Violinists and violin music in Scotland, 1550-1750

McGregor, Aaron (2020) Violinists and violin music in Scotland, 1550-1750. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Due to Embargo and/or Third Party Copyright restrictions, this thesis is not available in this service.


This thesis explores the early history of the violin in Scotland from 1550 to 1750, principally through a study of performers and musical sources. The following research questions will be addressed:

• How and when did the violin become established in Scotland?
• What were the roles of violinists, and their place in Scottish society?
• What were the violin’s range of repertoires, and how did these contribute to a Scottish national musical style and identity by the mid eighteenth century?

Research undertaken during the years 2015-2019 has involved examining iconographical, documentary, and musical sources, tracing the biographies of performers, and investigating records of employment of musicians at court, burgh, church, landed estates, musical societies, theatres, and dancing assemblies. The most significant findings relate to the violin’s place at the sixteenth-century royal court, including the identity of several previously unknown groups of foreign violinists. Tracing a far earlier history of the violin in Scotland than formerly recognised, this thesis counteracts the commonly held notion that the violin arrived ‘around 1670’ and that its early repertoire was insular and unworthy of serious study.

This thesis explores the full range of styles and genres played on the violin in Scotland in c. 1550-1750. A lack of pre-1670 musical sources specifically written for the violin has previously been taken as evidence for the instrument’s late arrival. This thesis presents a rich history of Scottish consort music dating back to the mid sixteenth century, closely related to violin band repertoire from England and France. Violin music in Scottish manuscript sources of c. 1670-1750 shows a continuity of vernacular elements, particularly in an underlying grammar of variation form. Each successive generation of players developed this tradition through interaction with contemporary musical styles, most notably in Italianate concert music in the eighteenth century.

This thesis concludes that the violin had a far earlier history than previously recognised, stretching back to the mid sixteenth century. By 1750, it had become the dominant instrument in Scotland due to its facility for bridging socio-cultural and musical divides.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Music
Supervisor's Name: McGuinness, Dr. David and Butt, Professor John
Date of Award: 2020
Embargo Date: 1 October 2023
Depositing User: Dr Aaron McGregor
Unique ID: glathesis:2020-81749
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 26 Oct 2020 09:26
Last Modified: 05 Oct 2023 07:42
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.81749

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