Until quite recently it was thought that the viola da gamba died with the death of one its most loved exponents, Charles Frederick Abel, in 1787; and that it was literally buried with the composer in St Pancras Old Church, near Kings Cross Station in north London. Then it was believed to have been forgotten, until Arnold Dolmetsch pioneered a revival at the end of the nineteenth century. Not so. In fact, now we know that there has always been someone playing the viol, all through the nineteenth century, and that what Dolmetsch revived was the idea of the viol consort and an interest in the music written for the instrument.
So the viol family, developed from a common ancestor of the guitar, the vihuela around the end of the fifteenth century in Spain, has a continuous history from then until the present day, in a similar way to the violin family, which was born around the same time.
The programme here seeks to reflect that extended history and bring music written specifically for viols, from whatever century, alongside that which has been arranged for them.