His first CD uses a substantial string band (4-4-2-4, the bottom line on bass violins
with no 16-foot instruments) on all the anthems with strings: these include the 1689 coronation anthem Praise the Lord 0 Jerusalem, z46, but also the early My beloved spake, z28, and other anthems (z42, z18) which seem apt for the small-group treatment (as well as O give thanks, z33, which quite possibly shouldn't have strings at all).
Thus, the Sonata sopra ~Sancta Maria' has parts for two violins and a bass violin with two cornetts and three trombones (the second, the ~Trombone, ouero Viola da brazzo' part mentioned earlier, the third marked ~Trombone doppio').
Adriano Banchieri gives the tuning D'-G'-C-E-A-d for the ~violone in contrabasso con tasti' in his Conclusioni nel suono dell'organo, pp.53-4, and it is also one of the three tunings given by Michael Praetorius for the six-string ~Violone, Gro[beta] Viol-de Gamba-Bass' (also referred to as the ~Gro[beta] Viol-de Gamba' and ~Italis Violono, oder Contrabasso da gamba'); the other tunings are the five-string E'-A'-D-G-c and the six-string E'-A'-L'-G-C-f.(34) Double-bass viols tuned D'-G'-C-E-A-d are usually used today to double Monteverdi's bass parts at the lower octave, particularly in works such as Domine ad adjuvandum that also assign a bass violin to the same part.
This seems to mean that the contrabasso should play the bass of some or all of the solo vocal passages - the harpsichord need not, of course, have been the only continuo instrument - while the bass violin should play only with the upper strings; unfortunately, the Madrigali guerrieri, et amorosi is uninformative on this point, for there is no separate bass violin part, and the two copies of the continuo, printed as part of a full score in the basso continuo and in a short score in the tenore primo partbook, do not have any indications of instrumentation.
voci & due violini & quatro viole ouero quatro Tronboni ...' in the Selva morale by mistake instead of two of the voice parts; they are alto- and bass-range parts, which proves that the term viole could include bass violins as well as violas.(9) The same terminology is often found in Austrian music of the late 17th century - for instance, in many of the manuscripts of concerted works at Kromeriz in Moravia, or in Heinrich Biber's Sonatae, tam aris, quam aulis servientes (Salzburg, 1676), which has two parts labelled ~Violino' and up to four labelled ~Viola', in alto, tenor and bass ranges.(10)
So small bass violins, particularly those that were used for playing walking along, must have had a higher tuning - such as G-d-a-e', given by Adriano Banchieri in L'organo suonarino (Venice, 1605), p.43, and Conclusioni nel suono dell'organo (Bologna, 1609), p.55, or F-c-g-d', given by Praetorius and by Lodovico Zacconi in his Prattica di musica (Venice, 1592) (also copied by Daniel Hitzier in his Extract aus der neuen Musica oder Singkunst (Nuremberg, 1623).(16) Zacconi, it is true, gives F-c-g-d' as a tuning for violas rather than bass instruments, which has given rise to the idea that string consorts of the period included ~tenor violins'.
There aren't many people around here, like Holovnia, who build bass violins in their cellars.
Still, Holovnia's expertise in playing, repairing and building bass violins stands as a remarkable autodidactic achievement.
CUTLINE: (1) Opposite page, bass builder and jazz musician Joseph Holovnia of Shrewsbury plays one of his handmade bass violins. (2) Above, drawings and sketches used to built the instruments.