University of Leeds



Dancla: preface to Viotti, concerto no. 22 - George Kennaway

[Elisions are as in the original]  

[Return to Viotti Concerto no. 22 ed. Dancla ] 

Selected Works of Viotti. 

VIOTTI (Jean-Baptiste), Celebrated violinist, born at Fontanetto, in the Canton of Crescentino, in Piedmont, 23 May 1753. 

For a long time, I had conceived of the project of producing a new edition of Viotti's violin sonatas and of some of his best concertos. The memory of the lessons and advice of my illustrious master Baillot, the precious guidance which he gave me on the subject, and which he himself received from Viotti, made me know the tradition of this great master, and provided me with the means of being able, in my turn, to transmit it to pupils who have not had, like me, the advantage of being able to draw from such a pure source!... 

What essentially characterizes the instrumental works of Viotti is noble sentiment, a grand elevated style, expression, and melodic charm. Viotti, whom one can rightly call the Homer of the violin, knew how to find in his concertos and even in his sonatas, sublime inspirations and songs which, transported to the dramatic stage, would have certainly produced the greatest effect, if words had been associated with the feeling and passion which they expressed so well!... The music of Viotti lends itself admirably to a broad, colourful performance. It contains the most appropriate elements for perfecting the mechanism, forming style, and determining the expression of feeling. The development of these perfected faculties constitutes the intelligent artist and the accomplished performer. Viotti must be thought of as the true head of the French school. It is he who, by the admirable [sub-] division of the bow, has provided incomparable means of colouring the style and marking the musical thought. The bowing in the middle of the bow, elastic, bouncing, and sweet, without losing any of their energy; the lovely articulated martelé bow-strokes are a very good exercise for giving great suppleness to the forearm, and the pupil could not apply himself too much to conserving the tradition of bow-strokes which the progress of the 'fantasist school' unfortunately tends more and more to make disappear. Viotti's andantes and adagios are an admirable canvas on which one can, without denaturing the character [of the music], introduce ornaments and cadenzas, and give free rein to one's imagination. The intelligent pupil, guided by a pure, clear, taste, can decorate (with a wise reserve) the passages which appear to him to be too simple and which, being repeated in the same manner, would have appeared a little monotonous. 

The melodies and lines of Viotti's first movements and finales always provide opportunities for the violinist to use an equal, rounded, sound, thanks to the accuracy of intonation and the good use of the bow in a variety of accents. Thanks to Viotti's particular fingering which he habitually used, and for which melodies and passages appear to have been specially written, the music of this author is still the best school for the positions [of the left hand]. Viotti remains almost always in the same position; he avoids descending on the same string too frequently. this process results in great homogeneity of tone in high positions, and more facility and certainty for the left hand. Also, in his case there are no squawking sounds; the sharpest tones are always sweetened and tempered by a roundness which results precisely from keeping the hand in the same position. These works are without doubt well known, but I am not afraid to say that in their interpretation one is often far removed from the master's tradition. To revive this in all its purity - that has been my aim.