Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/743
it which was fashionable in his youth. These a,y have been varnished by his son, whose in- ruments generally exhibit this brown colour. Stradivari occasionally gave his finest instru- ments several coats of fine pure oil varnish, polishing each coat as soon as dry. Sometimes, however, the coats are fewer and thinner, and the writer has seen an instrument sent forth into the world by the great maker with the size barely covered. Perhaps the customer could not wait for the varnishing. As a rule, however, the Stradivari instruments are remarkable for ex- cellence of varnish. It is a fact not very generally known that Stradivari occasionally varnished his instruments with spirit-varnish. This is much more easily applied and dries more quickly than oil varnish, and from the very general employment of it in the middle of the last century, it would seem that most violin-makers hailed its discovery as a boon. The better class of makers tried it and aban- doned it, discovering probably that it did not answer so well in the end, though cheaper, and more easily applied.
Though Stradivari, as has been observed, made instruments of all sorts, his fame rests on those of the violin tribe, t. e. violins, violas and violon- cellos. A few of his kits exist : a fine specimen is in the Museum of the Paris Conservatoire (no. 61). It is of large size, and belongs to the best period, being dated 1717. Clapisson, who purchased it in 1858, introduced in his comic opera 'Les trois Nicolas' a gavotte specially written for this instrument, the solo part in which was played by Croisilles, and produced a singularly ' brilliant effect. A remarkably fine mandolin with a carved head, formerly the property of J. B. Vuillaume, still exists in Paris. A beautiful guitar of his make, dated 1680, was in this country in 1881. The rose of the guitar being filled with a mass of delicate tracery, in the style of a circular flamboyant window, the inside is not open to view, and the maker therefore cut his name with the knife on the back of the peg-box. 1
���His larger instruments of the violin tribe (violas and violoncellos) are liable to the charge of being merely magnified fiddles. In this re- spect Stradivari set an example which was fol- lowed by other makers. However correct in theory, it is commonly considered that as regards the viola this principle is a failure ; for violas of older models have a better effect in a quartet than those of Stradivari. The tone is rich and
l For a facsimile of this Interesting Inscription the writer Is In- debted to Mr. Arthur Hill, of the firm of Hill & Sons, Wardour Street.
��' thick,' but deficient in liquidity : this character is evidently the result of shallowness in the rihs, and consequent shortness in the soundpost. We have, however, little opportunity of judging of the effect of Stradivari's large violas, most of which have been cut down to the size of the contralto. Stradivari's theory broke down conspicuously when he applied it to the violoncello. The violoncello absolutely requires a greater height in the ribs, in proportion to the length, than the violin. Stradivari, in endeavouring to re- duce the violoncello in this respect to the pro portions of the violin, sometimes made instru- ments which are very defective in tone, and can only be cured by increasing the height of the ribs. The violoncellos are of two sizes, and the larger is now as scarce as the large violas. The celebrated bass of Servais, now belonging to M. Servais, jun., is a rare specimen. Those of Signore Piatti and Herr Hausmann should aLso be mentioned. The smaller basses are too nar- row, and their tone is thin, approaching that of the viola da gamba. The violoncello of the younger Duport, now in the possession of M. Franchomme, is of this small pattern. These smaller instruments are easier to handle, and are on that account preferred by some players. The larger ones have a much finer tone. These larger basses were originally constructed for use in the concerto, whether 4 da chiesa ' or 'da camera,' the narrower ones being appropriated to solo music.
Double-basses of Stradivari are rare; 2 and there are probably at present none in this country. Dragonetti had one, but it does not appear to have been his favourite instrument. Count Ludovico Melzi has a fine specimen, of high model, and very broad. The lower angles of the middle bouts are rounded off, apparently to avoid injury.
The fine tone of the Stradivari violins testifies to- the substantial value of the improvements which he effected in the pattern. It is invariably bright, sweet, full and equable. It is also easily yielded, or, in the common phrase, ' comes out ' freely under the bow. Nicholas Amati, and the earlier Guarnieris, produced instruments which charm by their softness rather than by their power : in Joseph Guarnieri everything yields to sonority and depth. But against all other violins, a good Stradivari bears off the palm for general excellence of tone, as well as for beauty and durability : and all succeeding generations of fiddle-makers have acknowledged the ex- cellence of the Stradivari model by copying it. The majority of the violins made during the last century and a half, of all sorts, from the best productions of Lupot, Fendt, Pressenda, and Vuillaume, down to the common fiddles of Mirecourt and Neukirchen, manufactured by the gross and sold for a few shillings, are Stradi- vari copies. The most accomplished maker can invent nothing better: the dullest workman
a Slg. Lombardinl says Stradivari made 'nna inftnila dt violinl, alquanti contrabassl. molti yloloncelli. viole, chitarre. liutt e man- dorle.'