A Handlist of Viol Solos and Duets in Printed Sources Before 1800

Compiled by Roland Hutchinson, January 2013.

This is not a long list.

It is meant to be a complete list of all music published before the year 1800 for either:

  • solo viol (of any size: unaccompanied, or accompanied by a bass part for another string instrument and/or basso continuo), or
  • two viols (of any size).

It excludes the following categories, which have been exhaustively inventoried elsewhere. (References and, where available, web links to the relevant studies are provided below.)

  • Music for lyra viol/viol lyra way (i.e., sources printed in tablature, or primarily in tablature).
  • Music for dessus and pardessus de viole.
  • Music for viola bastarda in Italian publications.

Also excluded is music that is known to have been published but that does not survive in any known copies, or that has come down to us only an unperformable fragment (for example, as a basso continuo book only, lacking the solo part).

This list has been compiled in connection with a workshop for viol players that I am directing in February 2013 for the Viola da Gamba Society-New England, http://vdgsne.org/ It is meant as a list of potential repertoire for players in the masterclass offered at that workshop, it may be of use and interest for other purposes.

I believe that all entries in this list contain accurate information. However, since I have drawn bibliographic information from a variety of reliable online and printed sources in addition to personal examination of facsimiles and editions in my personal library, not all sources are described in the same level of detail at present. I shall be grateful to anyone who is able to alert me to any omissions or errors.

For further information on individual sources or for information on the far more numerous manuscript sources of viol music, see the bibliography at the foot of this page.

1. SOLOS FOR VIOL (any size, with or without accompaniment)

For one bass viol with basso continuo except as noted.

Abel, Carl Friederich (Charles Frederick). Six Easy Sonattas. [London, ca. 1772?]. (Modern editions and facimile: Hortus Musicus; Guentersberg).

Ayres and Symphonies for ye Bass Viol, being A Choice collection of ye most fsavorite song tunes, aires & Symphonies of the late Operas, Curiously contrived & fitted to the Bass Viol by the best masters as Almans, Corants, Sarabands, and Jiggs. London: J. Walsh and J. Hare [ca. 1700]. Unaccompanied. (Survives only as ms copy: GB-Cfm MU MS 1172.)

Caix d’Hervelois, Louis de. Premier livre de pièces de viole. Paris, 1708.

Caix d’Hervelois, Louis de. Second livre de pièces de viole. Paris, 1719.

Caix d’Hervelois, Louis de. Troisième oeuvre… contenant quatre suites de pièces pour la viole avec la bass chifré en partition. Paris, 1731.

(For Caix book 4, see below under duets.)

Caix d’Hervelois, Louis de. Cinquième livre de pieces de viole. Paris, 1748.

Cappus, Jean-Baptiste. Pièces de viole. Paris : Boivin, Le Clerc, 1730.

deMachy. Pièces de Violle en Musique et en Tablature. 1685.

Dollé, Charles. Pièces de viole, op. 2. 1737.

Forqueray, Antoine [and Jean-Baptiste Forqueray]. Pièces de viole. Paris, 1747.

Ganassi, Sylvestro. Regolo Rubertina. Venice, 1542. Continued as Lettione secunda. Venice, 1543. Largely didactic. Exercises and ricercars for viol (various sizes) in tablature and staff notation.

Gorton, William. See below under duets.

Harquart, Carolus. Chelys, op. 3 (1686)

[?Hely, Benjamin]. The compleat violist; or, an introduction to ye art of playing on ye bass viol wherein the necessary rules & directions are laid down in a plain & familiar method with a collection of the psalm tunes set to the viol as they are now in use in the churches where there are organs, to which are added some select aires & tunes set according to ye divers manners of playing by the G sol re ut cliff, the C sol fa ut cliff & ye fa ut cliff; also several lessons, viz. Almans, sarabands, courants & Iiggs &c. London: J. Hare [ca. 1700].

Höffler, Konrad. Primitae chelicae, oder musikalische Erstlinge. Nuremberg, 1695.

Kühnel, August. 14 Sonate ò Partite ad una o due viole da gamba, con il basso continuo. Kassel, 1698. Partly for one bass viol and continuo; remainder for two bass viols and continuo.

Marais, Marin. All five books of Pièces de viole (title varies). 1686-1689, 1701, 1711, 1717, 1725.  Book I also contains pieces for two bass viols and continuo (without the reinforcement of a third viol as the bass is already present in the obbligato viol parts); Book IV also contains pieces for two viols and continuo (consisting of harpsichord and an occasionally independent third viol).

Marais, Roland. Both books of Pièces de viole (title varies). 1735, 1738.

Ortiz, Diego. El primo libro: Tratado de glossas sobre clasulas y otros generos de puntos en la musica de violones… El segundo libro. Rome, 1553. Partly unaccompanied; partly with obbligato harpsichord; partly with “proto-continuo” harpsichord. For bass viol, though treble-range divisions on chanson or madrigal are frequently also performed on treble viol at the written pitch.

Richmann [a/k/a Riehmann, Rhiemann], Jacob. Six sonatas a une viole de gambe et basse continue, op 1. Amsterdam: Roger [1710?].

Schenck, Johann. Scherzi musicale, op. 6. 1692.

Schenck, Johann. L’Echo du Danube, op. 9. 1694.

Schenck, Johann. Tyd en konst-oeffiningen, op. 2. 1688.

Simpson, Christopher. The Division-Violist, 1659;  rev. ed. as Chelys, Minuritionum Artificio Exornata…The Division-Viol, 1667. Partly didactic and theoretical. Final section contains a number of short unaccompanied pieces and several sets of divisions to a ground.

Snep, Jean. Sonates, Allemandes, Courantes, Chaconnes, Rondeaux, Gavottes, Sarabandes et Gigues à 1 Viole de Gambe et 1 Basse Continue, op. 1. Amsterdam: Roger, 1700.

Telemann, Georg Philipp. Sonata in D major, TWV 48:1. Viola da gamba unaccompanied. Published in the composer’s Der getreuer Musik-Meister. Hamburg, 1728-9.

Telemann, Georg Phillip. The three viola da gamba sonatas with basso continuo: in G major (in his Der getreue Musik-Meister); A minor, and E minor (both in his Esercizii Musici. Hamburg, 1740).

2. DUETS (including two basses with continuo)

Except where otherwise stated below, this section lists only works definitely described as intended for two viols. It therefore excludes publications of texted or untexted bicinia with no instruments specified (though those are generally regarded as a part of the viol’s legitimate repertoire, shared with other instruments). Likewise, English collections of “airs” for treble and bass instruments–the treble parts of which often (though not invariably) seem more violinistic than violistic–are uniformly excluded.

Caix d’Hervelois, Louis. IVe livre de pièces à deux violes, contenant 2 suites et 3 sonates. 1740.

Gorton, William. Never Publish’d Before a Choice Collection of New Ayres Compos’d and Contriv’d for Two Bass-Viols. London, 1701. Also contains one piece for unaccompanied bass viol.

Kühnel, August. See above under solos for sonatas and partitas for two viols with continuo.

Marais, Marin. See above under solos for pieces for two viols with continuo.

Metru, Nicholas. Fantasies à deux parties, pour les violles. Paris: Robert Ballard, 1642. Various cleffings and ranges.

Morley, Thomas. The first booke of canzonets to two voyces. London: Thomas Este, 1595. Contains 12 texted canzonets and 9 untexted fantasies. No instruments specified. Various combinations of treble, soprano, alto, and tenor clefs; ranges suit treble and tenor viols.

Schenck, Johann. Le Nymphe di Rheno, 1694. Two basses.

Simpson Christopher. 6 airs for two basses, and a further 6 airs for two basses with the first part notated in tablature, in different editions of his Compendium of Practical Music (respectively ?2d ed., 1667 and 3d edition, 1678 ).


See one of the following:

Rose, Adrian. Music for the dessus and pardessus de violes, published in France, ca. 1650-1770. JVdGSA 16 (1979): 40-46. http://vdgsa.org/pgs/journal/vol16-1979.pdf

Rose, Adrian. The solo repertoire for dessuas and pardessus de viole. Chelys 9 (1980): 14-22. Access via: http://www.vdgs.org.uk/publications-Chelys.html


See Frank Trafficante. Music for the Lyra Viols: the Printed Sources. JVdGSA 5(1968): 16-33. http://vdgsa.org/pgs/journal/vol05-1968.pdf


See Jason Paras, The Music for Viola Bastarda. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983.


In addition to the articles cited above, the following works are indispensable:

Bol, Hans. La Basse de viole du temps de Marin Marais et d’Antoine Forqueray. (Bilthoven: Creyghton, 1973)

Dodd, Gordon (comp.), The Viola da Gamba Society of Great Britain Thematic Index Index of Music for Viols… with revisions and additions by Andrew Ashbee. (The 2011 revision is current as of this writing.) Access via: http://www.vdgs.org.uk/publications-ThematicIndex.html

Dart, Thurston. A Hand-List of English Instrumental Music Printed before 1681. Galpin Society Journal, 8(Mar., 1955):13-26.

Edwards, Warwick. Sources of instrumental ensemble music to 1630. Grove Music Online. http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/26297

Flässig, Fred. Die soloistische Gambenmusik in Deutschland im 18. Jahrhundert. Göttingen: Cuvillier, 1998.

Hoffmann, Bettina. Catalogo della musica solistica e cameristica per viola da gamba. Catalog of solo and chamber music for viola da gamba. Lucca: Antiqua, 2001

Holman, Peter. Life After Death: The Viola Da Gamba in Britain from Purcell to Dolmetsch. Woodbridge: Boydell, 2010.

Whitehead, Paul Alister. Austro-German printed sources of instrumental ensemble music 1630 to 1700. Ph.D. diss., Univ. of Pennsylvania, 1996

Internet resources including the catalog at worldcat.org, Grove Music Online, and Wikipedia (English, Dutch, and French versions) have also been helpful in discovering, supplementing, or verifying information contained in this listing.

Page last revised: 2013-01-31