“The gradual suppression of the tenor instrument in the 18th century was a disaster; neither the lower register of the viola nor the upper register of the violoncello can give its effect. It is as though all vocal part music were sung without any tenors, whose pasts were distributed between the basses and contraltos! It is essential for 17th-century concerted music for violins and also for some works by Handel and Bach and even later part-writing. In Purcell’s Fantasy on One Note the true tenor holds the sustained C... The need for a real tenor voice in the 19th century is evidenced by the many abortive attempts to create a substitute.” (Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians).
The body length of the tenor was redeveloped from the Dautrich violin with strings as long as possible for convenient cello fingering. Many musicians have been impressed with its potential in ensemble, as well as in solo work. Musicians are usually surprised to find that it is not a small cello but a large violin, tuned an octave lower.