Baltzar, Thomas (DNB00)

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BALTZAR, THOMAS (1630?–1663), violinist, was born at Lübeck and settled in England in 1656. We do not hear that he had acquired much fame in Germany, but he was the first great violinist that had been heard in England at the time. On his arrival in England he stayed with Sir Anthony Cope of Hanwell. He was not long in making his reputation in England, for we find his playing much praised in Evelyn's 'Diary,' under date 4 March 1656-7, where he is called 'the incomparable Lubicer’ Evelyn heard him at the house of Roger L'Estrange, and he says: 'Tho' a young man, yet so perfect and skillfull, that there was nothing, however cross and perplext … which he did not play off at sight with ravishing sweetnesse and improvements, to the astonishment of our best masters.' Anthony à Wood heard him play on 24 July 1658, and he says (life of himself), speaking of his alacrity of execution, that 'neither he nor any in England saw the like before. … Wilson thereupon, the greatest judge of music that ever was, did … stoop downe to Baltzar's feet to see whether he had a huff on; that is to say, to see whether he was a devill or not, because he acted beyond the parts of man.' The same author states that Baltzar formed habits of intemperance, which ultimately brought him to the grave. In one of the manuscript suites for strings, several of which are preserved in the library of the Music School, Oxford, the author's name is given as 'Mr. Baltzar, commonly called ye Swede, 25 Feb. 1659.' At the Restoration he was placed at the head of Charles II's new band of (twenty-four) violins. He died in 1663 and was buried in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey on 27 July in that year. His name appears there as 'Mr. Thomas Balsart, one of the violins in the king's service.'

From Wood's statement 'that he saw him run up his fingers to the end of the finger-board of the violin,' it has been inferred that the introduction of the 'shift' was due to him, but it is probable that the practice is of considerably earlier origin. Baltzar's works consist almost entirely, so far as is known, of suites for strings; four of these are in the Music School Library, Oxford. Playford's 'Division Violin' is said to contain all that was printed of his composition. Burney refers (article in Ree's Encyclopædia) to a manuscript collection of solos in his possession.

[Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians; Burney's History of Music, and art. in Rees's Encyclopædia; MS. in Music School, Oxford; Chester's Registers of Westminster Abbey.]

J. A. F. M.