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Simplified history of violin making...


germain
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... do I have it right?

Classic Italian violin making dies at the end of 18th century with the Milanese "cheapjacks" such as Landolphi/ Testore in Milan and Ceruti in Cremona. Violin making more or less moves to Paris in the workshops of Lupot, Pique, Vuillaume and Thibout. In Italy the only makers that continue the tradition of great instrument making throughout the 19th century are Pressenda and Rocca. As French violin making at the end of the 19th century shifts towards trade quality mass produced industrialized violins Leandro Bisiach revives the glory of the Italian violin making in Milan in the early 20th century thus begins the renaissance of modern Italian violin making.

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1 hour ago, germain said:

... do I have it right?

Classic Italian violin making dies at the end of 18th century with the Milanese "cheapjacks" such as Landolphi/ Testore in Milan and Ceruti in Cremona. Violin making more or less moves to Paris in the workshops of Lupot, Pique, Vuillaume and Thibout. In Italy the only makers that continue the tradition of great instrument making throughout the 19th century are Pressenda and Rocca. As French violin making at the end of the 19th century shifts towards trade quality mass produced industrialized violins Leandro Bisiach revives the glory of the Italian violin making in Milan in the early 20th century thus begins the renaissance of modern Italian violin making.

Sorta.  You forgot, however, all about the thousands of violin makers in the Germanic states and the Austro-Hungarian areas who, by discovering how to make fiddles faster and cheaper, buried the Italian and French violin makers under their remarkably prodigious output.  At the end of the 20th. Century, the Chinese, having studied the methods of the Germans, the Eastern Europeans, and the French factories in Mirecourt, then combined their techniques to probably outstrip the previous violin production of the entire world.  Considered statistically, Italian violins in particular are merely a footnote to "the usual".  :ph34r:  :D

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6 hours ago, germain said:

... do I have it right?

 

I don’t think so.

My summary would be more like this:

The Cremonese largely had pretty much a monopoly on good violins in the 17th. C. This eroded towards the end of the 17th. C, and by 1700 people supplied good violins almost everywhere, so that the Cremonese of the 18th.C. were between hard up and destitute. Until mid 19th. C violin making was still a craft everywhere, until it degenerated into an industry in the second half of the 19th. C. from which it has never really recovered.

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2 hours ago, jacobsaunders said:

I don’t think so.

My summary would be more like this:

The Cremonese largely had pretty much a monopoly on good violins in the 17th. C. This eroded towards the end of the 17th. C, and by 1700 people supplied good violins almost everywhere, so that the Cremonese of the 18th.C. were between hard up and destitute. Until mid 19th. C violin making was still a craft everywhere, until it degenerated into an industry in the second half of the 19th. C. from which it has never really recovered.

This should be the scrolling prologue text to Maestronet the Film.

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9 hours ago, germain said:

... do I have it right?

Classic Italian violin making dies at the end of 18th century with the Milanese "cheapjacks" such as Landolphi/ Testore in Milan and Ceruti in Cremona. Violin making more or less moves to Paris in the workshops of Lupot, Pique, Vuillaume and Thibout. In Italy the only makers that continue the tradition of great instrument making throughout the 19th century are Pressenda and Rocca. As French violin making at the end of the 19th century shifts towards trade quality mass produced industrialized violins Leandro Bisiach revives the glory of the Italian violin making in Milan in the early 20th century thus begins the renaissance of modern Italian violin making.

There's a difference between "the history of violin making" and "the history of the classical Italian tradition" ...

But the so called death of the Cremonese tradition has been wildly exaggerated. A few Michael Angelo Bergonzis are now being reattributed to Nicolo thanks to dendro (or a bit more controversially to Zosimo), so it all lolloped on rather longer than conventional wisdom accepts. One could hardly describe the Cerutis as the death of the Cremonese tradition either.

 

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33 minutes ago, J.DiLisio said:

This should be the scrolling prologue text to Maestronet the Film.

Something like "Long time ago in a far away galaxy there were makers possessing the force to craft violins. The Cremonese...":rolleyes:

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My version, dates are very approximate:

1/ Inception and strength: Andrea Amati invents violin c 1550; the Cremonese design remains essentially based on the same information being known and used until del Gesu, who starts ignoring some parameters. 

2/ Decay: After del Gesu's death, more parameters trickle off and the "Cremonese" product ceases to resemble the original design very rapidly, resulting in a dead period from c1750-1800.

3/ Attempted rebirth: around 1800 in France Lupot starts to try to recreate the design, but based on reverse engineering, not knowledge of original design specifics. This period continues to the present day, jumping from country to country depending on where the best violin examples live and are accessible to local makers to work from.

Appendix: Location of best violins via biggest dealers and the largest private collections, thus facilitating the best copyists, dates are wildly approximate:
1800-1890: France (Lupot, Vuillaume, and others)
1840-1980: England (Betts, Hill, many others)
1920-present: US (Wurlitzer and subsequently others)
the present and not too distant future: Asia: various countries
Not on list after 1750: Italy, except possibly in the Bisiach shop in early 1900s (sorry, Italy)
Secondary effect: starting in the 1980s detailed books and STRAD posters brought some degree of accessibility to entire world. Not the same as handling an original, but a huge bump up for poorly located makers. Result: everyone gets suddenly better, everywhere.

It should be understood that in most places and times there were individuals who were doing good work, but they didn't always represent massive national trends. Rocca is a great example, as is Ornati, both of whom are on my list as some of the best non-classical period makers of any time, any place. Kittel in Russia would be a nice example of this in bow history.

Personal bias noted: Unlike a couple of people above, I consider independent making schools outside of Cremona and not influenced by Cremona, outside of 1550-1750, mostly just variously dead-ended dog meat. For instance, if the same period Venetians were that great at violin making (not cellos), why isn't everyone copying them? The one powerful exception to this is Brescian viola making 1570 to 1650 or so, which is equally important as the Cremonese instruments. Of course Montagnana and Goffriller cellos deserve respect as well, but those are individuals, not broad schools. Based on who plays them and their appearance in front of orchestras in concerts, I'd put Stainer and followers in the dead-end category, though that will rub some people the wrong way.

I am well aware that someone will be able to bring up small and relatively unimportant exceptions to everything I have said above.

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One might add , that before the violin was “ invented” by Amati, there seems to be a strong link to violas and Brechia. ,   
  Perhaps it’s more of a discovery than an invention in some respects, certain technology such as bent vs carved ribs made the shape and tonal improvements and the narrowing of the waist made access with the bow possible. 
 

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@James M. Jones A lot of books in the past give primacy to Brescia without bothering to do the math: Andrea Amati was already making violins before Gasparo da Salo was an adolescent. The Michelli family was not making violas, though their instruments have been converted into violas in some cases. I believe that there isn't a single example of what you could by a stretch call the violin type made previous to Andrea Amati's violins that would be accepted into a modern orchestra section as a violin.

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41 minutes ago, Michael Darnton said:

@James M. Jones A lot of books in the past give primacy to Brescia without bothering to do the math: Andrea Amati was already making violins before Gasparo da Salo was an adolescent. The Michelli family was not making violas, though their instruments have been converted into violas in some cases. I believe that there isn't a single example of what you could by a stretch call the violin type made previous to Andrea Amati's violins that would be accepted into a modern orchestra section as a violin.

Possibly, but for that matter not many modern players would accept a violin from Amati with the heavy thick neck nailed on and possibly heavy graduations… 

I am not say Amat didn’t or wasn’t the first to produce a violin per say though, simply that he probably didn’t produce it in a vacuum, 

sort like how American history wasn’t simply the result of the Declaration of Independence being written… 

from a linguistic standpoint a violin is a small viol is it not? 

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9 hours ago, jacobsaunders said:

I don’t think so.

My summary would be more like this:

The Cremonese largely had pretty much a monopoly on good violins in the 17th. C. This eroded towards the end of the 17th. C, and by 1700 people supplied good violins almost everywhere, so that the Cremonese of the 18th.C. were between hard up and destitute. Until mid 19th. C violin making was still a craft everywhere, until it degenerated into an industry in the second half of the 19th. C. from which it has never really recovered.

and they all lived un-happily ever after, the end. :)

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I believe there are Andrea Amati instruments in active use. I've heard the "King" cello played, and it was wonderful, and have had the pleasure of playing three Andrea Amati violins which were in no way inferior to later ones. In fact the most recent would have crushed a del Gesu. 

I wish it were different. The most interesting story I have heard is that there were several makers named as making violins, not viols, in Florence at the time of Leonardo (who died in 1519) but absolutely nothing exists from them for us to judge whether we'd call them violins. And there was a pervasive rumor that Leonardo himself designed the violin, which would certainly have been plausible, given that it's an amazing drafting project unlike anything previous. But there's no proof. 

Without evidence, we're left with Andrea Amati.

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I should preface this with saying that you all have forgotten more about violins, violas, celli, etc. since you woke up this morning than I've ever known.But it just seems weird to me that that the guy who putatively invented the violin made some of the best in history.

How did he (seemingly) absolutely nail it from the get-go? Are the oldest "truly a violin" instruments perhaps lost to history because AA was the first to produce/perfect a version of an existing instrument design? Making an instrument that people were willing to hold onto and maintain for centuries? A design that might have been relatively recent to him?

Not saying that he didn't have mad skills but that the first is also among the best seems to run against likelihood.

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33 minutes ago, Michael Darnton said:

....The most interesting story I have heard is that there were several makers named as making violins, not viols, in Florence at the time of Leonardo (who died in 1519) but absolutely nothing exists from them for us to judge whether we'd call them violins. And there was a pervasive rumor that Leonardo himself designed the violin, which would certainly have been plausible, given that it's an amazing drafting project unlike anything previous. But there's no proof. 

Without evidence, we're left with Andrea Amati.

If, of course, we'd even recognize them if we had them.  What if Amati took an originally simple and efficient design by Leonardo, swapped out the through neck for a nailed neck, and added the corner blocks as well?  :ph34r: :)

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38 minutes ago, Michael Darnton said:

I believe there are Andrea Amati instruments in active use. I've heard the "King" cello played, and it was wonderful, and have had the pleasure of playing three Andrea Amati violins which were in no way inferior to later ones. In fact the most recent would have crushed a del Gesu. 

I wish it were different. The most interesting story I have heard is that there were several makers named as making violins, not viols, in Florence at the time of Leonardo (who died in 1519) but absolutely nothing exists from them for us to judge whether we'd call them violins. And there was a pervasive rumor that Leonardo himself designed the violin, which would certainly have been plausible, given that it's an amazing drafting project unlike anything previous. But there's no proof. 

Without evidence, we're left with Andrea Amati.

Put this way , his instruments obviously compete very well , and he likely was the first to make a violin proper , they have virtually all been modified. Probably new bass bars , necks , upper block replacement and likely regraduated to some extant. To my knowledge virtually all have some reworking.
now If I made a violin today ,to Amat specs, and hand it to a good player who lacks knowledge of baroque necks ect , they would probably hand it right back on account of the neck alone. 
  the bigger point remains ,He probably didn’t simply create or invent “the violin in a Vacuum , any more than George Washington just made the USA … there was a ton of stuff going on with shape and form and methods . He had tons of input from many sources. 
  Even people like daVinci often stole ideas . 
 

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My version:

The violin family of instruments as we know them was probably invented in Northern Italy in the 16th century. Production almost stopped in the 1630s as the plague hit the area - with the Nicolo Amati workshop in Cremona as the only one producing high-end instruments for up to 3 decades. Since then, new instruments on average became more and more mass market as more and more people in Italy and elsewhere learnt how to make them.

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7 minutes ago, James M. Jones said:

Put this way , his instruments obviously compete very well , and he likely was the first to make a violin proper , they have virtually all been modified. Probably new bass bars , necks , upper block replacement and likely regraduated to some extant. To my knowledge virtually all have some reworking.
now If I made a violin today ,to Amat specs, and hand it to a good player who lacks knowledge of baroque necks ect , they would probably hand it right back on account of the neck alone. 
  the bigger point remains ,He probably didn’t simply create or invent “the violin in a Vacuum , any more than George Washington just made the USA … there was a ton of stuff going on with shape and form and methods . He had tons of input from many sources. 
  Even people like daVinci often stole ideas . 
 

I'll put it this way, his original drawing is complex and certainly did pop up out of nowhere by a single person. Though it certainly drew on some previous ideas, it was unique enough to drop all competition nearly instantly.

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2 minutes ago, Derek Law said:

The really amazing thing of this story is that it does not feel like a decline phase has truly started yet ...

I believe (in company with the majority of players who have actually experienced one) that Cremonese violins are superior AND I also believe that this is a problem that can and will be solved. So in that sense there is still gain to be made!

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There is nothing simple about history of violin making in old Cremona.

There is also nothing simple about the Samurai Katana.

These two treasures are the peak of what man kind can achieve.

Perfection that can not be surpassed. 

Make equal yes, but not surpassed in their own context. They both are perfection!

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1 hour ago, Michael Darnton said:

I'll put it this way, his original drawing is complex and certainly did pop up out of nowhere by a single person. Though it certainly drew on some previous ideas, it was unique enough to drop all competition nearly instantly.

I am not familiar with a complex drawing of a violin drawn by Amati. Nor one by Da Vinci.

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