Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/741

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� ��STRADIVARI.

��1708, the property of Dr. William Huggins, F.R.S. has been selected for illustration.

From 1725 to 1730 (between the maker's 7sth and 8oth years) his instruments are generally supposed to deteriorate. There are certainly many bearing his name very different from those of the maker's prime. The model is somewhat higher, the result being less brilliancy in the tone : the scroll and the wood generally is heavier, the varnish is darker, and the work less finished. For the following equally artistic and scientific comparison of the violin of 1 708 with one of 1726, which may be taken as fair speci- mens of the second and third periods respectively, the writer is indebted to the joint labours of Dr. Huggins, F.R.S., and Mrs. Huggins.

'The violin of 1708 weighs lb., that of 1726 I lb. The fittings may have something to do with this difference; but the 1726 violin is heavier in itself. The violin of 1 708 has higher sides and flatter curves in the belly and back than that of 1726. The general form of the 1 708 violin is much more masterly than that of the 1726 one, which is rather "waspy" looking. The parts of the form of the 1708 violin are " brought thoroughly well together," as an artist would say ; and it gives the idea of being at once larger and more powerful and at the same time more graceful than the 1726 instrument. As a matter of fact the two violins are of almost the same form and size, as they fit nicely into the same case. 1 There can be no doubt, however, as to the artistic justice of the above observations, and the matter is an excellent illustration of how much form depends upon very delicate modifica- tions of line modifications which it will almost baffle even a trained eye to detect at any one point, but which in the aggregate tell at a glance. An art homologue occurs in delicate painting, where refined modifications of colour must be effected by touches which the painter can only feel he is laying on, but cannot see until, after a time, he becomes conscious of a subtle change of colour where he has been working.

'The purfling of the 1726 violin is much in- ferior to that of the 1708 one. The backs of both violins are in one piece, but the back wood of the 1726 one is small and insignificant in "curl" and in markings generally. The wood of the belly of the 1726 one is in two pieces.

'The tone of the 1726 violin is quite without the grandeur and brilliancy of that of 1708. There is no reserve of force about that of the 1726 one: the tone seems to come all at once, and very readily. It has much beauty, without having beauty of such commanding quality that at once one is led captive. It is almost all music, but not without just a trace of what is very noticeable in some early Stradivarius violins, viz. a certain confusion of utterance of any given note as if (to borrow the language of optics) the tone had not all " come to focus " perfectly. No deep many-sided nature could find complete satisfac- tion in the tone of the 1726 violin, its capacity

i This is apparently the result of their being made In the same muuld.

��STRADIVARI.

��729

��for response to varying mental states is too limited.

'The /-holes and the scroll in the 1708 violin are much more subtle and free in curve than those of the 1726 one. The subtlety of curve makes them of course interesting, for the interest of form depends largely upon the stimulating mysteriousness which arises when they vary from the simple curve. The freedom of the curve is also an important factor in the pleasure induced by the sight of a fine violin : such freedom con- veying the idea of masterly ease, and the eye being carried on without the irritating checks occasioned by lines wanting in freedom. There is however freedom and freedom. The freedom of Stradivarius at his best is as the freedom of Gothic architecture, not as that of Classical, it impresses one as an expression of unfettered aspiration not of ordered repetition. The scroll of the 1708 violin would not go so well with the 1726 violin as its own scroll. Stradivarius seems to have been an artist gifted with rare powers of harmony as well as of melody in form ; t. e. every part of his violins is always in perfect keeping with the rest. Upon the whole the form of the 1726 violin may be said to show a very consider- able decadence from that of 1708.'

How far Stradivari is personally responsible for this decadence it is now impossible to say. The fashion of the period, preferring the Stainer model, perhaps demanded greater height in the belly and back, and greater massiveness in the wood : and it is certain that to some of these instruments he refused the direct authorisation of his name. In many instruments of this period the label of Stradivari is inserted ; but hi others of them a ticket appears, indicating, as the fact is, that these violins were made under his general direction by other hands (' sub disciplina Antonii Stradiuarii, Cremonae, 17 ,' in very small type). The workmanship of these instruments is generally attributable to his sons Omobono and Francesco. Occasionally, however, we have a genuine product of the great master's old age, such as the fine violin belonging to Mr. Wiener, dated 1732, 'de Anni 82.' The productivity of Stradivari in the latter half of his life has been mentioned. There cannot be much less than a thousand of his instruments, most of them of this period, still existing, and of the ordinary kind violins, tenors, and basses. Some have disappeared: e.g. we know that he made many violas da gamba, though none of them, so far as the writer knows, are in existence.'-* We know that he also made a great number of kits, guitars, lutes, theorbos, lyres, and man- dolins, which having become curiosities, are not frequently in the channel of trade. For all these instruments he made fittings and cases. On the fittings he bestowed peculiar pains. The Delia Valle collection contains several of his tailpieces which were never used. These are of maple, carefully proportioned, of an oblong shape, and finely finished. They are apparently made out of blocks of wood similar to fingerboards.

2 The Museum of the Paris Conservatoire contains a beautiful fragment of the head of a viola da gamba of Stradivari (No. 111).

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