The da spalla is a type of small cello (or potentially even tuned in the viola octave). It’s size is amongst the smallest in the historical bass section of strings.
The small, deep ribbed instruments currently widely known as the violoncello da spalla, (due to it’s ambiguity of name historically) were most prominent during the C17 and C18.
Originally from the period around 1650 to 1750, and brought back to fame due to research into Bach- being an instrument he had commissioned in the early 1700s.
The da spalla playing position is generally held across the shoulder, supported by a strap. Whilst lesser known in modern times, it is a very comfortable way of holding and supporting the instrument. The option to also play it da gamba is left to the player.
The strap is held across the shoulders which lowers and rotates the position of the instrument. This makes the string length much more accessible than if it was played in a violin position.
The da spalla has been championed by many players for its warm resonance, with a sound like a cross between a viola, cello and bassoon. They have ability to play fast, articulated passages comfortably in the cello range – either as a solo instrument or in a basso continuo role.
Maestro Dmitry Badiarov kindly playing an excerpt on one of my da Spallas
My instruments are known as having a variety of colours and a wide expressive range to allow you to best create your music with.
How a instrument projects, it’s volume, its tonal qualities and the feel under the player’s hands are all key having an instrument that truly plays as you deserve.
Every instrument has its own personality and style which develops throughout the building process.
The focus came back to this instrument due to Bach’s commissioning of it as a 5 string, and the inclusion of these in his inventory when he died (and no large size cello).
It is widely considered that some of Bach’s cantatas may have been written for this instrument, and potentially some of the suites. The 5 string version allows many uncomfortable or unnecessary shifts to be avoided, and transitions made easier.
For each instrument, the wood is carefully chosen from fine quality wood not only for its tonal and physical qualities but also for its compatibility with the style of the model and desired sound.
I enjoy recreating the textures and beauty of old instruments. To this end, I make and develop my own varnish. I employ a variety of techniques designed to produce the richness, and depth of colour I aim to achieve with each instrument, whether made antique style or new.
I am fortunate to have an extensive plaster cast collection taken from original masterpieces. Along with my designing methods, these guide me in shaping the tone and stylistic characteristics of my instruments