The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #30334   Message #733922
Posted By: JohnInKansas
20-Jun-02 - 06:10 PM
Thread Name: What's a Strad, Amati etc fiddle?
Subject: RE: What's a Strad, Amati etc fiddle?
There are Dover reprints of a couple of excellent books on the subject:

Antonio Stradivari: His Life & Work (1644 - 1737), W. Henry Hill, Arthur F. Hill & Alfred E. Hill, 1963, Dover Publications, ISBN 0-486-20425-1 - about $10 US a couple of years ago.

The Violin-Makers of the Guarneri Family (1626-1762) William Henry Hill, Arthur F. Hill & Alfred Ebsworth Hill, 1989, dover Publications, ISBN 0-486-23031-5 - about $18 US recently.

The "Strad" book, originally published in 1901, is generally considered - if not the definitive work on Antonio Stradivari - then at least the first such. It includes as biographical information much as is known, and has some discussion of some of the more speculative "theories" about his work.

There has been some conjecture about violins possibly assembled from "Stradivari" parts after his death, but no firm knowledge of who might have "inherited" either any remaining parts or his tools. Any "authentic" Strad may be assumed to have been made by this one man - with the help, of course, of a few apprentices - mostly unknown.

The Strad book gives "principal dimensions" of some 50 or so of his violins, and a few violas, showing the changes he made over the period of his work. For comparison, similar dimensions of a few selected violins by the Amati family, Freancesco Ruger, and J.B. Rogeri are also given.

The "Guarneri" book was published originally about 30 years after the "Strad" book, and includes "133 illustrations, including 16 in color."

Guarneris were made by a family of luthiers - Andrea, Pietro, Giuseppe (son of Andrea), and Giuseppe del Gesu; all of whom produced fine instruments, although the "del Gesu Guarneris" are generally considered the finest exemplars.

From other sources it may be learned that the Amatis were also produced by a "family" of builders, and were produced over a much longer period of time than either the Strads or Guarneris. The complaints have been made that many Amati violins may have been produced entirely by apprentices and "signed" by various of the Amati family, and that certain members of the family did not demonstrate quite as much "talent, diligence, or craftsmanship" as the rest.

It should be noted that there are virtually no "original" examples of any of these instruments. They were designed for the music of the day, and for strings used at the time, and would be virtually "unplayable" in a modern setting. The practice has been to "reset the neck" to rather drastically change the height of the bridge to conform to the needs of modern players. There is a report of one known Stradivari instrument that has not been so modified.

The Stradivari, Amati, Guarneri, and Stainer names have become "public," mostly because their instruments have been played by a few "stars." There are dozens - if not hundreds - of other makers, known only to real devotees of the 'fancy fiddles,' who produced instruments of similar - if not equal - quality.