The viola pomposa growing usage

The viola pomposa growing usage


From many instruments invented in the baroque age, the viola pomposa has survived almost without a proper name. Defined as a 5-stringed instrument tuned in c-g-D-A-E’ with a timbre similar to the traditional orchestral viola, it has received many divergent names since the late 18th century, making confusion with ‘violino pomposo’, ‘violino tenor’, ‘violoncello da spalla’ and even ‘violoncello piccolo’. This article compares two violas pomposas in modern set up made in Brazil by Carlos Martins Del Picchia (2006, 2010) after Guadagnini’s La Parmigiana (1765) and suggests an explanation for its unpopularity until early 21st century. The repertoire for this instrument grows quickly in Brazil, Belgium and USA. Many examples from contemporary music point out the viola pomposa features and propose that its technique surpasses the violin and the viola.


Human creativity was repeatedly responsible for new instruments inventions seeking for better sonic expression ways. Kastner noticed, in his instrumentation treatise published in 1837, that ‘each year still sees a multitude of these still-born instruments that disappear a few weeks after their appearance[1]. Among many of those exotic instruments invented at the baroque age, the viola pomposa stands out because of the music and literature written for it. The viola pomposa revival in Brazil in a modern background expanded the academic research about this subject. Why have such a promising instrument almost disappeared? Why is it appearing at concert halls again? Can we accept the traditional literature to be performed on it? Is it possible to integrate it to modern chamber groups and even to symphonic orchestras? What can we expect from it?This essay aims to show that the viola pomposa surpasses the violin in some artistic and technical qualities, proposing it has a great value for both early and contemporary music. This article explains the deviation of the viola pomposa nomenclature, describes two real instruments in activity in Brazil, lists its repertory for solo and chamber music and compares its technical and artistic possibilities with the violin showing real examples from contemporary literature.


It is important to remind the reader that the instruments focused in this essay match the definition proposed at table 1: a 5-stringed instrument from the violin family, in activity since early 18th century, with a size and timbre similar to the viola, usually tuned to C3-G3-D4-A4-E5. Many citations apply the term ‘viola pomposa’ for different instruments, causing a confusion dating back to the late 18th century, as explained in this section. The viola pomposa has received attention from scholars since the baroque age. Among the first ones stands Georges Kastner (1810; 1867), a music teacher who wrote his Traité général d’instrumentation in 1837 aiming ‘to offer to young composers a complete work, but one that is concise and unencumbered by any superfluous addition[2]. His treatise differs from the one published by Berlioz in 1843 because Kastner described many instruments already outdated in the 19th century orchestras and gave a clear definition for the viola pomposa:

 VIOLA POMPOSA: This instrument was invented by the famous Johann Sebastian Bach. It was taller and higher than the ordinary viola, but it was held it in the same position as the viola; it had a fifth string in addition to the four strings of the viola, tuned to E, which was also called the fifth. As the violoncello was being perfected little by little and the artists improving there day by day, the viola pomposa was all the more easily forgotten since it was heavy, and thus, inconvenient to manipulate.  [3]

Francis William Galpin found the first known mention to the viola pomposa at the Forkel’s Musical Almanack (1782, more than 30 years after Bach’s death):

 The substance of Forkel’s description is as follows: ‘In order to find a Mean (i.e., between the Violin and Violoncello) and to avoid both extremes, the famous Kapellmeister, Herr Joh. Seb. Bach, invented (erfand) an instrument to which he gives the name Viola pomposa. The tuning is like that of the Violoncello but it has at the top one string more: it is somewhat larger than a Viola (Bratsche) and is fastened by a ribbon so that it can be held in front of the breast and on the arm.’ [4]

It is suggested that Hoffmann made many such instruments upon Bach’s request:

‘In 1784 there is a statement by Hiller in his Lebensbeschreibungen berühmter Musikgelehrten und Tonkiinstler that the celebrated Dresden artiste Pisendel at the Carnival in 1738 accompanied the violinist Benda on the viola pomposa; and there is also a note that the well-known instrument maker, Hoffmann, made several of these instruments to the design (Angabe) of Bach.’ [5]

The information about the date of the viola pomposa invention comes with the first written misuse of its name:

 In 1790-2 Gerber issued his Historischbiographisches Lexicon and (s.v. ‘Bach’) simply repeated Forkel’s information, adding however that the date of the invention (Erfindung) was ‘about the year 1724.’ (…) Gerber’s words are these: ‘The heavy manner with which in his (Bach’s) day the Violoncello was handled forced him, for the quick bass parts in his compositions, to the invention of his so-called Viola pomposa, which, something longer and higher than a Viola (Bratsche), in addition to the depth and four strings of the Violoncello had also a fifth ‘e’ and was bound on the arm: this convenient instrument put the performer in the way of easily rendering the higher and rapid passages written.’ Here we have the suggestion that it was identical with the violoncello piccolo. [6] 

Unfortunately, Galpin does not mention Kastner’s treatise, where there is a precise definition for the instrument described by Gerber:

 VIOLA DA SPALLA (shoulder viola): It was suspended from the right shoulder with a ribbon, which gave the instrument its name.  It is to be presumed that the viola da spalla was an approximate equivalent to our current violoncello, because one still finds village musicians who suspend the violoncello from the right shoulder with a strap, whereas our artists hold it between the knees. [7]

The instrument Galpin had experimented is definitely different from the one focused on this essay. With a vibrating string length of 45 cm, it is not possible to tune it to the G clef [8]. Galpin wanted to establish the viola pomposa tuning merely analyzing two original pieces written for it by Telemann and Lidarti. He concluded that the appropriate tuning should be D3-G3-D4-G4-C5, but he noticed that the Lidarti’s Sonata ‘would sound grotesque if played an octave lower[9].Analysis exclusively based on repertory is not enough for a general understanding of an instrument, neither for a tuning definition. Music making praxis cannot be forgotten. The violin family origin had a great variety of tunings and numbers of strings[10]. The accordatura, sometimes written as scordatura, means the whole set of strings tuned to playing a specific piece of music. The accordatura was a frequent practice until the baroque age; it converted the system in a kind of tablature, as found in Heirich Ignaz Franz von Biber’s (1664; 1704) Mystery of Rosary Sonatas, or indicating the real sounding notes, as in Giuseppe Tartini’s (1692; 1770) Pastoral opus 1. Modern examples may be found in modern literature as well, like in the third movement of Béla Bartók’s (1881; 1945) Kontraste.Galpin recovered important references for studying this subject. We find more contributions from two luthiers: Eliakim Boussoir and Dmitry Badiarov. Boussoir gives many good pictures[11]. He translated most of Galpin’s information to French and concluded that the viola pomposa description does not match with the literature evidences. Badiarov says ‘there has been little agreement regarding the precise meanings of the following terms: viola pomposa, viola da spalla and violoncello piccolo[12]. Both authors write about a bigger instrument which corresponds rather to the Forkels description published in 1782: 5-stringed, sized between the viola and violoncello piccolo, suspended from the shoulder with a ribbon, so that it can be held in front of the breast and on the arm [13]. Stowell reinforces the ‘viola da spalla was actually a small cello with four to six strings and held across the player’s chest by a strap over the shoulder[14].Badiarov manages with those contradictory reports and concludes that there is a trial ‘to draw a distinction where there was never any clear line[15]. He adds that the player of the 17-18th century could choose which instrument would suit better for a piece:

 The evidence and analysis collected so far suggests that much of the ‘cello’ repertory, from the second half of the seventeenth century until the first half of the eighteenth century can be effectively performed by violists or violinists on a relatively large, arm held instrument. The appropriate size of instrument is chosen by the players according to the technical demands of the piece to be performed. [16]

On the other hand, Badiarov also used different names for the same instrument. Firstly the ‘viola da spalla’, following Stowell [17], but stating it ‘is sometimes called Fagottegeige [18]. This term is difficult to conciliate with the ‘viola di fagotto’ defined by Kastner [19]. When questioned about this subject, Badiarov kindly stated [20] that ‘viola di fagotto’ is the same as ‘fagottegeige’, described by L. Mozart and Daniel Spier, for example. Badiarov explained that the term ‘violoncello da spalla’ is better applied to his instrument than ‘viola da spalla’ in order to indicate its tuning. In Badiarov’s homepage[21], the instrument he made for Sigiswald Kuijken is called ‘violoncello (piccolo) da spalla’, the same term which appears in Kuijken’s CD [22] released in 2009.Badiarov’s article reflects a new kind of broad musicological research, with interdisciplinary studies in iconography, musical tradition and practice, musical analysis, instrument and string making. Apart from other researchers, he has a huge persuasive power similar to this essay: the instrument real presence, its successful appearance at the concert halls and its sound registered on CD as a documental proof.The viola pomposa has reappeared throughout history under other names. Robin Stowell explains the development of such 5-stringed instruments since the baroque age. For Stowell, adding the C string on the ‘Michel Woldemar’s violon-alto was an interesting compromise between the violin and viola, designed (c. 1788) to alleviate the dearth of good violists[23]. In this compromise between the violin and viola, Friedrich Hillmer from Leipzig designed the violalin towards the end of the eighteenth century. Stowell also miscalls ‘viola di fagotto’, thinking it is a kind of viola tuned like a violoncello. Kastner [24] actually defines ‘viola di fagotto’ as a viola da gamba with sympathetic strings.For Stowell, the main concern of the 19th century was ‘to resolve the problems of viola sonority[25]. Which would be such problems? If it is a difference between the violin and viola timbres, this subject seems to be an ideological matter of aesthetical choice, not an acoustical accident.In c. 1875, Karl Hörlein built for Hermann Ritter the ‘viola alta’, with a body length of c. 48cm and ribs of 4.3cm, an exact enlargement of a violin based on the same acoustical properties and, from 1898, incorporated a fifth string tuned to E2:

 Hanslick also wrote favourably about the instrument, which was evidently used in the Meiningen Orchestra c. 1884 and by the Ritter Quartet, adopted by Wagner for a brief period in the Bayreuth orchestra (from c.1876) and admired by Liszt, Rubinstein, Hans von Bülow, Felix Weingartner and others. However, its unwieldiness and its requirement of ‘greater physical power’ from the player were evidently the principal reasons for its limited use. [26]

Table 1 collects the definitions for viola pomposa and related instruments. Howard Mayer Brown [27] ratifies the viola pomposa definition, although he does not mention any surviving instruments.


In order to report an authoritative contribution from the oral tradition, there are important facts about the luthier Carlos Martins del Picchia’s studies, who built two violas pomposas. Born in the city of São Paulo in 1967, he was introduced to the art of instruments making by his father, conductor, violinist and professor Moacyr Del Picchia, which owns an atelier at his house in Campinas, São Paulo State. Only after 1987, Carlos Del Picchia started to get seriously involved with this subject. Recommended by the violinist Leopold la Fosse (1928; 2003), he went through a test to train at the Bein & Fushi Inc in Chicago, where he worked with John Norwood Lee in 1989-90 under supervision of Ward Hansen, who is currently responsible for the bows section of that shop. At the Bein & Fushi Inc, Del Picchia’s job was focused on bows, but he had observed the restoration of the most important instruments. Carlos Del Picchia came back to Brazil in 1990, working in Campinas for John Norwood for 3 years. In 1992, Leopold la Fosse advised him about the return of luthier, archetier and researcher Andrew Dipper to Minneapolis, USA, at the Claire Givens Violins. Dipper is the author of the most important treatises in lutheria of the 20th century. In 1993, Carlos Del Picchia moved to Minneapolis to become Andrew Dipper’s assistant for the construction of instruments and bows and for general restoration projects, working under supervision of John Vierow for bow restoration in that shop. In 1995, he came back to Brazil to establish his atelier in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais State.Carlos Del Picchia cannot remember the written reference that supports the viola pomposa appropriate name. He states it is safe information retained by oral tradition from his masters. Picchia built two instruments: ‘the Golden’, made in 2006/2007, and ‘the Reddish’, in 2010. His project was based on the colourful pictures (scale 1:1), maps and information published by Rosengard [28] on the Giovanni Battista Guadagnini’s viola La Parmigiana made in Parma in 1765. According to the auctioneer, that instrument belonged to J. & A. Beare in London, who gave a certificate in 15 May 1959 in order to sell it. La Parmigiana was sold again at the Christie’s auction in 21 June 1983, for which there were registered and published the main pictures and essential information used in the Brazilian project. At the Rosengard’s photos, one can see the viola adulterated to a modern set up with only four strings, with the last pegbox hole closed, the one nearest to the scroll.Table 2 compares the Guadagnini’s La Parmigiana dimensions reported by the auctioneer [29] with the Brazilian violas pomposas dimensions.The measurements given for Del Picchia’s violas were done directly with the ruler over the instruments. Therefore, they contain some deviation because of the surface curvature.For both instruments, Del Picchia used a modern set up, not baroque. This means the use of modern shaped bridge, sound post, harmonic bar, and neck, besides the use of synthetic strings. Nevertheless, Del Picchia made an interesting decision for their sonorous enrichment: he hollowed the ebony fingerboard out, filling it in with fir wood, lighter and more resonating. This procedure characterizes the baroque neck in its construction but not in its form.The viola pomposa timbre is quite different from the violin even for the E string. Both have a similar sound to an Italian old viola, with a singing and open sound, opposite to the French style (when compared to a viola made by Villaume, for example).These instruments have been played with steel violin E strings and synthetic ones for the remaining. The synthetic strings have an extended life span. They are also more comfortable for the fingertips and produce a richer sound quality. Synthetic strings don’t have the gut strings elasticity, which indeed limits the accordatura possibilities. The strings are given a sharp angulation over the high bridge, reducing 2/3 their lifetime, especially for the E string (certainly because it was made for the violin smaller vibrating length). The viola pomposa sounds very well on the medium-high register, and the Reddish one has also a bigger volume in the low register than the Golden.The Reddish viola pomposa is an improved project based on the same design. It has a shape a bit smaller near the neck, making it easier to play in higher positions and giving a bit more space to the bow at the centre bout. It has larger ribs as well, giving more volume to its timbre.There are two real difficulties that could cause the viola pomposa to be historically almost discarded:1) Its construction needs high precision for the neck placement. There is no much space for mistake. That implies in a very high and carefully shaped bridge as well.2) The expensive string maintenance. Even with the modern synthetic strings, their lifetimes are smaller, particularly for the E string. Until the 19th century, all strings were made of gut; the E string would break very often because it has a longer vibrating length on this instrument.


The literature for viola pomposa reveals that its history is lively connected to its musical development. There are still very few pieces written for it, so a complete catalogue can be summarized here although there may be lesser-known missing names.Galpin had already showed extracts from 18th century pieces [30]. The contemporary examples given here demonstrate that the viola pomposa technique is more demanding than the violin or viola, suggesting that its development has been restricted to outstanding musicians. Galpin analysed the early repertory for viola pomposa, showing some measures of two duets for flauto traverso and viola pomposa or violin by G. P. Telemann published in Hamburg in 1728 at a collection of compositions on engraved plates entitled Der getreue Music-Meister found in the Library of the Conservatoire de Musique at Brussels. Galpin also analysed the Cristiano Giuseppe Lidarti’s (1730; 1793) Sonata found at Bibliothek der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna. Both scores were written in G clef for viola pomposa.Brown [31] extends Galpin’s listing with a Johann Gottlieb Graun’s (1702-3; 1771) double concert and with two Johann Gottlieb Janitsch’s (1708; c.1763) chamber sonatas. Stowell informs about a Concerto in C by Michel Woldemar (1750; 1815) written in 1788 for a 5-stringed instrument premiered by Chrétien Urhan [32]. The absence of known works from the 19th century should be investigated, since Stowell reports the praised viola pomposa activities in the Meiningen Orchestra, the Ritter Quartet and the Bayreuth Orchestra [33]. This suggests:a) The viola pomposa was a special instrument for the principal viola player;b) It was integrated to that repertoire and to the conventional orchestral and chamber music life. Rudolf Haken [34] (1966), professor of viola at the University of Illinois, and Jenny Spanoghe, professor of violin and chamber music at the Fontys Conservatory at Tilburg (Netherlands), helped me with information to build this list. In Brazil, there is a strong effort to increase the number of quality works for viola pomposa after Duo SPES [35] call for scores in 2007/2008 and Lignea Quartet [36] national composition competition in 2010.There are CD recordings by Haken [37], Spanoghe [38] and Paulinyi [39]; Haken’s recording of his concerto on the Centaur label (CRC 2826) was chosen as an American Record Guide ‘Critic’s Choice’ for 2007 [40]. Paulinyi’s Toada for solo viola was broadcasted by TV Senado [41]. Table 3 summarizes a chronological list of known works for viola pomposa, expanding the previous research in Brazil [42].

Advanced traditional technique for strings applied to viola pomposa

The purpose of this section is to show the viola pomposa technical features. The examples were selected to illustrate each topic and prove that the viola pomposa surpasses both the violin and viola in technical possibilities. All pieces here appear at concert halls.There are no easy or pedagogical works for viola pomposa, which assumes the player must be used to the modern school of violin and viola technique. For example, there are homophonic double-stops and virtuosistic ascending arpeggio found in the Haken’s cadenza for his Concerto, m. 111-127 (Ex. 1). Harry Crowl’s concert [43] also requires double-stops for a dense two-voice counterpoint (Ex. 2). Exploited by all composers, scales crossing all five strings show the viola pomposa timbre in its full range. An effective ascending scale in double-stops is found in Haken’s Galapagos m. 51-53 (Ex. 3). Descending running notes are also effective to show the instrument range (Ex. 4).Playing harmonics needs precise control of left hand, a good bow placement nearer the bridge, and good strings (Ex. 5). The viola pomposa sound quality allows the use of sophisticated effects by Claude Ledoux (Exx. 6-7).Although glissando is a common procedure for string instruments even in double-stops, Paulinyi’s Toile makes an unusual use of glissandi in opposite directions (Ex. 8 )[44]. 

Viola pomposa particular qualities

 Crossing strings far from each other have increased effect on viola pomposa, as seen in Crowl’s Antíteses 1st mov. m. 81-83 (Ex. 9). A ‘Bério tremulando‘ over 5 strings is found in Jan Van Landeghem’s Widmung mm.173-175 (Ex. 10).Viola pomposa timbre is more similar to a conventional viola. Therefore, the high E string sounds differently than the violin. This can be heard in Crowl’s solo work As impuras imagens do dia se desvanecem (Ex. 11). Although Crowl did not know the viola pomposa when he wrote this piece in 1999, it has 5-stringed idiomatic characteristics, like the arpeggio on strings IV-I and a jump cross to V string (Ex. 12).Viola pomposa expanded timbre is useful for instrumental combination. Crowl makes extensive counterpoint between viola pomposa and bassoon in his Antíteses concert (Ex. 13). The viola pomposa lowest register blends well with the bassoon highest register. Paulinyi’s Ofertório uses this combination and also shows both instruments in their extreme registers (Ex. 14).Haken’s Surennatalia is written for two violas pomposas, and the listener can hear the highest and lowest strings timbre at the same time on measures 12-14 (Ex. 15).Viola pomposa allows quick alternation of all five strings, as seen in Paulinyi’s Toada (Ex. 16). Polyphonic technique is one of the most demanding features in the literature for strings. A high voice in left-hand pizzicato with an accompaniment in 5-stringed arpeggio may require writing for two systems, as in Paulinyi’s Toada mm.169-172 (Ex. 17).A bowed cantabile melody in the central string accompanied with left-hand pizzicato in the lower and higher strings expresses unusual effects. In Paulinyi’s Toada (mm. 24-31), the left-hand pizzicato gives a mysterious mood of the Brazilian capoeira (Ex. 18). In his Oblação (‘Offering’, Ex. 19), the ostinato shows the combination between the viola pomposa higher and lower registers. 


The viola pomposa history is linked to its name history. The existing of only few instruments may explain the fuzzy use of terms like ‘viola pomposa’, ‘viola da spalla’ and ‘violoncello da spalla’, among others. It must be noticed that the term applied to the instruments described in this article came firstly from oral tradition to luthier Del Picchia and matches the literature, chiefly Kastner, Brown and Telemann’s pieces in practice.Viola pomposa timbre is different from the violin even on the E string. Current synthetic strings, gradually developed during the 20th century, have a longer life span than the gut ones; they are strong enough and reliable to keep the viola pomposa tuned to the orchestral standard.Viola pomposa has been played by outstanding musicians, not by beginners. The pieces composed for it indicate activities in chamber music and solo concerts, with and without orchestra. Although there are not known works for viola pomposa written in the 19th century, it was in use both for chamber music and orchestral appearances. Because of timbre similarities to the conventional viola, it is reasonable to think the complete viola repertoire can be played on viola pomposa, which may enhance the performance of masterpieces. For example, the viola pomposa can play the real notes in the Bartók’s viola concerto measure 20 (Finale, Ex. 20).Contemporary repertory for viola pomposa is briskly growing since this decade, mainly in Brazil, Belgium and United States of America. These works incorporate the most difficult techniques of violin and viola, expanding them to the 5-strings domain. Therefore, the viola pomposa surpasses the violin in artistic and technical qualities.The practice of 5-stringed instruments adds new perspectives to the established repertoire analysis as well. Up to the early 20th century, the prosaic short lifetime of the first (E) string, opposed to the questionable sound projection of the fifth (C) string, may have affected the interest on the instrument in early music. One may think on the J.S.Bach’s sixth suite, for example, which reserved its central movements to the strings I-IV, exploring the V string mainly in its first and last movements.Furthermore, terms like Fagottegeige or ‘viola di fagotto’, especially those listed on table 1, and their associated instruments should receive more attention, as well as the search for written pieces to viola pomposa composed especially in the 19th century. Research on viola pomposa making and string technology may also establish new acoustic standards.

Table 1: definitions for viola pomposa and related instruments. 

Viola d’amore:  Viola with sympathetic strings. Also from this family is the violetta marina, called as ‘English Violet’ by Leopold Mozart.[45] 
Viola di fagotto:  Viola da gamba with 7 gut strings and 16-20 steel sympathetic strings. ‘The same as viola di bardone (or baritone)‘.[46] 
Viola pomposa:  Five-stringed of the same size of the viola, usually tuned to C3-G3-D4-A4-E5 [47]. It was invented before 1728. [48] 
Violino pomposo:  Another name given to viola pomposa. [49] 
Violino tenor:  Four-stringed, sized between the violin and violoncello, supported on the knees and tuned one octave below the violin.[50] 
Violoncello da spalla:  Five-stringed, bigger and higher than the viola pomposa, tuned like the violoncello piccolo, held across the player’s chest by a strap over the shoulder. [51] 
Viola da spalla:  The same as ‘violoncello (piccolo) da spalla’. [52] 
Violoncello piccolo:  A bit smaller than the violoncello, 5-stringed.[53] 
Quinton:  A five-stringed compromise between the violin and the viol, achieved some degree of popularity during the eighteenth century. It had frets and sloping shoulders but its body otherwise resembled that of the violin.’ [54] 

Table 2: Comparing the violas pomposas technical details. The Guadagnini’s work description was given by; the others are direct measurements for this article. 

  Guadagnini’s ‘La Parmigiana’ (1765)   Del Picchia’s ‘The Golden’ (2006/7)  Del Picchia’s ‘The Reddish’ (2010) 
Back two-piece of plain wood two-piece two-piece
Table of even grain one-piece two-piece
Scroll of wood similar to back of wood similar to back of wood similar to back
Varnish red-brown Light-orange Dark-orange, more to brown
Upper Bout 19.65 cm. 19.8 cm. 19 cm.
Lower Bout 24.5 cm. 24.7 cm. 24.5 cm.
Centre Bout 14.04 cm. 14.5 cm. 13.5 cm.
Ribs of medium faint figure 3.3 cm. 3.8 cm.
Body Length 38.1 cm. 38.7 cm. 38.7 cm.
Total Length 63 cm. 62.5 cm.
Vibrating string length 36 cm. 36 cm.

Table 3: chronological list of known works for viola pomposa.  

Composer Title Date Remarks
G. P. Telemann(Germany) 2 duets in Der getreue Music-Meister 1728 For flauto traverso and viola pomposa or violin (Galpin ‘Viola pomposa’, 357).
C. J. Lidarti(Austria) 2 Sonatas 18th cent. Galpin ‘Viola pomposa’, 359-361 and Brown, ‘Viola pomposa’.
J. G. Graun(Germany) Double concert 18th cent. Brown, ‘Viola pomposa’.
J. G. Janitsch(Germany) Chamber sonata 18th cent. Stowell, ‘The Early Violin and Viola’, 177.
Michel Woldemar(France) Concert in C 1788 Premiered by Chrétien Urhan (Stowell, The Early Violin and Viola, 177).
Rudolf Haken(USA) Surennatalia, Suite in 5 movements for 2 five-string violas 1998 Video available at accessed 25 June 2010.
Harry Crowl(Brazil) As impuras imagens do dia se desvanecem, solo 1999 Recorded by Paulinyi (2008).
Jan Van Landeghem(Belgium) Widmung for solo 5-string viola 2003 Recorded by Jenny Spanoghe (2007).
Gian Paolo Luppi(Italy) Capriccio for Jenny, solo 2005 Recorded by Jenny Spanoghe (2007).
Rudolf Haken Concerto for Five-String Viola and Orchestra 2005 Recorded by Haken (2007).
Rudolf Haken Galapagos Tone Poem for Viola Pomposa and Orchestra 2005 Studio recording (2009) available at his homepage.
Zoltan Paulinyi(Brazil) Toada, solo 2006 Recorded by Paulinyi (2008).
Paulo Rios Filho(Brazil) O Burundi não é aqui, for viola pomposa and bassoon 2006 For Duo SPES.
Claude Ledoux(Belgium) Ô Loli’s dream pour violon/alto à 5 cordes 2006 CD recorded by Jenny Spanoghe (2007).
Zoltan Paulinyi Oblação, solo 2007 CD recorded by Paulinyi (2008) and video broadcasted (Conversa de músico, Brazil, 2008-2009).
Zoltan Paulinyi Ofertório for viola pomposa and bassoon 2007  
Zoltan Paulinyi Requiem das águas (mov. 1 & 2) for viola pomposa and bassoon 2008  
Rudolf Haken Quintet for clarinet, 2 violins, viola, and cello 2008 There is a version for viola pomposa instead of 1st violin.
Rudolf Haken Suite pour Jean for solo viola pomposa 2008 Video available at accessed 27 June 2010.
Jan Van Landeghem Chinese Concerto for violin, viola and 5 string viola 2009 Premiered by Jenny Spanoghe with Harmony Orchstra, conductor Yves Segers, at Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels.
Harry Crowl Antíteses, concert for viola pomposa and symphonic orchestra 2009 Premiered by Paulinyi (2009) in Curitiba, Brazil.
Jaqueline Fontyn(Belgium) Festina Lente for 5 strings viola and prepared piano 2010 Premiered by Jenny Spanoghe on March 14, 2010.
Zoltan Paulinyi Genesis for violin, viola pomposa, clarinet and bassoon. 2010 For Quarteto Lignea.
Harry Crowl Flora Atlântica III for violin, viola pomposa, clarinet and bassoon 2010 For Quarteto Lignea.
Zoltan Paulinyi Toile, solo 2010 For Jenny Spanoghe.


Ex. 1: double-stops and ascending arpeggio in Rudolf Haken’s Concerto (cadenza), mm. 118-127. Reproduced by permission of Rudolf Haken. 
Ex. 2: dense counterpoint in Harry Crowl’s Concert Antítese, 3rd mov. (cadenza), mm. 4-5. Reproduced by permission of Harry Crowl.   

 Ex. 3: ascending scale in double-stops in Rudolf Haken’s Galapagos mm. 51-53. Reproduced by permission of Rudolf Haken. 

 Ex. 4: descending running notes in Rudolf Haken’s Galapagos mm. 26-29. Reproduced by permission of Rudolf Haken.    

 Ex. 5: harmonics in Rudolf Haken’s Concerto mm. 448-450. Reproduced by permission of Rudolf Haken.  

Ex. 6: new sonorities in Claude Ledoux’s Ô Loli’s dream p.5. Reproduced by permission of Claude Ledoux. 

Ex. 7: bariolage on E and A strings in Claude Ledoux’s Ô Loli’s dream p.3. Reproduced by permission of Claude Ledoux.   

Ex. 8: double-stop glissandi in opposite directions in Zoltan Paulinyi’s Toile mm.3-8. Reproduced by permission of Zoltan Paulinyi. 

Ex. 9: crossing 5 strings in Harry Crowl’s Antíteses 1st movement, mm.81-84. Reproduced by permission of Harry Crowl. 

Ex. 10: ‘Bério tremulando’ over 5 strings in Jan Van Landeghem’s Widmung mm. 173-175. Reproduced by permission of Jan Van Landeghem.   

Ex. 11: comparing the timbre on extremely high and low notes in Harry Crowl’s As impuras imagens do dia se desvanecem, p.4. Reproduced by permission of Harry Crowl. 

Ex. 12: five-stringed idiomatic characteristics in Harry Crowl’s As impuras imagens p. 2. Reproduced by permission of Harry Crowl.  

Ex. 13: counterpoint between bassoon and viola pomposa in Harry Crowl’s Antíteses, 1st movement, mm.1-8.    

Ex. 14: extreme register combinations between viola pomposa and bassoon in Zoltan Paulinyi’s Ofertório, mm. 4-11. Reproduced by permission of Zoltan Paulinyi.  

Ex. 15: Rudolf Haken’s Surennatalia for 2 violas pomposas mm.10-14. Reproduced by permission of Rudolf Haken. 

Ex. 16: quick alternation of all five strings in Zoltan Paulinyi’s Toada, m.131. Reproduced by permission of Zoltan Paulinyi.   

Ex. 17: polyphonic writing in Zoltan Paulinyi’s Toada mm.169-172. Reproduced by permission of Zoltan Paulinyi.  


  Ex. 18: polyphonic writing in Zoltan Paulinyi’s Toada with bowed melody and left-hand pizzicato for accompaniment on the remaining strings (mm.24-31). Reproduced by permission of Zoltan Paulinyi.  


  Ex. 19: polyphonic writing with ostinato in left-hand pizzicato in Zoltan Paulinyi’s Oblação (‘Offering’) for solo viola pomposa. Reproduced by permission of Zoltan Paulinyi. 

  Ex. 20: Béla Bartók’s viola concerto, Finale, measures 17-20. (C) Copyright 1950 by Boosey & Hawkes Inc. Reproduced by permission of Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers Ltd.

Zoltan Paulinyi

Badiarov, Dmitry. Violoncello (piccolo) da spalla. (accessed November 16, 2009).
Badiarov, Dmitry. 2007. The Violoncello, Viola da Spalla and Viola Pomposa in Theory and Practice. Galpin Society: The Galpin Society Journal, (60): 121-145.
Boussoir, Eliakim. 2000. La Viola Pomposa. Diplôme des Métier d’Art. (accessed February 2, 2010).
Brown, Howard Mayer. “Viola pomposa.” In Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online, (accessed November 14, 2009).
Conversa de músico: Zoltan Paulinyi e Iracema Simon. Nov. 2008. TV Senado, Brasília,  recorded at Palácio do Itamaraty, broadcasted since Dec. 2008. Guadagnini’s viola “La parmigiana” 1735. (accessed Nov. 16, 2009).
Crowl, Harry and Zoltan Paulinyi. 2008. CD Images: works of Harry Crowl and Zoltan Paulinyi. FAC-GDF. CD & CD-ROM; texts in Portuguese and English. Total lenght: 67:01. Full text and scores at
Galpin, Francis William. 1931. Viola Pomposa and Violoncello Piccolo. Oxford University Press: Music & Letters, (12) 4: 354-364
Groh, Paul. Romancing the viola: the viola music of Rudolf Haken. <> Access: Feb. 9, 2010.
Haken, Rudolf. 2007. Concerto for Five-String Viola; Clarinet Concerto; Oboe Concerto. Conductor: Julien Benichou, Centaur. 1 CD.
Haken, Rudolf. Curriculum Vitae and scores. (accessed June 12, 2010)
Haken, Rudolf. 2009. Galapagos Tone Poem. Studio recording. (accessed Nov. 15, 2009).
Haken, Rudolf. Suite pour Jean. Video. (accessed February 23, 2010).
Haken, Rudolf. Surennatalia. Video. (accessed June 13, 2010).
Kory, Agnes. 1994. A Wider Role for the Tenor Violin? Galpin Society: The Galpin Society Journal, (47): 123-153
Kuijken, Sigiswald. 2009. Bach: cello suites. Accent. 2 CDs.
Lignea, Quartet. 2010 Brazilian Composition Competition. (accessed Feb. 1, 2010).
Paulinyi. Zoltan. 2010 Scores. (accessed June 15, 2010).
Paulinyi, Zoltan. ‘Sobre o desuso e ressurgimento da viola pomposa‘ (UFMG, Belo Horizonte, Brazil, July-December 2011) 24 Per Musi, in press.
Rosengard, Duano. 2000. Giovanni Battista Guadagnini. Carteggiomedia, Haddonfield, NJ, USA, number 1857/2000, ISBN 0970422903.
Spanoghe, Jenny. 2007. From classical violin to five-string viola: works by Bach, Bikkembergs, Ledoux, Luppi, Schnittke, Van Landeghem. Belgium, 1 CD, total length 74:53.
Spanoghe, Jenny. Curriculum Vitae. (accessed December 12, 2009).
Spes, Duo. 2007/2008. Call for scores. (accessed Feb. 1, 2008).
Stowell, Robin. 2001. The Early Violin and Viola: A Practical Guide. Cambridge Handbooks to the Historical Performance of Music, Cambridge University Press.
Woodward, Patricia Jovanna. 2003. Jean-Georges Kastner’s Traité Général D’instrumentation: a Translation and Commentary. Thesis for the Degree of Master Of Music, University of North Texas.

About Paulinyi
Zoltan Paulinyi, director of SPES International Exchange Program for contemporary chamber music between Brasília and European cities. Brazilian composer; violinist of the National Theatre Symphonic Orchestra (OSTNCS) since 2000, soloist of the viola section in 2009 and the first violin section in 2007 and 2010. Bachelor in Physics at the Federal University of Minas Gerais State (UFMG), received a Master degree in Musicology at the University of Brasília (UnB) and makes a doctoral research in Composition at the University of Évora. His recordings, compositions and published works are found on his web page.
[email protected]
Postal address valid until October 2010:
Caixa Postal 9540, Brasilia, DF, CEP 70.040-976, BRAZIL 

[1] Georges Kastner, Traité général d’instrumentation (1837) cited in Patricia Jovanna Woodward, Jean-Georges Kastner’s Traité Général d’instrumentation: a Translation and Commentary (USA, 2003) Thesis for the Degree of Master of Music, University of North Texas, 285.
[2] Kastner, Traité cited in Woodward, Jean-Georges Kastner’s Traité, 285-286.
[3] Kastner, Traité cited in Woodward, Jean-Georges Kastner’s Traité, 65-66.
[4] Francis William Galpin, ‘Viola Pomposa and Violoncello Piccolo’ (1931) 12:4 Music & Letters, 354-364, 355.
[5] Galpin, ‘Viola pomposa’, 355.
[6] Galpin, ‘Viola pomposa’, 355. C. E. Mertzanoff’, ‘Large violas’ (December 1943) Violins & Violinists is not a reliable text for this subject because of many missing references and the adultered citation of Albert Schweitzer’s ‘Bach’ (1905), 394 about the Gerber’s Lexicon.
[7] Kastner, Traité cited in Woodward, Jean-Georges Kastner’s Traité, 72-73.
[8] Galpin, ‘Viola pomposa’, 356.
[9] Galpin, ‘Viola pomposa’, 359.
[10]Agnes Kory, ‘A Wider Role for the Tenor Violin?’ (1994) 47 The Galpin Society Journal 123-153, 125-126.
[11] Eliakim Boussoir, La Viola Pomposa ([Paris], 2000) Diplôme des Métier d’Art, 23. Available at accessed 2 February 2010.
[12] Dmitry Badiarov, ‘The Violoncello, Viola da Spalla and Viola Pomposa in Theory and Practice’ (2007) 60 The Galpin Society Journal, 121-145, 121.
[13]  Cited in Galpin, ‘Viola pomposa’, 355.
[14] Robin Stowell, The Early Violin and Viola: A Practical Guide (Cambridge 2001) Cambridge Handbooks to the Historical Performance of Music, 177.
[15] Badiarov, ‘The violoncello’, 127.
[16] Badiarov, ‘The violoncello’, 127-128.
[17] Stowell, The Early Violin and Viola, 177.
[18] Badiarov, ‘The violoncello’, 132-133.
[19] Kastner, Traité cited in Woodward, Jean-Georges Kastner’s Traité, 74.
[20] By e-mail received on 13 March 2010.
[21] Dmitry Badiarov, Violoncello (piccolo) da spalla. [2009] Available at

accessed 16 November 2009.

[22] Sigiswald Kuijken, Bach: cello suites (2009) Accent, 2 CDs.
[23] Stowell, The Early Violin and Viola, 177.
[24] Kastner, Traité cited in Woodward, Jean-Georges Kastner’s Traité, 74.
[25] Stowell, The Early Violin and Viola, 177.
[26] Stowell, The Early Violin and Viola, p.178.
[27] Howard Mayer Brown, ‘Viola pomposa’ in Oxford Music Online, Grove Music Online. [2001] Available at accessed 14 November 2009.
[28] Duano Rosengard, Giovanni Battista Guadagnini (Haddonfield, NJ, USA 2000) 1857/2000 Carteggiomedia, ISBN 0970422903, 232-235.
[29] Measurements of Guadagnini’s viola La parmigiana (1735) are available at accessed 16 November 2009.
[30] Galpin, ‘Viola pomposa’, 356-361.
[31] Brown, ‘Viola pomposa’.
[32] Stowell, The early violin and viola, 177.
[33] Stowell, The early violin and viola, 178.
[34] Rudolf Haken’s curriculum vitae and scores available at accessed 12 June 2010.
[35] Duo Spes, Call for scores (Brasília, Brazil, 2007/2008) available at accessed 10 February 2008.
[36] Lignea Quartet, Brazilian Composition Competition (Brasília, 2010) available at accessed 1 February 2010.
[37] Rudolf Haken, Concerto for Five-String Viola; Clarinet Concerto; Oboe Concerto (USA, 2007) Julien Benichou (conductor), Centaur, 1 CD.
[38] Jenny Spanoghe, From classical violin to five-string viola: works by Bach, Bikkembergs, Ledoux, Luppi, Schnittke, Van Landeghem (Belgium, 2007) CD total length 74:53. Jenny Spanoghe’s curriculum vitae available at accessed 12 December 2009.
[39] Harry Crowl and Zoltan Paulinyi, CD Images: works of Harry Crowl and Zoltan Paulinyi. (Brasília, Brazil, 2008) FAC-GDF. CD & CD-ROM; texts in Portuguese and English. Total lenght: 67:01. Full text and scores available at acessed 28 June 2010.
[40] Informed by Paul Groh, Romancing the viola: the viola music of Rudolf Haken [2007?] available at acessed 9 February 2010.
[41] Zoltan Paulinyi and Iracema Simon, Conversa de músico (Musician’s talk) (Itamaraty Palace at Brasília, November 2008) TV Senado, video broadcasted on December 2008-2009.
[42] Zoltan Paulinyi, ‘Sobre o desuso e ressurgimento da viola pomposa‘ (UFMG, Belo Horizonte, Brazil, July-December 2011) 24 Per Musi, in press.
[43] Harry Crowl’s scores also available at accessed 28 June 2010.
[44] Zoltan Paulinyi’s scores available at accessed 28 June 2010.
[45] Stowell, The Early Violin and Viola, 179.
[46] Kastner, Traité cited in Woodward, Jean-Georges Kastner’s Traité, 73-74.
[47] Brown, ‘Viola pomposa’ and in Kastner, Traité cited in Woodward, Jean-Georges Kastner’s Traité, 66-67.
[48] Galpin, ‘Viola pomposa’, 359.
[49] Koch, Musikalisches Lexikon (1802) cited in Galpin, ‘Viola pomposa’, 355
[50] Kory, ‘A wider role’, 123-153.
[51] Dmitry Badiarov, Violoncello (piccolo) da spalla.
[52] Stowell, The Early Violin and Viola, 177; and Badiarov, ‘Violoncello (piccolo) da spalla.’
[53] Badiarov, ‘Violoncello (piccolo) da spalla.’
[54] Stowell, The Early Violin and Viola, 177.

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