On music repertoire for vielle

February 20, 2010

Here below a list of music for vielle and/or Fiedel, the medieval violin-like bowed string instrument, played either at the shoulder or in the lap, gamba-style. The extent to which this repertoire can also be played on the other medieval ‘violin’, the rebec, is worthy of further investigation.

The objective of collecting these examples from music history anthologies and recordings is to create a fakebook for busking, alongside singers. I acknowledge the sources, ancient and modern, of the music I’ve collected so far. Details of recordings are in the references. My primary consideration is textless monody, notwithstanding the plethora of solo song from the medieval period.

I can’t ever see myself in the company of other viellists, but I think playing these is scope for positive interaction with our musical heritage, whether they are played on vielles, or rebecs, or violins, viols or ‘cellos. Certainly fluency is required in treble, octave treble and bass clefs if working from these scores, or working from manuscript facsimiles once reading neumes is mastered.


Danse Royale. Thirteenth century solo (ductia) from Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale fr.844. One modern editor advises a slow graceful tempo. Grocheo writes that the “ductia excites the soul of man to moving in an ornate fashion, according to the art called dancing”. A textless melody, in 3-4 sections, each performed twice (first open ending, second closed); less complex and of shorter construction than the stantipes. See recording on two shawms and trumpet by Dufay Collective (track 6). See HAM 40(1 – ductia) and (2 – estampie).

Danse Royale. An estampie from HAM vol.1, different from the one above, in seven sections with repeats. See David Munrow recording.

English Dance (Estampie). This comes from HAM vol.1 in ten sections (pp.43), with an eleventh featuring chords (with a continuously repeated top note, F, and moving chords beneath it).

Istampita Belicha. Italian, fourteenth century. GB-Lbm 29987. Recorded by Dufay Collective (track 6).

Istampita Chominciamento di gioia. Fourteenth century, Italian. GB-Lbm 29987, f.56. Arranged by Newberry Consort for vielles and lute. Recorded also by Ensemble Unicorn, accompanied by Saltarello no.4

Istampita Ghaetta. Italian, fourteenth century. GB-Lbm 29987.  Recorded by Dufay Collective (track 1). 

Istampita Pa(r)lamento.  Five sections, each with ‘open’ and ‘closed’ repeats. GB-Lbm 29987. Recorded by Ensemble Unicorn.

Istampita Tre Fontane. GB-Lbm 29987. Recorded by Ensemble Unicorn.

La Prima Estampie Real. French, thirteenth century. Recorded by Dufay Collective (track 2)

La Quatra Estampie Real. The Fourth Royal Estampie, French thirteenth century. Recorded by Renaissance Players (track 11)

La Quinte Estampie Real. The Fifth Royal Estampie, French thirteenth century. One of eight on two pages; Bibliotheque Nationale, Ms.Fr.844 folio 104vo.  See AMWC, example 29. Recorded by David Munrow (track 1) and Dufay Collective (track 9).

La Seconde Estampie Real. French, thirteenth century. Recorded by Dufay Collective (track 4)

La Tierche Estampie Real. French, thirteenth century. Recorded by David Munrow (track 17) and Dufay Collective (track 5).

La Uitime Estampie Real. French, thirteenth century. Recorded by David Munrow (track 11), Dufay Collective (track 3) and Renaissance Players (track 4).

Lamento di Tristan, with Rotta. An estampie from the fourteenth century. HAM vol.1, p.63. Recorded by Ensemble Unicorn.

Saltarello. An estampie from HAM vol.1, p.63.

Trotto. English, fourteenth century. London, British Museum Mus.Add. 29987. One modern edition has this starting on C and in two flats; another has it starting on G with one flat, putting it in the range of, for example, a treble viol.


Ductia. HAM, two-voice dances. HAM 41(a) is set for two parts on a bass clef. 4a(b) is set for two parts both on octave down treble clefs. Ernst Stolz has done a YouTube video clip, 41a on two viols, 41b on recorder and viol.  

Stantipes. English, thirteenth century, London, British Museum Harley 978. HAM vol.1 describes this as a ductia.

Stantipes imperfecta (Ductia). English, thirteenth century. London, British Museum Harley 978. In five sections, where the Cantus theme is in the lower tessitura in the first two sections, but moves to the upper part in Sections 3-5. Obviously this is an example of the Cantus having been composed first and an additional part added to it. 


In seculum viellatoris: motet a3 from thirteenth century, Bamberg Codex.

In seculum. HAM 32c, pp.34-35 and commetnary at p.219. Untexted, but editors of HAM indicate instrumental performance is extremely unlikely.

Rondellus. Walter Odington (c1300), De Speculatione Musicae, Coussemaker, Scriptorum I, 247.

Multiple vielles

Johannes Ciconia, Ligiadra donna. Newberry Consort; vielles.

Antonio Zacara da Teramo, Rosetta. Newberry Consort; vielles.

Zacara, Un fior gentil. Newberry Consort; vielles.

Anon. Principio di virtu. Newberry Consort, vielle, rebec and lute.

Vielle and voice(s)

Johannes Ciconia, O rosa bella. The Newberry Consort has recorded this vocal solo with vielles.

Der May. This is an accompanied song by Oswald von Wolkenstein (1377-1445) in HAM vol.1 Ex.60. An extended song with an accompanying textless bass line.

References – scores

Archibald Davison and Willi Appel. Historical Anthology of Music, vol.1. 

Timothy Roden, Craig Wright and Bryan Simms, Anthology for Music in Western Civilization. Volume A: Antiquity through the Renaissance.

References – CD recordings

Chominciamento di gioia: Virtuoso Dance-music from the time of Boccacio’s Decameron. Ensemble Unicorn, Vienna. Naxos, 8.553131.

Dufay Collective: A Dance in the Garden of Mirth: medieval instrumental music. Chandos, 9320. 1994. Giles Lewin and Suzanne Pell, vielles.   

Il Solazzo: music for a medieval banquet. The Newberry Consort. Harmonia mundi 907038.

Music of the Crusades. Early Music Consort of London, dir. David Munrow. Decca, 430264-2.

Venus’Fire. The Renaissance Players, dir. Winsome Evans. Walsingham 8004-2. Recorded 1992/3. Issued 1994.

Wanderers’ Voices: Medieval Cantigas & Minnesang. Newberry Consort, Harmonia mundi 907082. Minnesang by Wolkenstein and others; cantigas from Martin Codax and the Las Huelgas Codex.


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