The Baritone violin
The history of an extraordinary instrument

First instrument of the viol family to be played under the chin and sustained with the arms, unlike
the Viola da Gamba (between the legs), the Baritone violin came to life in the 15th century, in the
midst of the great creations of the Renaissance. Its big size made it a difficult instrument to play
and its register prevented luthiers from building smaller models. It disappears gradually to the
profit of the smaller viola that appears in the 16th century and the even smaller violin, tuned a full
octave higher, in the 17th century. The outstanding virtuoso Paganini was one of the last ones to play it
in the 19th century, while Stradivarius considered it as the quintessence of the “Violino da braccio”, or arm
violin. Stunned by its register, its warmth and its power, overcoming the viola in its tonal beauty and
warmth, the famous luthier built a few “Medicea d’alto” in 1690, due to the special request from the Medicis
and particularly the Prince Cosimo de Medicis. It is on one of these instrument that Paganini first played
the “Sonata per la Gran’Viola” in London in 1834.Thanks to the ingenious luthier André Sakellarides, who
dared to change the instrument’s classic form into an asymmetrical one, the Baritone is coming back to life in
the 21h century. Its new surprising and ergonomic shape allow the performer to play it like a big viola, while
keeping the warmth, tone, depth and power necessary for the instrument, thanks to an enlarged body size.
Fascinated by the rebirth of this instrument that combines the virtuosity of the violin, the warmth of
the viola and the power of the cello, Stephane Tran Ngoc is among the very few performers to play the
Baritone through transcriptions, a classical repertoire and also new works for the instrument; including
several pieces dedicated to him. He has given concerts on the Baritone in Europe, Asia and the USA,
frequently switching between the violin and the baritone.
Program examples:
Solo baritone recital
Carl Friedrich Abel: Sonata for viola da gamba in G
JS Bach: 6th suite for cello
Penderecki: Kadenza
Mojica: Lamentos no. 3
Pisendel: Sonata for violin in A minor
Martinon: Sonatina for violin no. 5
With piano:
Schubert: “Arpeggione" sonata
Schumann: Fantasiestucke
Rachmaninov: Vocalises
Grieg: Sonata for cello
Baritone presentation video