For more than two centuries, the fine, sweet tone of the viola da gamba was regarded as the ne plus ultra in the aristocratic art of music making. The homogeneous balanced sound that an ensemble made up of gambas produced was perfectly in keeping with the music aesthetics of the Renaissance and Early Baroque. But the times changed. In the first half of the 18th century, violin instruments began to supersede gambas. They had a stronger sound and were better suited for the new requirements made from music.
In France the bass viol as a tried and trusted virtuoso solo instrument competed with the violoncello, which was growing in popularity. The cello brought along from Italy a new way of making music, one quite unlike what people were accustomed to and which soon enjoyed great popularity with the French audience as well. The controversies that this development sparked can be seen with Hubert le Blanc’s publication Defence of the bass viol against the encroachments of the violin and the pretensions of the violoncello. In this polemic pamphlet, the doctor of law and viol player compares the advantages and disadvantages of the two instruments and comes to the following conclusion: “This has all been compiled only for the purpose of restoring the rights of the gamba, not to place those who play gamba above cello players.”
The Philharmonic Salon will revive this controversy once again. Gerd Wameling will read aloud from Hubert le Blanc’s polemic and other contemporary texts. Supported by other musicians, gamba player Vittorio Ghielmi and Bruno Delepelaire, 1st Principal Cellist of the Berliner Philharmoniker, will demonstrate the advantages of their respective instruments with music by Marin Marais, Antoine Forqueray, François Couperin, Antonio Vivaldi, Arcangelo Corelli, Francesco Geminiani, and others.