Aristocratic Women Amateurs and the Politics of Virtuosity: Placing the 18th-century Pardessus de Viole in its Social and Cultural Context


A symposium at the Boston Early Music Festival, Wednesday, June 14, 2017, 1- 4 pm – Courtyard Marriott Boston Downtown

CONTACT: Tina Chancey   (703) 407-0642  For more information:

The symposium is part of a three-session celebration of the pardessus de viole. The other two components are a concert (Thursday, June 15, 2017 at Lindsay Chapel, Emmanuel Church, 1-4 pm) co-sponsored by the Viola da Gamba Society of America, and a session of lecture demonstrations* later in the week. International performers and scholars invited to participate include Simone Eckert (Germany), Richard Sutcliffe (Belgium), and Myrna Herzog (Israel).

The main goal of the conference is to place the 5 and 6-string pardessus and the quinton in a larger social and cultural context. Primarily created (in some cases adapted, in others, invented) for private music making by women amateurs interested in borrowing repertoire from the violin, flute, oboe, musette/hurdy-gurdy and bass viol, the pardessus and quinton’s ease of playing and beautiful sound gradually recommended them to a much wider public audience. For example, the five-string pardessus was played by orchestral cellists and young children; challenging repertoire was written for the instrument and a few talented young amateur women players were great successes at the Concerts Spirituels.

ADVISORY BOARD: Dr. Tina Chancey (Hesperus), Catharina Meints (Oberlin Conservatory) Annalisa Pappano (Catacoustic Consort), Dr. Robert Green (Professor Emeritus, Northern Illinois University), Dr. Thomas MacCracken (Database of Historical Viols).


Thirty minutes will be allotted for each paper: 20 minutes for the presentation itself and 10 minutes for a discussion period. Scholarly papers may include musical examples, live or recorded. No harpsichord will be available.

Sample topics:

  • a history of amateur women musicians in France
  • pardessus, quinton and violin
  • the myth of the inferior amateur
  • pastoral music and gendered instruments
  • the politics of transcription and repertoire-borrowing
  • the difference between adaptation and invention
  • comparative iconography of treble, pardessus and quinton

ABSTRACT DEADLINE: Please submit individual abstracts (no more than 500 words) by February 15, 2017, electronically to In the body of the email please include your name, academic affiliation, status (grad student, faculty, professional performer, independent scholar), phone number and any additional e-mail addresses, and technical requirements (CD or DVD player, computer and projector for Power Point presentations, white board). Please also list any other musicians who will be taking part in your presentation.

 HONORARIA: presenters will be transported to and from Logan Airport and put up in private homes, and will receive free tickets to some Festival events. Rehearsal time will be arranged according to the availability of the hall.


We are also seeking pardessus and quinton players to present informal, interactive lecture demonstrations with a balance of spoken text and live music, spotlighting a particular repertoire, composer or performance practice issue. A harpsichord will be available. Presenters are encouraged to be less formal. 30 minutes are allotted for each presentation.

Sample topics:

  • comparing Villeneuve transcriptions of Marais to the original
  • an overview of pastoral literature
  • a study contrasting Forqueray performed on harpsichord, bass viol and pardessus
  • Exploring Purcell fantasias with pardessus on the top line

Please contact Tina Chancey at .