The Baroque Violin and Viola

The Baroque Violin and Viola Walter Reiter

A fifty-lesson course, volumes I & II
Walter Reiter
Oxford University Press, 2020
ISBN 978-0-19-092270-2 (vol. 1) 978-0-19-752512-8 (vol. 2) £29.99 each (paperback; hardback available)

When Walter Reiter and I discussed his plans to write a book on how to play the baroque violin, I had absolutely no idea of the gargantuan scheme he had hatched! 50 lessons over 600 pages, from making sure that you’re holding the instrument comfortably, and understanding how different bow pressures and speeds impact the sound you make, to a detailed analysis of dozens of pieces and hints on how to play them in a style that the composer would have recognised, from Fontana to Bach with every conceivable bass in between thoroughly dealt with. While the first volume predominantly explores all of the technical sides of the beast, the second gives almost bar-by-bar advice on how to play it, with excellent explanations of why a particular approach should be taken to certain figures. Throughout, there are 118 exercises that force you to think about these things for yourself. As well as the impressive books themselves, there is a dedicated website from which almost all of the music can be downloaded, along with video demonstrations from Walter, all of which enhances an already impressive package.

This project has clearly been a labour of love and I congratulate Walter on a fantastic achievement. If I was starting out again and felt I perhaps should have kept up my violin playing, this would absolutely be my constant companion. I recommend it without the slightest hesitation to anyone embarking on a musical career!

Brian Clark