glasgow and studied violin initially. In 1919 he moved to study at the then Guildhall School of Music in London. On the urging of the accompanist Ivor Newton, Primrose moved to Belgium to study under Eugène...

, Paul Hindemith
Paul Hindemith
Paul Hindemith was a German composer, violist, violinist, teacher, music theorist and conductor.- Biography :Born in Hanau, near Frankfurt, Hindemith was taught the violin as a child...

, Théophile Laforge
Théophile Laforge
Théophile Édouard Laforge was a French violist and first professor of viola at the Conservatoire de Paris....

, Cecil Aronowitz
Cecil Aronowitz
Cecil Aronowitz was a British viola player, a founding member of the Melos Ensemble, a leading chamber musician and an influential teacher at the Royal College of Music and the Royal Northern College of Music.-Biography:...

, Maurice Vieux
Maurice Vieux
Maurice Edgard Vieux was a French violist whose teaching at the Conservatoire de Paris plays a key role in the history of the viola in France....

, Vadim Borisovsky
Vadim Borisovsky
Vadim Vasilyevich Borisovsky was a Russian violist.Born in Moscow, Borisovsky entered Moscow Conservatory in 1917 studying the violin with Mikhail Press. A year later, on the advice of violist Vladimir Bakaleinikov, Borisovsky turned his attentions to the viola. He studied with Bakaleinikov and...

, Lillian Fuchs
Lillian Fuchs
Lillian Fuchs , an American violist, teacher and composer, is considered to be among the finest instrumentalists of her time. She hailed from a musically talented family: her brothers, Joseph Fuchs, a violinist, and Harry Fuchs, a cellist, performed with her on numerous commercial recordings...

, Frederick Riddle
Frederick Riddle
Frederick Riddle OBE was an important British violist. He was considered to be in the line from Lionel Tertis and William Primrose, through to the violists of today such as Lawrence Power.-Biography:...

, Walter Trampler
Walter Trampler
Walter Trampler was a German musician and teacher of the viola and viola d'amore.Born at Munich, he began to study music at the age of 6, learning from his father, a violinist. In his youth, he toured Europe performing as the violist of the Strub String Quartet...

, Ernst Wallfisch
Ernst Wallfisch
Ernst Wallfisch was a prominent viola soloist, recording artist and pedagogue, primarily remembered along with his wife, pianist Lory Wallfisch, as partners of the Wallfisch Duo....

, and Emanuel Vardi
Emanuel Vardi
Emanuel Vardi an Israeli-American violist, was considered to have been one of the great viola players of the 20th century.- Early life :...

, the first violist to record the 24 Caprices by Paganini
24 Caprices for Solo Violin (Paganini)
The 24 Caprices for Solo Violin, Op. 1 was written by Niccolò Paganini between 1802 and 1817 and published in 1819. They are also designated as M.S. 25 in Maria Rosa Moretti and Anna Sorrento's Catalogo tematico delle musiche di Niccolò Paganini, which was published in 1982...

 on viola. Many noted violinists have publicly performed and recorded on the viola as well, among them Eugène Ysaÿe
Eugène Ysaÿe
Eugène Ysaÿe was a Belgian violinist, composer and conductor born in Liège. He was regarded as "The King of the Violin", or, as Nathan Milstein put it, the "tzar"...

, Yehudi Menuhin
Yehudi Menuhin
Yehudi Menuhin, Baron Menuhin, OM, KBE was a Russian Jewish American violinist and conductor who spent most of his performing career in the United Kingdom. He was born to Russian Jewish parents in the United States, but became a citizen of Switzerland in 1970, and of the United Kingdom in 1985...

, David Oistrakh
David Oistrakh
David Fyodorovich Oistrakh , , David Fiodorović Ojstrakh, ; – October 24, 1974, was a Soviet violinist....

, Pinchas Zukerman
Pinchas Zukerman
Pinchas Zukerman is a world-renowned violinist, violist, and conductor. He is considered one of the greatest violinists of the 20th and 21st centuries, and his ongoing 45-year career has seen him perform with the world's best-known orchestras and record over 100 works...

, Maxim Vengerov
Maxim Vengerov
Maxim Alexandrovich Vengerov is a violinist, violist, and conductor who was born in the Soviet Union.-Youth:Born on 20 August 1974 in Novosibirsk, Russia, to a family with musical tradition....

, Julian Rachlin
Julian Rachlin
Julian Rachlin is a Lithuanian-born violinist and violist.-Background and early life:Born in Vilnius, he emigrated in 1978 with his musician parents to Austria. In 1983, he entered the Konservatorium Wien and studied violin in the Soviet tradition with Boris Kuschnir, while also receiving private...

 and Nigel Kennedy
Nigel Kennedy
Nigel Kennedy is a British born violinist and violist. He made his early career in the classical field, and he has performed and recorded most of the major violin concerti...

.

Among the great composers, several preferred the viola to the violin when playing in ensembles, the most noted being Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential composers of all time.Born in Bonn, then the capital of the Electorate of Cologne and part of...

, Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist, and violinist whose sacred and secular works for choir, orchestra, and solo instruments drew together the strands of the Baroque period and brought it to its ultimate maturity...

 and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , baptismal name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart , was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music...

. Numerous other composers also chose to play the viola in ensembles, including Joseph Haydn
Joseph Haydn
Franz Joseph Haydn , known as Joseph Haydn , was an Austrian composer, one of the most prolific and prominent composers of the Classical period. He is often called the "Father of the Symphony" and "Father of the String Quartet" because of his important contributions to these forms...

, Franz Schubert
Franz Schubert
Franz Peter Schubert was an Austrian composer.Although he died at an early age, Schubert was tremendously prolific. He wrote some 600 Lieder, nine symphonies , liturgical music, operas, some incidental music, and a large body of chamber and solo piano music...

, Felix Mendelssohn
Felix Mendelssohn
Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Barthóldy , use the form 'Mendelssohn' and not 'Mendelssohn Bartholdy'. The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians gives ' Felix Mendelssohn' as the entry, with 'Mendelssohn' used in the body text...

, Antonín Dvořák
Antonín Dvorák
Antonín Leopold Dvořák was a Czech composer of late Romantic music, who employed the idioms of the folk music of Moravia and his native Bohemia. Dvořák’s own style is sometimes called "romantic-classicist synthesis". His works include symphonic, choral and chamber music, concerti, operas and many...

, and Benjamin Britten
Benjamin Britten
Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, OM CH was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He showed talent from an early age, and first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born in 1934. With the premiere of his opera Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to...

. Among those noted both as violists and as composers are Rebecca Clarke
Rebecca Helferich Clarke
Rebecca Clarke was an English classical composer and violist best known for her chamber music featuring the viola. She was born in Harrow and studied at the Royal Academy of Music and Royal College of Music in London, later becoming one of the first female professional orchestral players...

 and Paul Hindemith
Paul Hindemith
Paul Hindemith was a German composer, violist, violinist, teacher, music theorist and conductor.- Biography :Born in Hanau, near Frankfurt, Hindemith was taught the violin as a child...

. Contemporary composer and violist Kenji Bunch has written a number of viola solos.

Electric violas

Amplification and equalization can make up for the weaker output of a violin string tuned to notes below G3, so most electric instruments with lower strings are violin-sized, and as such, are called "violins." Comparatively fewer electric violas do exist, for those who prefer the physical size or familiar touch references of a viola-sized instrument. Welsh
Welsh people
The Welsh people are an ethnic group and nation associated with Wales and the Welsh language.John Davies argues that the origin of the "Welsh nation" can be traced to the late 4th and early 5th centuries, following the Roman departure from Britain, although Brythonic Celtic languages seem to have...

 musician John Cale
John Cale
John Davies Cale, OBE is a Welsh musician, composer, singer-songwriter and record producer who was a founding member of the experimental rock band The Velvet Underground....

, formerly of The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground was an American rock band formed in New York City. First active from 1964 to 1973, their best-known members were Lou Reed and John Cale, who both went on to find success as solo artists. Although experiencing little commercial success while together, the band is often cited...

, is one of the more famous users of such an electric viola, who has used them both for melodies in his solo work and for drones
Drone (music)
In music, a drone is a harmonic or monophonic effect or accompaniment where a note or chord is continuously sounded throughout most or all of a piece. The word drone is also used to refer to any part of a musical instrument that is just used to produce such an effect.-A musical effect:A drone...

 in his work with The Velvet Underground (e.g. "Venus in Furs
Venus in Furs (song)
"Venus in Furs" is a song by The Velvet Underground, written by Lou Reed and originally released on the 1967 album The Velvet Underground & Nico. Inspired by the book of the same name by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, the song includes sexual themes of sadomasochism, bondage and...

").

Instruments may be built with an internal preamplifier
Preamplifier
A preamplifier is an electronic amplifier that prepares a small electrical signal for further amplification or processing. A preamplifier is often placed close to the sensor to reduce the effects of noise and interference. It is used to boost the signal strength to drive the cable to the main...

, or may put out the unbuffered
Buffer amplifier
A buffer amplifier is one that provides electrical impedance transformation from one circuit to another...

 transducer
Transducer
A transducer is a device that converts one type of energy to another. Energy types include electrical, mechanical, electromagnetic , chemical, acoustic or thermal energy. While the term transducer commonly implies the use of a sensor/detector, any device which converts energy can be considered a...

 signal
Signal (electrical engineering)
In the fields of communications, signal processing, and in electrical engineering more generally, a signal is any time-varying or spatial-varying quantity....

. While such raw signals may be fed directly to an amplifier
Instrument amplifier
An instrument amplifier is an electronic amplifier that converts the often barely audible or purely electronic signal from musical instruments such as an electric guitar, an electric bass, or an electric keyboard into an electronic signal capable of driving a loudspeaker that can be heard by the...

 or mixing board, they often benefit from an external preamp/equalizer
Equalization (audio)
Equalization is the process commonly used in sound recording and reproduction to alter the frequency response of an audio system using linear filters. Most hi-fi equipment uses relatively simple filters to make bass and treble adjustments. Graphic and parametric equalizers have much more...

 on the end of a short cable, before being fed to the sound system
Public address
A public address system is an electronic amplification system with a mixer, amplifier and loudspeakers, used to reinforce a sound source, e.g., a person giving a speech, a DJ playing prerecorded music, and distributing the sound throughout a venue or building.Simple PA systems are often used in...

.

Audio examples

See also

  • List of compositions for viola
  • Lionel Tertis International Viola Competition
    Lionel Tertis International Viola Competition
    The Lionel Tertis International Viola Competition is an international music competition for viola players established in 1980 to honor the memory of the English viola virtuoso Lionel Tertis. This triennial event is held at the Erin Arts Centre, Port Erin, Isle of Man...

  • Maurice Vieux International Viola Competition
    Maurice Vieux International Viola Competition
    The Maurice Vieux International Viola Competition is an international music competition for viola players established in 1983 by the French viola society Les Amis de l'Alto...

  • Primrose International Viola Competition
    Primrose International Viola Competition
    The Primrose International Viola Competition , also referred to as the Primrose Memorial Scholarship Competition , is an international music competition for viola players sponsored by the American Viola Society and named for the 20th century virtuoso William Primrose.The 13th Primrose International...

  • American Viola Society
    American Viola Society
    The American Viola Society is an organization headquartered in Dallas, Texas that promotes interest in the viola by its performers, teachers, luthiers, and enthusiasts....

  • International Viola Society
    International Viola Society
    The International Viola Society, also called the "IVS" or "the Society," is an international organization dedicated to players of the viola. It is currently based in Auckland, New Zealand and sponsors annual International Viola Congresses...

  • Tenor violin
    Tenor violin
    A tenor violin is an instrument with a range between those of the cello and the viola. An earlier development of the evolution of the violin family of instruments, the instrument is not standard in the modern symphony orchestra...

  • Vertical viola
    Vertical viola
    The vertical viola, or alto violin, is a stringed instrument with the range of a viola that is played vertically in the manner of a cello. It is the fourth-highest member of the violin octet ....

  • Viola d'amore
    Viola d'amore
    The viola d'amore is a 7- or 6-stringed musical instrument with sympathetic strings used chiefly in the baroque period. It is played under the chin in the same manner as the violin.- Structure and sound :...

  • Garrod's pad
    Garrod's pad
    Garrod's pads is a cutaneous condition characterized by calluses on dorsal aspect of proximal interphalangeal joints of left index and middle fingers, seen in viola players....


External links


  • Rivinus- David Rivinus' site with pictures of his oddly shaped violas
  • Curtin - Joseph Curtin's "Evia" (Experimental viola) model
  • Milward Violas - David Milward's site. Contemporary viola design and build, information and articles.
  • Viola in music - The role of viola in music. Information, description of works, videos, free sheet music, MIDI files, RSS update.
  • Anechoic Recordings of Viola Tones - University of Iowa Electronic Music Studios
  • Brothers Gahl fighting violism – a film made by the Oslo String Quartet
    Oslo String Quartet
    Oslo String Quartet was formed in 1991 by Geir Inge Lotsberg and Per Kristian Skalstad , Are Sandbakken , and Øystein Sonstad . It was among the 1994 prize winners of the London International String Competition, which is among the most prestigious string quartet competitions internationally...

  • Dr. Lindsay Aitkenhead's folk viola research page.
  • Nigel Keay's Contemporary Viola - Articles with a focus on contemporary repertoire for the viola. Very brief, but it does have names for the viola in French, German and Italian.
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