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Violoncello da Spalla

 

Recent research has suggested that all the Bach cello suites were not written as we assume for a baroque cello, but instead for a violoncello da spalla (meaning shoulder cello). This instrument is held across the chest by a strap around the neck and pictures from the period show that instruments played in this way varied in size from instruments of a similar size to a viola (but with deeper ribs), to a full sized cello. The instrument would have likely been used for parading, by street musicians walking with their instruments, or in galleries where there was not enough room for the musician to play their instrument in the ‘normal’ way. I recently used a violoncello da spalla for a production of ‘Orlando’ at the Royal Exchange Theatre.