Berliner Gambenbuch

Dip into the special atmosphere of 17th-century private instructional and devotional music for viola da gamba, song, lute and organ!

The French Bibliothèque Nationale houses a very rare 17th-century music manuscript full of works for solo viola da gamba. It was acquired in 1880 in Berlin and is thought to be a collection of works from the Brandenburg area. This tiny volume, 270 pages long, is a unique treasure-trove of handwritten music, of which only a small fraction has hitherto been published. Only three or four comparable collections exist in the world, none of them as extensive as this one. Many of the pieces it contains are found only in this book and are mostly of unidentified provenance. This leaves room for speculation: who wrote these works, and – at least as exciting a question – who for?

If it is remembered that the “Great Elector” Friedrich Wilhelm, who was reigning in Brandenburg at the date of these manuscripts, played the viol himself and gathered around him at court the most famous contemporary exponents of the instrument, this gives an inkling of the significance of this manuscript collection for the music of that era in that region, of which little is known and little research has been done. The solo compositions from the Gambenbuch have been supplemented by compositions by contemporaries closely connected with it. Listeners can experience forgotten music being brought back to life!

Juliane Laake, Viola da Gamba

& Ensemble Art d’Echo