Walter Rowe and the Baryton

Walter Rowe (1584/5-1671) was an English viol player who worked for most of his long life at the Brandenburg court in Berlin and Königsberg (now Kaliningrad, Lithuania). He was the first player of the baryton whose name we know today. The baryton was a special form of viola da gamba with a rank of brass strings provided behind the neck of the instrument in such a way that the player could pluck an accompaniment on these with his left thumb. Its chief claim to fame is the large body of works by Josef Haydn, mainly trios with viola and cello, but these were written for a slightly different form of the instrument, and do not fully exploit its self-accompaniment possibilities.

The music for baryton from Rowe's time was written in tablature similar to that for the lute, which instrument provided most of the baryton repertory in arrangements. The early repertory of idiomatic music for baryton and Rowe's possible composition of some of it was discussed in a paper read by Tim Crawford at the International Haydn Festival at the Esterhazy palace at Eisenstadt (Kismarton) in Austria in September 1997.

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