Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/738

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726

��STRADIVARI.

��the result of which is to make the curves more prominent in the outline, and to increase the tension of the parts. (3) In altering the set- ting of the soundholes, giving them a decided inclination to each other at the top, thus fol- lowing the general upward diminution of the pattern, and in fixing the position of the sound- holes relatively to the cornerblocks. (4) In making the scroll more massive and prominent, thus rendering it less liable to split at the peg- holes, and forming more of a counterpoise in the hand of the player.

In those violins of Nicholas Amati in which the hand of Stradivari is traceable, the chief element of difference consists in the scroll. This is wider when viewed from the back, is less deeply scooped in the volute, and more rounded on the edges. The soundholes are still those of Amati, though with a slight difference in the cutting. In his own earlier works, sold under the name of Amati, but made in all their parts by Stradivari, we begin to trace the improve- ments just indicated. ' At this point,' says Mr. Hart ('The Violin,' p. 126), 'we find that his whole work is in accordance with the plans of Amati (not as seen in the latter's 'grand' pattern, but in his ordinary full-sized instru- ment) : the arching is identical, the corners are treated similarly, the soundhole is quite Amati- like in form, yet easily distinguished by its ex- treme delicacy, the scroll a thorough imitation of Amati, and presenting a singular contrast to the vigorous individuality which Stradivarius displayed in this portion of his work a few years later. . . In these earlier specimens there is a singular absence of handsome wood : the acous- tical properties of the material are very good, but it has little figure in it, and is often cut on the cross.' This cutting on the cross, which refers only to the back, is seldom met with in Stradivari's later instruments, and it would ap- pear that he found 'slab' backs inconsistent with that depth of tone which he desired. Such are the marks of what the French call the ama- tise Stradivarius. These instruments were made during the lifetime of Nicholas Amati, when none of his pupils ventured to deviate much from his pattern, and before Stradivari opened his own workshop in the Piazza San Domenico.

We now reach the period when Stradivari had attained maturity of experience, and freed himself from the influence of his master, and consequently began to display his own origin- ality. This period corresponds exactly with the period between his taking his house in the Piazza San Domenico, and the death of his first wife (1680-1698). Of the violins of this period Mr. Hart ('The Violin,' p. 127) says, 'We here observe a marked advance in every particular. The form is flatter, the arching differently treated. The soundhole, which is a masterpiece of grace- fulness, reclines more. The curves of the middle bouts are more extended than in this maker's later instruments. The corners are brought out, although not prominently so. Here, too, we notice the change in the formation of the scroll.

��STRADIVARI.

He suddenly leaves the form that he had hitherto imitated, and follows the dictates of his own fancy. . . The varnish is very varied. Sometimes it is of a rich golden colour, deliciously soft and transparent: in other instances he has used varnish of a deeper hue, which might be de- scribed as light red, the quality of which is also very beautiful. We find this varnish chiefly on those instruments where he has made his backs in two parts, and also on whole backs. The purfling is narrower than that afterwards used.'

This second period (1680-1698) is that of Stradivari's established reputation. The repute of Cremona for violins was European. Nicholas Amati had long been at the head of the trade : but he had in 1680 ceased to make violins, his workshop was broken up, and his son, the second Girolamo of the family, though a respectable maker, did not succeed to his father's position. From the moment when Stradivari opened his violin factory in 1680, the principal purchasers seem to have resorted to it : and in a year or two his fame was widely spread. Early in 1 684 we find among his customers the Countess Cris- tina Visconti, and no less a person than the Grand Duke of Florence himself. For the former lady he made a viola da gamba 'alia gobba' (i.e. hunchbacked, the upper part of the flat back being sloped off) with violoncello scroll and soundholes. 1 Stradivari, it is probable, was the first to effect this improvement in the viola da gamba. The Double Bass had long been made with violoncello soundholes (i. e. having contrary flexures), which were rendered necessary by the increased height of the model. Though we have none of Stradivari's violas da gamba, we have those of contemporary makers who followed his general models : and these are high in the belly, like the double-bass, have violoncello sound- holes, and nearly approximate in their propor- tions to a reduced double-bass. For the Grand Duke of Tuscany he made a complete set (con- certo) of instruments later in the same year. This concerto probably consisted of two or per- haps three violins, a contralto or small tenor (viola piccola a quattro corde), a tenore or large tenor (viola piu grande) and a violoncello. The designs for the cases of this concerto, drawn by Stradivari's hand, including the locks and fastenings, are numbered 30 in the Marquis Delia Valle's collection, and are labelled thus, in Stradi- vari's autograph: 'Modelli fatti alle Casse del Concerto de instrument! che mandati all' gran ducca di Fiorenza dell' Anno 1684 li 24 giugno.' The designs for the shields, which are surmounted by a ducal crown, with angels as supporters, are entitled also in the maker's autograph, 'Armi chi ho fatto per li istrumenti per il gran Principe di Toscana.' These autographs reveal some curi- ous facts. One is, that Stradivari did not disdain to design and execute with his own hand the inlaid ornaments, fittings, and cases of his instru-

i The paper models of this instrument are In the Marquis Delia Valle's collection. They are numbered 26 and Inscribed '1684, 23 Feb. Ant". Stradivari. Modelli della Viola da Gamba alia gobba fatta p. la Sni Conta Cristina Visconti col ricchio e li occhietti da Violoncello/

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