Viola da gamba

The state of Saxony-Anhalt offers a tremendous variety of baroque musical history. Johann Sebastian Bach whom the prince employed as the conductor of the court orchestra graced Köthen, the former residential city of the prince that is situated in the centre of this state.


The International Viola da gamba Competition as well as the Köthen Bach Festival pay homage to Köthen’s golden age of court music.

During his tenure as the court music director in Köthen from 1717 to 1723, Johann Sebastian Bach created significant works. However, according to current knowledge it is debatable whether his three sonatas for viola da gamba and harpsichord (BWV 1027-1029) were also composed during this period.

Carl Friedrich Abel, who was born in Köthen in 1723 and whose father was a cello and viola player in the court orchestra under Bach’s conducting, belonged to the most recognized viola da gamba players at that time. A great number of works for this instrument penned by him testify to his artistry. As of 1764, he worked closely together with Johann Sebastian Bach’s youngest son Johann Christian in the famous concert series “Bach-Abel-Concerts” in London.


Carl Friedrich Abel as gambist, cartoon
by courtesy of former Music Library Peters Leipzig.

The Köthen castle, which used to be the centre of music at that time, will serve as the competition venue.

The „Hofkapellensaal“ in the former royal stable   

The International Viola da gamba Competition, now taking place for the 7th time, makes a tremendous contribution to the maintenance of the musical tradition in Saxony-Anhalt and aims to consistently attract excellent emerging viola da gamba players.