Lyra viol [leero, leerow, liera, lyro]
- Frank Traficante
A small bass Viol popular in England during the 17th century. As an instrument it differed little from the standard consort bass viol. Its importance rests on the large, specialized and musically valuable repertory which was written for it.
Of great historical significance is the position which the lyra viol holds as the connecting link between two aesthetic ideals of instrumental sound and function. It could approximate to the polyphonic textures and self-accompaniment capabilities which helped to raise continuo instruments such as the harpsichord and lute to a high level of esteem during the late 16th and early 17th centuries. On the other hand, it could also produce a rich singing line, the growing taste for which led to the predominance of the violin and the solo voice by the beginning of the 18th century. During its period of popularity the lyra viol successfully performed both roles. At the beginning of the 17th century Hume wrote (to the chagrin of Dowland) that the viol could produce equally well the musical excellencies of the lute. By the turn of the century Roger North was writing that ‘all the sublimitys of the violin’ were to be found in the music of the viol....