“The Baroque Violin & Viola: a Fifty-Lesson Course” (OUP) by Walter S Reiter

The Baroque Violin & Viola: a Fifty-Lesson Course


Walter S Reiter

After more than half a century spent teaching and playing the violin, the last thirty of which have been devoted almost exclusively to the Baroque violin, the author offers this two-volume book as a gift to all violinists and violists curious to share the insights he has gathered pertaining to the performance of music from the Baroque period.

As a teacher I have found that the best results are achieved by a detailed examination of seminal works from the early 1600s through to J. S. Bach in which stylistic, musicological and technical issues can be explored in depth. However, it gradually became clear to me that too much classroom time was being spent in giving out the same information on these works to each student in turn. Therefore, in order to free up more time to work with the individual issues every student has, I decided to write that information down, enabling the students to prepare their lessons more efficiently and in their own time.

“This is exactly what violinists need to get very practical yet profoundly researched information about anything concerning the Baroque style. A book to never let out of sight for all musicians truly interested in digging into historical performance questions.”   Isabelle Faust

The results of this experiment were so encouraging that I decided to form the Lessons into a book, offered to professional violinists and violists, interested amateurs, conservatory students seeking information not provided by their regular course of studies, and teachers hoping to learn how better to inform their pupils. The book takes the form of a carefully designed, step-by-step course of ‘Lessons,’ guiding the reader through the repertoire of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in an historically-informed manner, with technical and musical guidance at every step of the way and with copious quotations from historical sources.

“This is an amazing accomplishment…such a generous gift to Baroque violinists and violists and one that will be hugely appreciated and celebrated! The writing is delightfully methodical and vitally informative, with a constant eye on the sources.” Rachel Podger

In the ‘Observations’ sections there are bar-by-bar analyses of the text, with musical, interpretive and technical suggestions, relevant quotations from historical sources and thoughts on the holistic approach to playing, while 125 specially devised Exercises help broaden an understanding of a vast range of issues. The scores, transcribed for both violin and viola, are published on the website, and there are six accompanying videos.

The subject of Rhetoric, at the heart of the Baroque way of playing, pervades the book; the starting point is the playing of words, reproducing their rhythms, stresses, consonants and vowels, with the help of audio clips. The study of the early Baroque sonata is preceded by an examination of its origins in vocal music: thus the historical transition from vocal to instrumental music is re-enacted within the experience of the reader.

“This is a lot more than a book about how to play the violin. It shows Walter Reiter to be an expert guide in defining a rich cultural context for music-making. His practical experience, learning and articulacy combine to enrich and extend our purview of instrumental music…an excellent and enlightening treasure-trove for all music-lovers.” Sir John Eliot Gardiner

The identification and communication of emotions and the means to achieve this is taught throughout the book, starting with the cultivation of responses to simple intervals and the ‘Emotional Information’ these contain.

There are Modules on Ornamentation, ‘Interludes’ of historical and cultural interest and Lessons focusing on topics including temperament, shifting, vibrato and dance.

“Walter Reiter’s timely and immensely usable new oeuvre will certainly be an important tool for baroque string players and their students as well as a powerful reference for modern violinists and viola players who wish to give eloquence and understanding to the glorious string repertory of the 17th and 18th centuries.”

William Christie


Walter Reiter can be contacted through his website: www.walterreiter.co.uk and the books, in paperback or hardback format can be purchased through bookshops or directly from Oxford University Press at www.oup.com. They are also available in digital format.









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