Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/70

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
58
AMATI.
ALTO.

called also counter-tenor, i.e. contra, or against the tenor. In the 16th and early part of the 17th centuries the compass of the alto voice was limited to the notes admissible on the stave which has the C clef on its third line ; i.e. to the notes a sixth above and a sixth below 'middle C.' Later however this compass was extended by bringing into use the third register of the voice, or 'falsetto,' a register often strongest with those whose voices are naturally ' bass.' The falsetto counter-tenor, or more properly counter-alto, still to be found in cathedral choirs, dates—if musical history is to be read in music—from the restoration of Charles II, who doubtless desired to reproduce at home, approximately at least, a class of voice he had become accustomed to in continental chapels royal and ducal. The so-called counter-tenor parts of Pelham Humphreys his contemporaries and successors, habitually transcend those of their predecessors, from Tallis to Gibbons, by at least a third. The contralto part is properly written on the stave which has C on its second line; it consequently extends to the eighth above middle C and the fourth below. This stave is now obsolete, and the part for which it is fitted is, in England, written either on the alto stave, for which it is too high, or on the treble stave for which it is too low. On the continent the stave which has the C clef on the first line is sometimes used for it. For the female alto voice see contralto.

[ J. H. ]

ALTO is also the Italian term for the tenor violin, called alto, or alto di viola, as distinguished from basso di viola, because, before the invention, or at least before the general adoption of the violin, it used to take the highest part in compositions for string-instruments, corresponding to the soprano part in vocal music. For further particulars see Viola.

[ P. D. ]

ALTRA VOLTA (Ital. 'another turn'), a term in use during the early part of the last century for encore, a word which has now entirely superseded it.

AMATI, a family of celebrated Italian violinmakers, who lived and worked at Cremona, and are generally regarded as the founders of the Cremona school. There is considerable uncertainty as to the different members of the family, which was one of the oldest and noblest of the town.

1. Andrea, the eldest, appears to have been born some time between 1520 and 1525. Fétis mentions two instruments of Andrea Amati, which are dated 1546 and 1551 ; one of them a rebec with three strings, the other a viola bastardo, or small violin. There can be no doubt that he was originally a maker of the older viola di gamba, and that only later in life he began to make violins. We do not know whether he was a direct pupil of one of the great Brescia makers, Gaspar da Salo or Maggini. In spite of some similarity his violins certainly differ materially in shape and workmanship from the works of these older masters. Very few authentic instruments of his make are extant, and those are not in good preservation. They retain the stiff upright Brescian soundhole, but in almost every other respect mark a great advance upon the productions of the older school. Andrea worked mostly after a small pattern ; the belly and back very high; the varnish of amber colour ; the wood, especially that of the belly, most carefully chosen ; the scroll beautifully chiselled ; the general outline extremely graceful. A few violoncellos and tenors of this master are also known. The tone of his instruments is clear and silvery, but, probably owing to their small size and high elevation, not very powerful. The fourth string is particularly weak. Andrea died probably in 1577.

2. Nicolo, younger brother of Andrea (not to be confounded with Nicolo son of Geronimo) appears to have made basses in preference to violins.

3. Antonio, born 1550, and 4. Geronimo, died 1635, sons of Andrea, worked conjointly very much in their father's style ; Geronimo appears to have afterwards made violins of a larger pattern independently of his brother, which however are inferior to those made conjointly with him.

5. Nicolo, born September 3, 1596, died August 12, 1684, son of Geronimo, was the last and doubtless the most eminent of the family. Although he did not materially alter the model adopted by the rest of the Amatis he improved it in many respects. His outline is still more graceful, his varnish of deeper and richer colour, and the proportions, as regards thickness of wood and elevation of back and belly, are better calculated by him than by his predecessors. His instruments have in consequence, besides the clearness and transparency of the older Amatis, greater power and intensity of tone. As a rule he too worked after a small pattern, but he also made some large violins, the so-called 'Grand Amatis,' which are particularly high-priced and a great number of beautiful tenors and violoncellos. His instruments enjoyed even during his life-time a great reputation, and it is related that Charles IX of France gave him an order for twelve violins, six tenors, and six violoncellos, for his private band. Andrea Guarneri and the still greater Antonio Stradivari were his pupils. His label runs thus, 'Nicolaus Amati Cremonens. Hieronimi filii Antonii nepos fecit anno 16 —'

6. Geronimo, his son, was but an indifferent maker. The violins of the Amati are the link between the Brescia school and those masters who brought the art of violin-making to its greatest perfection, Antonio Stradivari and Josef Guarneri. The tone of Gaspar da Salo's and Maggini's violins is great and powerful, but has a peculiarly veiled character, reminding one of the viola da gamba. In Nicolo Amati's instruments the tone is clearer and more transparent, but comparatively small. It was left to another generation of makers to combine these qualities and to fix upon a model, which after the lapse of nearly a century and a half has