Wed 13.2.2019 09.00 pm National Library, Helsinki

All the Nights of a Life

Music on Violas da Gamba


FiBO Players:
   Mikko Perkola and Heidi Peltoniemi, viola da gamba
   Anna Rinta-Rahko, violone


The golden age of the viola da gamba was in the 17th–18th century Europe. At that time, the violin was still a common street instrument, while gamba music was popular entertainment in courts and noble homes.

”– – the human voice – – never has an instrument imitated it as well as the viol – –”, described Jean Rousseau the sound of the gamba in 1687. But the charming and intimate sound turned out to be the fate of the gamba when musical performances began to move from courts and homes to larger halls. Gamba was an inherently aristocratic instrument, and its popularity started fading for good after the French Revolution.

Viola da gamba is an entire string instrument family with instruments of different sizes, which are all held between the knees when played. The instruments have 6–7 strings that are tuned like the guitar, and the fingerboard also has frets like the guitar. This makes it possible to play chords on the gamba. Ensembles were formed with gambas of different registers, and they were composed a lot of consort music that was especially popular in England. In France, the viola da gamba was Sun King Louis XIV’s favourite instrument, and the bass gamba obtained the position of a virtuosic solo instrument in Versailles.

In this concert, we will hear French gamba music. The story of Marin Marais and Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe is familiar to many from the movie All the Mornings of the World. We know very little about the life of Sainte-Colombe, not even his first name. He was, however, a famous viola da gamba virtuoso and composer. Marais was Sainte-Colombe’s gamba student for six months, after which the master concluded that he had taught him everything he knew. The story tells that after this, Marais hid under a garden hut to hear Sainte-Colombe practice. In opposite to Sainte-Colombe’s modest life-style, Marais started working for the Sun King. During the same time, another gamba virtuoso, Antoine Forqueray, also worked at the court of Versailles. The musical styles and techniques of these two were very different. Their contemporary Hubert le Blanc described Marais as an angel playing, and Forqueray as the devil himself.

At the night of French gamba music, its intimate beauty unites with virtuosic expression and deep sighs.

Duration: 1 h (no intermission)