Sunday, January 6, 2013

Orch. Dork Vacations, Part II - Europe: Strads, Guarneris, Amatis, Oh My!

Royal Spanish Stradivarius violin
Written by Andy Fein, luthier at Fein Violins
The back of the 'Messiah' Stradivarius violin

 If you think of anywhere in Europe associated with violins, you probably think of Cremona, Italy. You might assume that would be my recommendation for the first place to stop on our Orch Dork tour. But it's not.

The 'Messiah' Stradivarius

'King Charles IX' Andrea Amati violin, 1564

Touch down near London and head to Oxford and the Ashmolean Museum to see the most perfectly preserved Stradivarius violin, The Messiah. You'll also find in the collection: the 'King Charles IX' Andrea Amati violin of 1564, one of the oldest surviving Cremonese violins; a similar 'Charles IX'
Andrea Amati viola; the 'Alard' Nicolo Amati violin of 1649; a da Salo viola; and a decorated Stradivarius violin made in 1683. It's interesting to compare Stradivarius' work with Nicolo Amati.
Nicolo Amati was Stradivarius' teacher.

'The Messiah' Stradivarius

OK, from Oxford hop over to Cremona, Italy. Heard of Cozio, Count of Salabue? He is considered the first violin making scholar. See his collection of artifacts and tools from Stradivarius' workshop, plus a host of instruments, at the Stradivari Museum.

A Stradivari mold & other templates

Statue of Stradivarius, Cremona

                                                  Inside the Museo Stradivari, Cremona

    Hear a Stradivarius and a Guarnerius del Gesu from the collection of the Palazzo Communale

Also in Cremona, is the collection of stringed instruments at the Palazzo Comunale. In this collection, great Cremonese instruments have a permanent home in their home town. The oldest violin in the collection is the 'Carl IX of France' Andrea Amati violin, made in Cremona in 1566. They also have several other Amatis, a Francesco Ruggieri violin from 1675, three Stradivarius violins and a beautiful Stradivarius cello, and two Giuseppe Guarneris - one figlio Andrea, the other a del Gesu. Best of all, there are short concerts on one of the collection's violins several time each week. Tickets for the concerts have to be reserved 15 days in advance of the concert, so plan accordingly.
Andrea Mosconi. Burdened with the task of playing the great Cremonese violins.

Speaking of Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu, it's time to head south and a bit west to see my favorite violin. Not my favorite violin in a museum, not my favorite violin in Italy, my favorite violin in the world and the universe. Paganini's del Gesu is lovingly cared for by the wonderful people of Genoa, Italy (Commune di Genova). Paganini's del Gesu, 'Il Canone' (The Cannon!).

Il Canone

Paganini specified in his will that 'Il Canone' would be given to the city of Genoa, his native city, "so that it be preserved forever." The citizens of Genoa take this directive very seriously. Since 1851 'Il Canone' has been on display at the Genoa City Hall. Most wonderful of all, the city and the care takers of the violin have a huge commitment to have the violin played on, played in concert, and recorded. Many, many great violinists have given concerts and recorded with 'Il Canone'. You can too! Or, at least you could ask. But you better have a very, very good reason!

'Il Canone' scroll

Also on display (and available for playing as well)  at the Genoa City Hall is the 'Sivori' violin by J.B. Vuillaume. The 'Sivori' was a violin made as an exacting copy of 'Il Canone' by Vuillaume while Paganini's del Gesu was in Vuillaume's shop for repairs. A true "bench copy".

Eine kleine Mozart? Who doesn't like a little Mozart? The Mozart Birthplace Museum has two violins connected with Mozart, his childhood violin and his concert violin. The concert violin is a beautiful Klotz violin from Mittenwald, Germany. Rather than the pedigree of the violin, I think being able to see the violins that Mozart made music on is far more exciting.

Spanish II on display at The Royal Palace

Like your Stradivarius' matching, decorated and royal? The Royal Palace in Madrid has a matched quartet of Stradivarius instruments for you. Originally, it was a quintet with two violins, two violas and a cello. But one of the violas was stolen by Napoleon when he sieged Madrid and the Royal Palace. That viola is still missing. So, if you're in France, or somewhere else that Napoleon might have dropped a viola, and you see a viola matching the Royal Spanish Stradivaris, do the right thing and give it back! I'm not kidding!
The Royal Spanish Cello

There are several other worthy stops in Europe for violin enthusiasts, including Mirecourt, France and Mittenwald, Germany. The Geigenbau (Violin Making) Museum in Mittenwald, Germany has a tremendous collection of centuries of luthiery in Mittenwald. Mirecourt, France has Musee de la Lutherie et de l'archeterie francaises- The Museum of  French Lutherie (violin making) and bow making. Considering that Vuillaume, Tourte, Lupot, and a host of other great makers are French, this stop is well worthwhile.

So, my friends, we've covered The U.S. and Europe in our search for great violins. Where to next?

Are you a violinist or interested in becoming one? Take a look at our Fine Violins!

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