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How did Il Cannone get so dark in the middle?


hk1997
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Hi Mark! It`s strange how the discourse changes with instruments. If YOUR or MINE violin was made with a thick varnish, they will frown upon it: "What a horroble thick varnish. Why don`t you use a thinner varnish? ". But looking to a Del Gesù with a thick varnish the same people will say something like this: "the original and well preserved varnish is thick and adds a special charm to this instrument"... The same can be said about scrolls, purfling, corners etc.

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It's rosin, and although it seems Paganini and family weren't all that careful with the instrument (once his mistress flung it across the room at him), the black could have come later.

Incidentally, my copy of Il Cannone uses stove black instead of rosin (at least when I touch that part of the instrument after a good wiping my hands don't get sticky

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You are so right, MANFIO. People end up in a swamp when talking about what is important in violins, because there is a counter example for every claim. I like the Cannon because it confounds most ideas of what makes great violins. Del Gesu wasn't even recognized as a great maker for decades, because he didn't design an instrument that suited the needs of his day. When stronger, more aggressive bowings and the resultant wider dynamics became the rule, del Gesu moved to the very front rank, even slightly ahead of Stradivari according to some.

We may never know what delicate balance of arching, graduation and wood treatment was used by the greatest makers, for each addressed the problem in his own way. Copying is no sin in the conservative world of violin making, but we should not take the pronouncements of the various 'schools' too literally. The old fellows were ceaseless experimenters, and rightly so.

Mark_W

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The Paganini violin and other Del Gesu instruments now respond well to the demands of modern performance (wider dynamic range, more bow pressure, etc.) How did they work in their original form, without the reset neck and fingerboard and the modern strings and bows? In other words, do the typical Del Gesu outline, arching and graduation work well in baroque form? Or was Del Gesu lucky that his work just happened, after modification, to meet the unforseeable needs of performance 250 years later? We know that Stradivari's instruments were great in both baroque and modern forms. Are there any unmodified Del Gesu instruments in existence?

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I don't know the answers to those questions, strungup. I anticipate that an expert will tell us that there are both pristine and reworked del Gesus that are acknowleged as great. Yet I would argue that it's still from *our* perspective, not from that of players of del Gesu's (or even Paganini's) day. We don't even have a sure grip on our own cultural mindset, (let alone that of a bygone day) often being blind to it.

Nothing would delight me more than to hear that some pristine del Gesu with a thick top and varnish and a neck set in line with the body, responded to the very lightest touch of a baroque bow. I enjoy the mystery...

Mark_W

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Mark, I`m sure that a pristine Del Gesu sounded pretty good. Violin makers have to sell their violins and if they make bad sounding violins they stop making them in violin no. 7. Well, Del Gesu made about 150 instruments (or more) and if he sold them it`s because a player liked it`s sound.

And more: if you have Hill`s book about the Guarneri family, you will find there that most probably Del Gesù was also a player (I believe Strad was a player too, there are musical notes written in numbers by his own hand in the Cremona museum. Why he would write music if not to play them!). His family was involved with the Orcelli family, a famous violinist. His uncle, Pietro Guarneri of Mantua (also a maker) was hired as a violinist and Gamba player at Mantua. They had musicians in their home all the time and they had plenty of time (no TV to watch, no newspaper to read, no telephones, no cars etc. etc.), they had "free" violins. The Hill`s state that most probably he was a player, perhaps a virtuoso player.

I know that the subject "does a maker have to play the violin" irritates 99% of people here, since most makers today don`t play, but I believe that most violin makers of the past were players, if not virtuoso players, they were at least players capable of evaluate their own instruments. I stopped making cellos because I don`t play them...

Shoemakers wear shoes, cooks taste their food, mechanics drive their cars, violin makers ...

Sometimes we find a beatifull violin with no sound, no balance, etc. If the maker were able to play, he would not make such violin, he would change something.

Take the modern italians and you will find many many players: Poggi, Garimberti, De Zorzi, Rochi, Bisiachs, etc.

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