Baltzar, Thomas

About 1630-1663

Famous German violinist, whose name sometimes appears as Balsart. He won his reputation in England, and is buried in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey. Baltzar was born at Lübeck about 1630, and came to England in 1656. He enjoys the distinction of being the first great performer on the violin heard in England. To the people of the country his art seemed touched with magic. Speaking of Baltzar's celerity of execution, Anthony Wood wrote: "... nor any in England saw the like before . . . Wilson, thereupon, the greatest judge of music that ever was, did . . . stoop down to Baltzar's feet to see whether he had a huff on; that is to say, to see whether he was a devil or not, because he acted beyond the parts of man." Wilson also bears witness that the violinist was so popular and that so many people delighted in drinking with him and making him drink, that he was "by drinking brought to his grave." Baltzar early made a reputation in England, and at the restoration of the Stuarts was placed at the head of Charles II.'s band of twenty-four violins. He appears in the Westminster register as "Mr. Thomas Balsart, one of the violins in the King's service." He was the best violinist of his day, and one of the founders of classical violin-playing. The works he left consist largely of suites for strings.