Names, History, Mythography

Audre Lourde called her autobiography a “Biomythography.”  It was an acknowledgment of the fact that facts are hard to come by and they’re hard to sort out.  Telling one’s own story is particularly fraught – if there’s anyone about whom we lack perspective it’s ourselves!

Among the side quests I’m on since I started my musical journey is one about the instrument itself.  I want to learn more about violins – their history, their makers, and their machinations.  I’m starting with the most famous maker, Antonio Stradivari, which in addition to having a nearly mythological allure, does have something to do with my own violin as well.

Mine’s a Stradivarius copy made in 1926 by Ernst Heinrich Roth in Markneukirchen, Germany .  A quick note about copies – that’s just how it’s done; makers of violins copy the patterns of master makers.  I like the clarity of the label on the inside of my instrument, which reads, “Reproduction of Antonius Stradivarius Cremona 1714.” The town and region in Germany where my violin was made are best known for making quality instruments, and, to this day, in the town of under 10,000 people there are over 128 manufacturers of instruments – the Roth factory is still producing there.

I’m just getting started on this line of inquiry, and at present I’ll credit all information to Wikipedia, though I’ve been seeing the same things on some smaller sites as well.  Here are some notes on Stradivarius – I’m starting basic here, because that’s where I am with my knowledge:

  • Antonio Stradivari was a violin maker working in Cremona in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.
  • Cremona is a small city in north central Italy, and has been home to other famous luthiers, including Amati and Guarneri, both of whom are also copied widely.
  • Wikipedia has a list of Stradivari instruments with 243 violins, 13 violas, and 63 cellos.  It’s interesting to me to see the musicians to whom they are entrusted by their owners.
  • Joshua Bell, Sayaka Soji, and YoYo Ma are all stewards.  Shansuke Sato currently has one that has been played by Arabella Steinbacher and Julia Fischer.
  • There are also two surviving guitars, two mandolins, and a harp.
  • Much testing and examination has been done of Stradivarius instruments.  There is quite a bit of dispute about sound quality and reproducibility and essential characteristics.

I’m looking for a decent book with which to go deeper and will return to the topic periodically.

Thanks for reading.


One comment

  1. […] quite interested in the art of violin making, the history of the instrument, and the stories of famous makers and their […]

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