German musicians, according to contemporary documents, played a variety of bowed instruments throughout the late middle ages. The vedel was the most favored instrument c. 1400. The terminology was not precise, but in most cases this was probably a kind of fiddle. By about 1500 scribes most often recorded the presence of the geige, a general term which could indicate several bowed instruments. One of the most characteristic and important of these was a large instrument, with frets, played in gamba position-an instrument which appears to have developed independent of any foreign influence and which might be termed a "German viol." Archival and musical evidence suggests that this instrument could have developed as early as c. 1475. Furthermore, German players of geigen were known to have traveled to Italy, and to have been prominent in such important centers as Florence, Ferrara, and Mantua. We know that the Italian viol da gamba developed about 1500, and the shape of the instrument, as has been demonstrated by the recent work of Ian Woodfield, was strongly influenced by Spanish concepts. It now appears, however, that the Italian viol was the result of a more complex interaction than has previously been proposed, one with contributions not only from Spain and Italy, but from Germany as well.
- Copyright 1989 The American Musicological Society, Inc.