Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/744

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732

��STRADIVARI.

��cannot fail to make a tolerable fiddle, if he follows his model as well as he can. But there is a great gulf between the master and the best of his imitators. No man who ever lived, dur- ing this century and a half, has been able to make a fiddle which could possibly be mistaken by a practised eye for the work of Stradivari.

Of the person of Stradivari we have some traditional notices. According to Fe"tis, Pol- ledro, first violin in the royal orchestra at Turin, to whose encouragement we owe the fine pro- ductions of Pressenda, used to say that his master had known Stradivari, and was fond of talking about him. Polledro's master was Pug- nani, born in 1727, ten years only before Stradi- vari's death, and he could therefore only have seen him as a child. According to him Stradi- vari was tall and thin. He usually wore a white woollen cap in winter, and a cotton one in sum- mer ; over his clothes, while at work, he wore a white leather apron: and as he was always at work his costume varied but little. He had acquired more than a competence by labour and frugality; and it was a proverb in Cremona, Ricco come Stradivari' (Rich as Stradivari). The superior position in life taken by his de- scendants bears this out. La Houssaie, the celebrated French violinist (born 1735), whom Fe"tis knew in youth, and who visited Cremona a few years after the death of Stradivari, told Fe'tis that the price at which Stradivari sold his violins was four louis d'or each a sum which would probably have purchased as much in Cremona a hundred and sixty years ago as ten times that amount now. 1 Cervetto, an Italian musician in London in the last century, is said to have received a consignment of Stradivari violins for sale, but to have returned them, not being able to dispose of them for the price asked, which was 4 a-piece. The story is probable enough, for though the ' Cremona ' violin was popular in London in the last century, we find in English literature of that period no trace of the name of Stradivari.

Though fiddle-making is an art which runs in families, it is certain that the best makers are the most original, and that the most original makers are those who did not inherit their trade; Stradivari, Stainer, Forster, Pressenda, and Benjamin Banks, are prominent instances. Only one of the two fiddle-making sons of Stra- divari, Francesco and Omobono, inherited any of the father's ability, and this was Francesco. He made excellent violins, which are easily distin- guishable from the work of the father. 'The outline,' says Mr. Hart ('The Violin,' p. 136), 'is rugged, the modelling distinct, the scroll a ponderous piece of carving, quite foreign to Stradivarius the elder, and the varnish, though good, is totally different from the superb coats found on the father's works of late date. . . . The design is bold and original, the soundhole is quite unlike that of Antonius; the tone of Franciscus's instruments is invariably very rich and telling.' Francesco and Omobono were both

J F&tis, A. Stradivari, p. 76.

��STRADIVARI.

elderly men when their father died, and sur- vived him but a few years. Omobono, the younger, died in 1742; Francesco in 1743. In 1746, Paolo, the youngest son and heir of Stradivari, let the house in the Piazza San Domenico to Carlo Bergonzi and his son Mi- chael. Carlo died in 1747: Michael continued to occupy the house until 1758.

The relics of Stradivari's workshop, his moulds, patterns, tools, and memoranda, were carefully preserved by his family for nearly thirty years. In 1776 they were sold by Paolo Stradivari and his son Antonio to Count Alessandro Cozio di Casale Monferrato, an enthusiastic collector of violins, and once the owner of a celebrated matchless Amati. These relics, together with the original correspondence and memorandums of assignment, are now in the possession of a Pied- montese nobleman, the Marquis Rolando Delia Valle. In 1777 Paolo and Antonio Stradivari disposed of the house in the Piazza San Domenico to the brothers Ancina. In 180 1 it was sold to one Rocco Bono, a wine-cooper ; in 1853 it passed into the hands of Giuseppe Vigani; in 1862 it was sold to Gaetano D'Orleans, a woollen-draper. From 1786 to 1862 it bore the anagraph 1239; from 1862 to 1870 it was known as No. 2 Piazza San Domenico; and since 1870 as No. I Piazza Roma. When the writer inspected it in 1881 it was unoccupied.

The descendants of Paolo Stradivari continued to live and flourish at Cremona. His grandson Cesare Stradivari was a celebrated obstetric phy- sician, who is still remembered by the Cremon- ese. When the writer commenced his enquiries at Crernona concern-ing Stradivari, he was in- formed that Stradivari was an eminent physi- cian : Stradivari the violin-maker was com- pletely forgotten. Two representatives of the family still reside in the city : to one of these, Sig. Dottore Enrico Stradivari, the writer was indebted for much courtesy, and for a copy of the privately-printed pamphlet, by the priest Paolo Lombardini, from which the genealogical information contained in the present article is derived. Another branch of the family is settled in Milan. It may be observed in passing, that most of the names of the famous violin-makers of Cremona, except the Amatis, are still to be found among its citizens. The Guarnieris, Rug- gieris, and Bergonzis abound ; but the Amatis have utterly died out, their sole memorial being the tombstone of one ' Mastinus de Amatis,' in the floor of the transept of the Duomo. These re- presentatives of the old makers, like the Stradi- varis, have taken to other occupations : the sole representative of the old craft is Ceruti, who still makes violins in the Via Longacqua, and another violin-maker, even less known to fame, to whom the writer was directed, but whom he found engaged in finishing a barrel-organ. The Cre- monese are barely aware that their town was once famous for its violins, and it was with some difficulty that a local amateur recently induced the municipality to confer the names of Cremona's two most famous makers on two streets leading

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