The viola da gamba by Marie-Catherine Massé, violin maker

Marie-Catherine Massé is a luthier, specializing in the instruments of the quartet: violins, violas, cellos, double basses and violas da gamba.

The viola da gamba is a "jewel of an instrument" which naturally convinced Marie-Catherine Massé to devote her time to it.

She plays it and makes it, seduced by its physical and sonorous beauty. "The viola da gamba has a softer sound than the violin and less powerful than the cello.

Its round and warm tones are reminiscent of the timbre of the human voice. As it pleases the customers very much, it constitutes the essential part of my orders ", analyses this Montpellierian who also makes and restores instruments of the quartet.

Trained as a violin maker in Italy, then passing through London to specialize in viola da gamba, she opened her workshop in Béziers in 2017.

With the smell of spruce and the sound of the planer, she makes everything from A to Z, from the architecture of the piece to the marquetry ornamentation.

Sculpture of the table, cutting of the gills or bending of the ribs, everything is entirely hand-made, without the use of moulds, to use the techniques of the old luthiers.

In 2019, Marie-Catherine Massé undertook the creation of a collection of violas da gamba inspired by the Notre-Dame fire. "I don't build cathedrals, I build instruments.

I would like to help in my own way. Part of the money from the sale of the instruments will be donated to the cathedral or to another cultural heritage monument.

The first piece in his collection, a viol overcoat, is entitled "Hell", in reference to the burning cathedral, but not only.

In the viola da gamba family, the overcoat is the smallest instrument, with the highest pitch.

It is so small that it makes musicians uncomfortable when they try to wedge it between their legs in order to run the bow through it. On the instrument table, Marie-Catherine Massé has carved a small rose window with a pocket knife, which can be found in the nave of the cathedral.

On the back, she took a drawing of the spire by Viollet-le-Duc, who restored the building in the 19th century, and underlined it with flames.

It is still the carved figure on the top of the flamed maple handle that gives a viola da gamba its personality.

In a ballet of gouges, the violin maker extracted a devil's head from the wood, spotted on the central portal of Notre-Dame.

"Hell" comes to life. Varnished by hand and dried in the sun, the piece tells the first chapter of a story. It is followed by other viols dedicated to the Angel Gabriel, to the gargoyles, to Bishop Maurice-de-Sully, to Viollet-le-Duc..., up to a 7-string bass dedicated to the Virgin Mary.


The distinctions

Marie-Catherine Massé has been rewarded many times.

- 2020 - Regional Winner Occitania regional winner in the "Heritage" category of the Ateliers d'Art de France competition

- 2019 - Bass viol according to Lewis, nominated for the National Prize in the Heritage category of the Ateliers d'Art de France.

- 2019 - Audience prize for the bass viol after Lewis at the Maison des Métiers d'Art in Pézenas

- 2013 - Rowan Armour-Brown Memorial Trust Foundation

- 2011 - Laureate of the "Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet" Vocation Foundation


About Ateliers d'Arts de France

The mission of Ateliers d'Art de France is to make known the role and place of art crafts in our society.

As the only professional union bringing together all the 16 fields of art crafts, it federates more than 6000 professionals on the national territory, from the one-man workshop to the art factory.

Created 150 years ago, it represents and defends the 281 crafts in their diversity and contributes to the economic development of the sector, in France and internationally.

Federator, initiator of debates and firm defender of the workshops, at the service of heritage and creation, Ateliers d'Art de France is a space for reflection and innovation, as illustrated by the work of its Professional and Social Commissions, which bring together the best experts in the sector. It is a place for exchange between professionals in the art professions and institutions, public authorities and society.


Marie-Catherine Massé 

3, place Jean Jaurès,

34500 Béziers


Tél. : 06 08 96 14 54

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To go further....

Les tablatures pour viole de gambe

Bach : Sonates pour viole de gambe

La Viole de Gambe pour les commençants

Les personnes ayant déjà pratiqué un instrument et désirant s'initier à la viole de gambe trouveront dans ce volume quelque exercices et éléments importants devant leur permettre de découvrir rapidement l'instrument, ainsi que de nombreuses pièces du XVIIIème siècle qui abordent de manière graduée les principales difficultés. Ce volume pourra aussi servir de suite, ou de complément, à la méthode: JOUER ET APPRENDRE LA VIOLE DE GAMBE, et de préparation à: L'ART DE JOUER LA BASSE DE VIOLE.
L'Art De La Viole De Gambe

Découverte de la Viole de Gambe

Méthode pour viole de Gambe de Jean-Louis CHARBONNIER. Pour le non débutant en musique. Apprentissage de la clef de fa sur le dessus et la base de viole. Révision de la première position et découverte des changements de position et de l'extension du premier doigt.

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