Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/298

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.



��no constructive changes in the instrument, and only the slightest modifications. The increased use of the upper shifts has indeed necessitated a trifling increase in the length of the handle, while the sound-post, bridge and bass-bar are larger and more substantial than those formerly in use. It might probably be further shown that the strings were smaller and less tense, and lay closer to the finger-board, and that the tone of the fiddle was consequently somewhat feebler, thinner, and more easily yielded. In other re- spects the fiddle family remain very much as they came from the hands of their first makers three centuries ago.

The reason of the concentration of fiddle- making at Cremona is not at first sight apparent. The explanation is that Cremona was in the 1 6th century a famous musical centre. This is partly due to the fact that the Cremonese is the richest agricultural district of Lombardy, and was mainly in the hands of the monasteries of the city and neighbourhood. These wealthy foundations vied with each other in the splendour of their churches and daily services, and fur- nished constant employment to painters, com- posers, and instrument-makers. The celebrity of Cremona as a school of music and painting was shared with Bologna ; but its principal rival in fiddle-making was Brescia, where Gaspar di Salo, the two Zanettos, Giovita Rodiani, and Maggini, made instruments from about 1580 to 1640. The characteristics of these makers, who compose what is sometimes called the Brescian School, are in fact shared by Andreas Amati, the earliest known maker of Cremona. To speak of a * Bres- cian School * is misleading : it would be more correct to class their fiddles generally as early Italian. The model of these early Italian violins is generally high, though the pattern is atten- uated : the middle bouts are shallow ; the /-holes are narrow and set high, and terminate abruptly in a circle like that of the crescent soundhole. (See Fig. 6, vol. iii. p. 641.) The scroll is long, straight, and ungraceful. The violins are generally too small ; the tenors are always too large, though their tone is deep and powerful. Violoncellos of this school are not met with. The substantial excellence of the makers of Brescia is proved by the fact that the larger violins of Maggini, and the Double Basses of Gaspar di Salo are still valued for practical use. De Beriot played on a Maggini Violin : and Vuillaume's copies of this maker once enjoyed a high reputation among French orchestra players for their rich and powerful tone.

The reputation of the Cremona violins is mainly due to the brothers Antonio and Girola- mo Amati 1 (Antonius et Hieronymus), who were sons of Andrew Amati, and contemporaries of Maggini. [See AMATI.] The idea of treating the violin as a work of art as well as a tone-producing machine existed before their time : but so far the

Amatus Is originally a Christian name. Identical with Aimt5. which in the feminine form survives In French and English (Aime'e, Amy). The correct family name is ' de' Amati' (De Amatls).

��FIG. 13.


artistic impulse had produced only superficial decoration in the form of painting or inlaying. The brothers Amati, following unconsciously the fundamental law of art-manufacture that de- coration should be founded on construction, reduced the outlines and surfaces of the instru- ment to regular and harmonious curves, and rendered the latter more acceptable to the eye by a varnish developing and deepening the natural beauty of the material. Nor did they neglect those mechanical conditions of sonority which are the soul of the work. Their wood is of fine quality, and the dis- position of the thicknesses, blocks, and linings, leaves little to be desired. Those who came after them, Nicho- las Amati, Stradivari, and Joseph Guarnieri (del Gesu), augmented the tone of the instrument. But for mere sweetness of tone, and artistic beauty of design, the brothers Antonius and Hieronymus even yet remain unsurpassed. The illustration (Fig. 13), shows the soundholes, bouts, and corners of the most famous maker of the family, Nicholas Amati, the son of Hieronymus (1596 1684). He began by copying most accurately the works of his father and uncle; his early violins are barely distinguishable from theirs. Between 1640 and 1650 his style developes unconsciously into that which is associated with his own name. His violins become larger, the thickness is increased in the middle, the blocks are more massive and prominent, and the sound- holes assume a different character. But these changes are minute, and tell only in the general effect. And the same love of perfectly curved outlines and surfaces rules the general design. During a very long life Nicholas Amati varied from his own standard perhaps less than any maker who ever lived. After his time the Cremona violin was carried to its utmost per- fection by his pupil Antonio Stradivari (^1649- 1737). [See STRADIVARI ; and for some account of other makers see ALBANI, AMATI, GAGLIANO, GRANCINO, GUADAGNINI, GUARNIERI, LANDOLFI, SEHAFIN.]

FIG. 14, The principal varieties in the

ffij*ffiG| design of violins of the classical

HI period will be illustrated by a

Hj/ comparison of Figs. 13, 14 and

15. Fig. 14 is from a violin by

JUUH Stainer; Fig. 15, from a Tenor

rttttj |Mfc k v Joseph Guarnerius. [For

if ^yfflHL a-a illustration of a violin by

E Ml Stradivari, see vol. iii. p. 728.]

After Cremona, Venice among

Italian towns produced the best fiddle-makers ;

then come Milan and Naples. The pupils and

imitators of Stradivari maintained the reputation

of the Italian Violins during the first half of the

last century : but after 1 760 the style of Italian

violin- making shows a general decline. This is

partly attributable to the fact that the musical

�� �