10. Review: Ut Orpheus “Complete and Progressive Method”

Italian publisher, Ut Orpheus, have fifty seven (and counting) editions of viol music from the Renaissance period through to newly-composed works from our own time. It’s encouraging to see such commitment, and equally impressive is the print quality of their editions. Chief among their viola da gamba editions is the two-volume “Complete and Progressive Method for Viol“, available with a preface in English, French and Italian.








Volume 1 has become part of my daily warmup routine, alternating with the afore-reviewed “The New Bass Viol Technique” by Margaret Panofsky [ https://violwords.art/2019/06/07/review-the-new-bass-viol-technique/ ] – I couldn’t decide which was the more useful for me, so opted to work with both books. With Volume 1’s ninety-six pages of technical exercises, it will be quite a while before Volume II is brought down off the bookshelf. However, I will attempt to provide an overview of both books.

But first an aside – both the two Ut Orpheus volumes and the Panofsky volume have little in the way of elucidating text, the former almost nothing. Were it not for Alison Crum’s “Play The Viol” (an essential book I will review later) the student could often be at a loss, despite the hundreds of pages of exercises, to know how to even hold the bow.

The Ut Orpheus editions are both written by Paolo Biordi and Vittorio Ghielmi. I could describe each of Volume 1’s twenty chapters, but a copy of the Contents page should suffice – I trust the publisher will have no objection:

The first six chapters are largely concerned with bowing, the next five with the left hand, before a Review. At the end of each chapter there appears one or two excerpts from “real pieces”, showing the raison d’être of the foregoing exercises – this is an advantage over the Panofsky Method, which sticks rigidly to technical exercises.

Here’s an example of the clarity of print, with easy-to-read fingering and accidentals:


The appendix of scales and arpeggios is useful, and can be incorporated into a daily exercise routine from the earlier chapters – no need to wait until you have reached the end of the book! This could have been made more clear early on.

The alto clef is not introduced until Chapter 15, page 61. I would have liked to have seen it introduced earlier, but anyone eager to read alto can skip ahead.

Volume II:


Obviously, Volume II takes the student further up the fretboard and beyond, and introduces new exercises. The format of the book is the same, though with far fewer excerpts from repertoire pieces.

Taken together, both books will take the dedicated student beyond consort repertoire into the intermediate to advanced soloist’s repertoire. I don’t know if I’ll get there, but I feel I can trust the book to help me on my way, as long as I remain committed. As ever, you can take a horse to water…

Rob MacKillop
2 July, 2019


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