A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Baryton (instrument)

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BARYTON, also Viola di Bardone or BORDONE. Bordone is the Italian for 'drone,' and Leopold Mozart, in his 'Violin-School,' contends that the tone of this instrument, owing probably to the vibration of the sympathetic metal-strings, was suggestive of the hum of the bee.

The Baryton, a stringed instrument not unlike the viola da gamba, played with a bow, was in use up to the end of the 18th century, but owing probably to its complicated mechanism and to the weakness of its tone, which rendered it unfit for use in orchestral playing, is now entirely obsolete. Its neck was very broad, hollowed out, and open at the back. It was usually mounted with six or seven catgut strings, stretched over the finger-board, and played on with the bow; while the metal strings, varying in number from nine to twenty-four, and running underneath the fingerboard, were pinched with the thumb of the left hand, and acted at the same time as sympathetic strings. The catgut strings were tuned as follows:—

{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \clef bass \relative b,, { \cadenzaOn b4 e a d f b e } }

Leopold Mozart considered it one of the loveliest of instruments; and when we hear that Haydn for a considerable time tried hard to learn to play it, we must regret its being now so entirely neglected.

C. F. Pohl, in his Biography of Haydn (Berlin, 1875), gives us the following notices concerning the baryton.

1. Makers:—M. Feldlen (1656), H. Kramer (1714), D. A. Stadlmann (1732), J. Stadlmann (1750), all of Vienna; Joachim Tielke at Hamburg (1686), maker of the fine specimen in the S. Kensington Museum, from which our cut is taken; and Andreas Stainer, of Absom in the Tyrol (1660).

2. Performers:—M. A. Berti, Vienna (1721–1740); Signor Farrant, London (1744); Abell, London (1759–87). Anton Kraft, Karl Franz and Andreas Lidl, members of Prince Esterhazy's private band under Haydn (Lidl played in concerts in England in 1776); Friedel, member of the royal band at Berlin at the end of the last and beginning of the present century. Fauner (1794) and V. Hauschka (1795-1823) are named as accomplished amateur-performers.

3. Composers:—Niemecz, L. Tomasini and A. Kraft of Esterhaz, Wenzl Pichl, Ferd. Paër, Weigl and Eybler, all of Vienna; and last, but not least, Haydn. Pohl enumerates no less than 175 compositions of Haydn's for the instrument; viz. 6 Duets for two barytons, 12 Sonatas for baryton and violoncello, 12 Divertimenti for two barytons and bass, 125 Divertimenti for baryton, viola and violoncello; 17 so-called Cassations; 3 Concertos for baryton with accompaniment of two violins and bass.

[ P. D. ]