French Viols

The refined, ethereal music of the French Baroque requires a very special instrument: sensitive, brooding and dark sounding, capable of the infinite detail and subtlety of the music of Ste Colombe, Hotteterre and Marais, yet vigorous enough for Forqueray and Couperin. Whether pardessus or bass, the core of the French repertoire is solo material; the cri du coeur of the French plainte is truly moving when heard of the instrument for which it was written. As we learn more about the early seventeenth century French consort music, the dessus de viole, a small carved top treble (36 cm), is coming into its own. Falling within the conception of the French gamba are the converted English basses, and also basses made in the spirit of the classic English viol by makers such as Collichon and Barbey.

Seven-string bass viol in the late French style c.1740.

Anglo-French seven-string "Forqueray" bass viol, body after Jaye (1611).

Seven-string bass viol after Barbey.

Pardessus de viole after Fleury.