From Olomouc to London : the early music of Gottfried Finger (c. 1655-1730)
Gottfried Finger (c. 1655-1730), a little-known but prolific and versatile musician from
Moravia, was a widely travelled virtuoso whose experience of central European musical life
exerted significant influence in England. Finger's early compositions were heavily
influenced by his central European and Italian contemporaries, most notably Pavel Josef
Vejvanovsk (1633-1695), Heinrich Biber (1644-1704), and Antonio Bertali
(1605-1669). His music for the viola da gamba (and to some extent for the violin) is
typical of the dynamic, so-called Austro-Bohemian style practised by Biber and Bertali,
while his trumpet music owes more to the style of Vejvanovsk. In addition, Finger was
an important early composer of instrumental pastorellas, pieces used for Christmas-time
devotion in central Europe, the melodies of which became more widely quoted in the
This study of Finger's music contains many new and significant discoveries about Finger
and about seventeenth-century music in the Habsburg lands. First, Finger's handwriting
is identified for the first time, and as a result many new pieces are now ascribed to him. A
thematic catalogue of Finger's music is included, which is cross-referenced and includes
all known sources, both printed and manuscript. Second, I show that the music from
Finger's early career is a representative result of his early life in Moravia, and it reveals the
strong influences of the Habsburg lands after the Counter-Reformation. This is especially
apparent in his surviving pastorellas.
Third, while Finger's principal instrument was the viola da gamba, of which he was a great
virtuoso, he also played the trumpet, bassoon, baryton, bass ('baB'), recorder, and lute. As
a result he was able to supply detailed information on these instruments, and many more,
for James Talbot's (unfinished) treatise on music. Finger was instrumental in bringing
performance practices from Moravia to England. For example, his apparent ability to 'lip'
the non-harmonic tones of the trumpet into tune (probably learned from Vejvanovsk)
drew attention in London. In an article which appeared in The Gentlemen's Journal
(London: 1691) Finger's minor-key music for the trumpet was described as 'a thing
previously thought impossible for an instrument designed for a sharp key'.
The most most important questions facing the study of seventeenth-century instrumental
music are addressed in case-studies of Finger's music. Through this approach, he is
revealed to be one of the most significant virtuosos of his era.