Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/745
westward out of the Piazza Roma. One of these streets now bears the name of the ' Via Guarnieri/ the other that of ' Corso Stradivari.'
Fdtis has well observed that tho violins of Stradivari are equally remarkable for their extra- ordinary excellence and their extraordinary num- ber. Their solid and durable construction, their admirable varnish, the considerable price paid for them in the first instance, and the consequent care exercised in keeping them, have all con- tributed to their preservation : and it is probable that most of them are still in existence. Their number is legion : they are always in the market, and always command good prices. Since the middle of the last century, they have been the favourite instruments of violinists. Up to that time, Stainer had been the favourite maker. Veracini used a pair of Stainer violins : that of Tartini, which was shown in the Milan Exhibi- tion of 1 88 1, was a large yellow Stainer, of rare excellence. Stradivari's instruments soon ousted the Stainers from their position, and revived throughout the musical world the traditional reputation of Cremona. Pugnani, Salomon, Lafont, Viotti, Baillot, Habeneck, Rode, Spohr, Ernst, used them. Nor, in spite of the rivalry of Joseph Guarnerius, has there been any sign of their going out of fashion. In our own time, Joachim uses a pair of fine Stradivaris, both of the best period, one red, the other yellow : Sarasate, Wilhelmi, Madame Norman-Neruda, Straus, Marsick, Ludwig, Kummer, Wiener, and most of our leading violinists, play on this maker's instruments. It is evident from this continued popularity that players find them the most effec- tive, for it is impossible to suppose that they would expend the considerable sums which have to be paid for them, if they could produce an equal effect with cheaper instruments.
On this point the opinion of the most eminent among living players will be read with interest. Dr. Joachim, after perusing the proofs of this article, has most kindly communicated to the writer, to be incorporated with it, a few words on the tone of Stradivari's violins. He considers them as mines of musical sound, which the player must dig into, as it were, in order to develope their treasures, and attributes to them a peculiar responsiveness, enabling the earnest player to place himself completely en rapport with his instrument a relation which, as Dr. Joachim's audiences are well aware, is with him no matter of fancy, but of fact. After some preliminary observations, he continues : ' While the violins of Maggini are remarkable for volume of tone, and those of Amati for liquidity, none of the celebrated makers exhibit the union of sweetness and power in so preeminent a degree as Giuseppe Guarnieri (del Gesu) and Antonio Stradivari. If I am to give expression to my individual feeling, I must pronounce for the latter as my chosen favourite. It is true that in brilliancy and clearness, and even in liquidity, Guarnieri in his best instruments is not surpassed by him : but what appears to me peculiar to the tone of Stradivari is a more unlimited capacity for ex-
��pressing the most varied accents of feeling. 1 It seems to well forth like a spring, and to be capable of infinite modification under the bow. Stradivari's violins, affording a strong resistance to the bow, when resistance is desired, and yet responding to its lightest breath, emphatically require that the player's ear shall patiently listen until it catches the secret of drawing out their tone. Their beauty of tone is not so easily reached as in the case of many other makers. Their vibrations increase in warmth, the more the player, discovering their richness and variety, seeks from the instrument a sympathetic echo of his own emotions : so much so that they seem to be living beings, and become as it were the player's personal familiars as if Stradivari had breathed a soul into them, in a manner achieved by no other master. It is this which stamps them as creations of an artistic mind, as positive works of art.'
It has been suggested to the writer to give a complete list of the Stradivari instruments: but the task would be impossible, involving, as it would, a personal examination of instruments scattered all over the civilized world. Such a list could never be made complete, and would quickly lose its value." It is commonly supposed that all the genuine Stradivari violins are known to the dealers. This is a mistake. The ma- jority of the instruments which come into the dealer's hands have never been seen before. The English dealers know the whereabouts of perhaps a couple of hundred instruments in this country, and they generally hold a considerable number in their own hands for sale. There are large numbers of Stradivaris in Italy, where some very fine specimens are kept as heirlooms, and in France, Russia, Germany, Spain, and America. The price of a Stradivari violin fit for the player's use ordinarily varies from 100 to 500, according to quality, style, and condition: only extraordinary specimens fetch higher prices. The violas are worth about the same, the violoncellos somewhat more. A Stradivari of the earlier period (in the sixteens) may gene- rally be bought at a reasonable price : the finer instruments of the late period (1700-1728), if in good condition, will generally fetch from 300 to 500. Cheap Stradivaris, especially if undoubtedly genuine, should be viewed witli suspicion. A Stradivari is frequently cheapened in the market by reason of its having lost its head. Some ignorant repairer, in fitting it with a new handle, has discarded the old head along
1 ' Gefiihls-accente.' Dr. Joaehlm uses tho term In the technical sense, signifying that peculiar touch and pressure of the bow and finger which the character of the music requl res. Baillot enumerates no less than thirty different ' accents,' which he divides into four classes : 1, The simple and naive ; 2, The vague and Indecisive ; 3, the passionate and dramatic ; 4, the calm and religious. It is an Interesting confirmation of Dr. Joachim's opinion that Paganini's Joseph Guarnerius violin is fitted with a very light bridge, having no ' heart' or central hole, and extremely small and slender feet. This great player evidently found it Impossible to obtain the requisite delicacy of tone in this instrument with an ordinary bridge, and therefore had to sacrifice power to expression.
2 E. g. the magnificent collection of a well-known amateur resident at Blackheath, recently dispersed, included nine Stradivari violins. all of the very highest class, as well as a fine Stradivari alto and smal 1 violoncello, besides four splendid violins of Joseph Guaruerius, ant> many other treasures of equal value.