Exposed Fifths
classical music blog
July 01, 2006
Lady Viola
The Viola is the little cinderella of the classical world. In terms of instruments, it is outsung by the brighter violin, and when it comes to gloom and depth, the cello has that market all cornered. So when there is music for the Lady Viola, a concerto perhaps, as by Walton, or a complete expose for solo instrument, as here by Lillian Fuchs, we should be excited.

No relation to the great Johann Fux of counterpoint theory, Lilian Fuchs (1903-1991) was a violist of fine pedigree, and was quite unusual in her performance technique by using a Dodd bow, a bow shorter than normal, and one that Lillian claimed gave her greater control. Certainly in the sporting arena, a shorter backlift is often associated with reduced errors and greater "punch", so I'll go with her here.

There's no greater impetus to creative activity than meeting an unmet need, and there is an extreme dearth of music for solo viola. This vacuum is almost entirely due to one JS Bach, amongst whose prolific legacy count 6 cello suites, and 6 sonatas/partitas for violin. Few have been daring enough to go where Bach never stepped, so the Viola Repertoire remained empty. Well, Lillian has done her best to emulate Paganini is writing dashing and musically viable studies for her instrument. On these two discs are 3 Collections of Etudes, and a Sonata Pastorale. Performer is Jeanne Mallow. Listen here.