The name given in France, during the latter half of the 17th and part of the 18th centuries, to thenow obsolete five-stringed tenor viol.
Five stringed viols were amongst the earliest in use.
Praetorius (Organographia, 1619) says they were employed in ancient times, and Agricola (Musica Instrumentalis, 1532) gives the tuning of the five stringed viols then in vogue.
Although composers of vocal music during the 16th century not infrequently called their tenor part ‘Quinte’ or ‘Quintus,’ viols of that denomination remained under the title of tenor until a later period; and probably the first instance where ‘Quintus’ designates a musical instrument occurs in the overture to Claudio Monteverde’s opare, ‘Orfeo’ (Veince (1609-1613).
L’Etat de France, in 1683, gives the name of ‘Fossart,’ who played the ‘Quinte de Violon’ in the Queen’s band, and in 1712-13 the Paris opera orchestra included two ‘Quintes’ amongst the instruments.
In 1773 there were four ‘Quintes’ amongst the musicians of the ‘Grande Chapelle,’ an d’Quintes’ were employed in all the orchestras.
Jean Jacques Rousseau (Dictionnair de Musique, Paris, 1708) gives a good deal of information concerning the ‘Quinte.’ Under ‘Viole’ he says that in France the ‘Quinte’ and the ‘Taille’ (a larged six stringed tenor viol), contrary to the Italian custom, played the same part, and under ‘Partie’ mentions that the ‘Quinte’ and ‘Taille’ were untied under the name ‘Viole.’
In England the two tenor viols which formed a part of the ‘Chests of six Viols,’ so much in vogue during the 17th and beginning of the 18th centuries, were probably indentical with the ‘Quinte’ and ‘Taille’; but the French titles was never adopted in this country.
The bulky size of the ‘Quinte’ rendered it such an awkward instrument to play upon that its dimensions gradually diminished from century to century, and when the violin came into more general use, it melted into the ‘Haute Coutre’ (alto viol).
In the second half of the 18th century it developed into a tenor violin with four strings, and adopted the C clef on the third line which was formerly the clef of the ‘Haute Coutre’ or alto viol.