Italian Master Violins

The violin is the soprano member of a family of stringed instruments that emerged at the beginning of the 16th century in Northern Italy. Not later than in the first half of the 17th century, a model had been developed which to this day has undergone only minor constructional changes and which remains valid.

For centuries, Cremona was the centre of violin making, where the workshops of famous instrument-making families like Amati, Guarneri and Stradivari were located. The instruments of the masters from Cremona served as models for violin makers all over Europe - and they became the basis for many forgeries. Different from violins of the Alemannic School, which were made to archaic construction plans, the violins from Cremona were made with the help of a supporting mould: the »garland« of ribs was built around a prefabricated wooden shape.

The »Musikinstrumenten-Museum« possesses some outstanding violins of Italian violin makers, among them one of approximately 600 Stradivari violins which have been preserved worldwide. Unfortunately, the instrument has lost most of its timbre due to inappropriate repairs. Nevertheless, even in its present state it attests to the mastery of its maker. Another violin from Cremona, which was probably made by Amati student Francesco Ruggieri, is on permanent loan at the Beethoven-Haus Bonn because it was once owned, together with three further string quartet instruments, by Beethoven.

A violin that is accredited to the Neapolitan violin maker Gennaro Gagliano is of special historical interest. Unlike most old stringed instruments, this violin has not been remodelled over the centuries to satisfy new musical standards: for example, it still has its original neck, which has not been lengthened. From the outside, the reddish-orange varnish that Gagliano used is eye-catching. The sound of this extraordinary instrument has been recorded (CD) by Rainer Kussmaul.

Violin by Gennaro Gagliano, Cat.-No. 5446 (Flash)