Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/699

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��e Archbishop of Salzburg for 30 florins. It is, however, possible that there maybe a mistake as to this date. He married in 1645 Margaret Holz- hammer, by whom he had eight daughters, and one son, who died in infancy. Henceforward to his death, in 1683, the life of Stainer shows little variety: He made a great number of stringed instruments of all sorts, which he chiefly sold at the markets and fairs of the neighbouring town of Hall. The forests of ' Haselfichte' [see KLOTZ], which clothe the slopes of the Lafatsch and the Gleirsch, supplied him with the finest material in the world for his purpose ; and tradition says that Stainer would walk through the forest carry- ing a sledge-hammer, with which he struck the stems of the trees to test their resonance; and at the falling of timber on the mountain-slopes, Stainer would station himself at some spot where he could hear the note yielded by the tree as it rebounded from the mountain side. In 1648 the Archduke Ferdinand Charles paid a visit to Hall, in the course of which Stainer exhibited and played upon his fiddles, and the Archduke thence- forth to his death in 1662 became his constant patron. Ten years later he received by diploma the title of Hof-geigenmacher to the Archduke, and in 1669 (Jan. 9) the office was renewed to him by a fresh diploma on the lapse of the county of Tyrol to the Emperor Leopold I. Stainer seems to have been always in embarrassed circum- stances, owing partly to his dealings with Solo- mon Hubnier, a Jew of Kirchdorf, with whom he was constantly at law. In 1669, having fallen under a suspicion of Lutheranism, he was im- prisoned and forced to recant. In 1672 he sold a viola da gamba and two tenor viols at Salzburg for 72 florins, and in 1675 at the same place a violin for 22 fl. 4 kr. He was still at work in 1677, in which year he made two fine instru- ments for the monastery of St. Georgenburg. Soon after this date he ceased from his labours. In the same year he presented an ineffectual petition to the Emperor for pecuniary assistance. In his latter years Stainer became of unsound mind, in which condition he died in 1683, leaving his wife and several daughters surviving him : and in 1684 his house was sold by his creditors, his family having disclaimed his property on account of the debts with which it was burdened. His wife died in great poverty in 1689. There is therefore no truth whatever in the story of his retirement after the death of his wife to a Benedictine monastery, where he is said to have devoted himself to the manufacture of a certain number of violins of surpassing excellence, which he presented to the Electors and the Emperor. Stainer undoubtedly made violins, probably of special excellence, for the orchestras of some of the Electors ; but such instruments were made and sold in the ordinary way of trade. In course of time, when one of his best-finished instru- ments turned up, the contrast between it and the crowd of common ones which bore his name caused it to be looked on as one of these ' Elector Violins.' These violins, however, cannot have been the work of his last years, during which he was

��insane, and had to be confined in his house at Absam, where the wooden bench to which he was chained is still to be seen.

Stainer's place in the history of German fiddle- making is strongly marked, and it accounts for his fame and his substantial success. He was the first to introduce into Germany those Italian principles of construction which are the secret of sonority. The degree of originality with which Stainer is to be credited cannot be precisely de- termined. Some trace his model to the early Tyrolese viol-makers, but in the opinion of other authorities the peculiarities of the Stainer violins are strictly original. As a mere workman Stainer is entitled to the highest rank, and if he had but chosen a better model, his best instruments would have equalled those of Stradivarius himself. Like that celebrated maker he was famous for the great number as well as the excellence of his produc- tions. He made an immense number of instru- ments, some more, and others less, finely finished, but all substantially of the same model : and the celebrity which he gained caused his pattern to be widely copied, in Germany, in England [see LONDON VIOLIN-MAKERS], and even in Italy, at a time when Stradivarius and Joseph Guarnerius were producing instruments in all respects enor- mously superior. This endured more or less for a century ; but the fashion passed away, and his imitators took to imitating those Italian makers whose constructive principles he had adopted. All Stainer's works bear his peculiar impress. The main design bears a rough resemblance to that of the Amati, but the model is higher; the belly, instead of forming a finely-rounded ridge, is flattened at the top, and declines abruptly to the margins ; the middle curves are shallow and ungraceful ; the /-holes are shorter, and have a square and somewhat mechanical cut; the top and bottom volutes of the f's are rounder and more nearly of a size than in the Cremona instru- ments, but the wood is of the finest quality, the finish, though varying in the different classes of instruments, invariably indicates a rapid and masterly hand ; and the varnish is always rich and lustrous. It is of all colours, from a deep thick brown to a fine golden amber, equal to that of Cremona : and in his best works the exterior alone would justify the celebrity of the maker. But to understand the secret of Stainer's success the violin must be opened, and it then appears that the thicknesses of the wood and the dispo- sition of the blocks and linings are identical with those of the Cremona makers. The difference will become more obvious when an old German viol is examined. It will be found that the older German makers, though they finished their instruments with great care and sometimes with laborious ornament, settled their dimensions and thick- nesses by guess, and used no linings at all. Stainer's instruments are poor in respect of tone. The combination of height and flatness in the model diminishes the intensity of the tone, though it produces a certain sweetness and flexibility. Popular as the model once was, the verdict of musicians is now unanimous against it, and the

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