Ann Arbor Weather:
Sunday November 17, 2019
Follow us: facebook twitter RSS feed
Anna Steinhoff

Gentle Resonance

In praise of the viola da gamba

by arwulf arwulf

Published in November, 2015

Do you suffer from the frenetic pace of life in a perpetually imploding technocracy? You might consider seeking refuge in an intimate recital hall where chamber music can invoke the calming grace of a rising winter moon. On November 24, Kerrytown Concert House will welcome Chicago-based cellist Anna Steinhoff and U-M harpsichordist Francis Yun for a beautifully balanced program of works by Johann Sebastian Bach and Georg Philipp Telemann.

The program opens with the first of Bach's six cello suites, the one with the prelude that seems to evoke the beginning of the world as seen through a portal overlooking the eternal present. Here for all to experience is what poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca meant when he announced that "the dawn never ends."

The immaculate prelude cleanses the air and lays the ground for the rest of the suite, which unfolds as a series of old world dances; the elegant, thoughtful allemande; the perky, mellifluous courante; the ruminative saraband; a pair of handsome minuets; and lastly the agile gigue, cousin to the jig. Steinhoff will perform this masterpiece and a comparably gorgeous sonata by Telemann on her baroque cello, its low-tension gut strings resonating gently rather than projecting with the brighter force of its modern, metal-stringed counterpart.

Telemann's sonata is sure to contrast pleasantly with the better-known and oft-performed Bach suite. Whereas old Bach's constantly evolving weave of intricate logic never ceases to amaze, his friend Telemann's chamber music can feel whimsical and pleasantly unpredictable by comparison. This is even more likely to be the case during the second half of the recital, when Steinhoff switches from Baroque cello to the viola da gamba, one of the modern cello's many indirect predecessors. "Gamba" means "leg," and the instrument is played while laid across or propped between the legs.

With its seven strings, sloped shoulders, wide ribs, flattened bridge, and decorative woodwork, the fretted viola da gamba is fascinating to look at. And because its bow is held with the palm facing upwards, the violist is able to maintain finger contact with the horsehair, varying tension to make subtle adjustments in articulation. If its sound could be distilled into scents, the viola da gamba would suggest a delicate blend of oleander, juniper, laurel, and sage. It's quite unlike anything else you are likely to hear in this part of the world.     (end of article)

[Originally published in November, 2015.]


Bookmark and Share
Print Comment E-mail

You might also like:

Tradehome Shoes Opens
A family shoe store at Briarwood
Sabine Bickford
Family Restaurants
Photo: Pac Man on Wolverine Tower
Crime Map
A clickable, zoomable map
"Sushi unrolled" at Poke Poke
When you're the fifth poke place in a year, a good tagline helps
Sabine Bickford
Community Services - Family and Parenting Services
The Relief at the Washtenaw County Courthouse
September 2019 I Spy
Sally Bjork
Fuentes y Paz
September 2019 Fake Ad
Jay Forstner
Scientific Matchmaking
How an Ann Arbor friendship linked Jim Ottaviani and Stephen Hawking.
Lois Kane
One of the finest university art museums in the country, UMMA holds collections representing 150 yea
A visitor's guide to Ann Arbor