The Caldwell Collection of Viols

A Life Together in the Pursuit of Beauty

Text, music audio, and personal photographs: Catharina Meints Caldwell

Photographs of the instruments: Roger Mastroianni

Notes on the instruments: John Pringle

Notes on the makers: Thomas G. MacCracken

Recordings of the instruments: Paul Eachus. Ensemble recordings used by kind permission of Boston Records, Gasparo, and Vox.

A Custos publication

ISTC: A03201100000EC96
doi: 10.5726/ 9781937330064
ISBN: 9781937330064
Library of Congress Control Number: 2012932706

Music Word Media Group

Published in the USA for worldwide electronic distribution by Music Word Media Group, Ltd. 6 Warren St Suite 1F Hudson NY 12534, USA

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This publication is also available in a print edition, ISBN 9781937330187. 160 pages, 217 illustrations, cloth bound, includes two audio CDs.

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Thoughts about the Recording

I have tried to put together a program that uses each viola da gamba to play music written very close to the time and place of its creation. In the process I have become even more aware of the “rightness” of each instrument. I am sometimes asked which is my favorite viol. That has always been an impossible question for me, and this recording is further proof that I cannot answer it. Each instrument brings a special quality to its music that cannot be easily explained. The word "authentic" has been used and abused, but in this case it is a sense of having the sound, articulation, and resonance that match the music and changing styles of composition. I divided the viols by national origin as I did in the catalogue (although grouping the smaller instruments together). As I finished making my choices of music I realized I had formed an actual, if very short, history of the viol literature. I chose solo music as much as possible, and even with the music that has basso continuo, I chose works in which the bass line is quite apparent.

I have included a scale in two speeds and a series of chords on each viol to allow even closer comparisons among them. All viols were recorded at the same distance from the microphone in four sessions over a six-week period in 2008. I decided to use one bow for all the scales to equalize the approach as much as possible. It is a Lothar Seifert pernambuco bow from the 1970s that is tonally in the middle of the sound spectrum of the bows I usually play. I used several different bows for the music: the English basses are played with the Seifert bow, the Germans and French are with a Penzal copy (also pernambuco) of the so-called Tielke bow in Hamburg. On the trebles I used a Sprenger bow and on the pardessus I used a bow by Philip Davis.

I use gut strings from Boston Catlins on the top three strings, either an open gut or an aluminum wound fourth string, and Pirastro solid silver (not silver-plated) wound gut on the bass strings.

In addition to these newly-recorded demonstrations of the viols, I have used archival recordings to illustrate our usage of the Collection over the years. My thanks to Gasparo Records, Boston Records, and the Viola da Gamba Society of America for permission to reuse these tracks.


The author and publisher wish to express their gratitude to the following, and to 72 other contributors, for financial support through a campaign at to fund publication of this app and the associated print edition.


Richard and Penelope Crawford
Richard Hawkins
Lynne Ramsey and Jeffrey Irvine
Jean Robbins
Beverly Simmons and Ross W. Duffin
Andrew Tait


Olivier Calmeille
Jan Crafoord
Patricia Gambell
Arnaud Giral
Gabriel Golden
David E. Hanson
Paul L. Hart
J. Reilly Lewis
John Moran and Risa Browder
Bastian Muthesius
Tilman Muthesius
Belinda Novik and Barry Katz
Charlie Ogle
John Pringle
Skip Sempe
Kathleen Moretto Spencer
Michael Sponseller
David Swain
Lynn Tetenbaum and Steven Johnson


Susan and David Egloff
Karen and Peter Flint
Douglas Kelley
Alice Robbins and Walter B. Denny
Stephen J. Ross
Kenneth Slowik


Alexander Blachly
Paul Lindley Furnas
Fredrik Hildebrand
Mark L. Kausch and Patricia G. Johnson
Richard Killmer
Ida and Glenn Mercer
Andrew Shahan
Peter Tourin


David and Sigrid Boe
Stephen Butts
Jonathan B. Caldwell
Thomas R. Conley
Frederick K. Gable
Kilian Ganly
Patricia Halverson
Lucas Harris
Jared Hauser
Stevens Hewitt
Allen Huszti
Nicholas R. and Sue Copeland Jones
Philipp Kallenberger
Candace Magner
Lorraine Manz
Aileen MacArdle
Amy Mendillo and Ethan Pollock
Leslie Nero
Charlotte Newman
Christopher Philpotts
Kate Pilacky and David DiTullio
Gillian Poznansky
Dorothy Reichenberger
Johanna Maria Rose
Mr. and Mrs. William Steck
Daniel Stepner and Laura Jeppesen
Joseph Tan
Sarah Weiner and Ian Shuman
Elizabeth Anne Weinfield
William Whedbee
Deborah Wythe
Yin Xiong


Anthony Albrecht
Sylvia Berry
Colin J. Brown
Carolyn Bryant
Carolyn Coolidge
Amy Domingues
Thallis Drake
Peter Geiersbach
Stephen Hammer
Debra Lonergan
Sarah Mead
Dorette Roos
Phillip W. Serna
Christopher Stenstrom
Constance Strait
Brent Wissick
Nika Zlataric