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More detailed information about stringed instruments and the history of violin making.
Cremona: the early Lombard history of violin making
Cremona: The perfection of early violin making in the classic Cremonese style
Cremona holds a distinctive spot among the towns where classical Italian violin making flourished, a process whose earliest origins can never be fully explored. The reason for its special status is less the fact that the Italian violin making craftsman tradition has a long and time-honoured standing there, since other towns can also look back on a tradition of comparable — if not longer — history. Instead, Cremona is remarkable because from early on violin making there reflected mastery and had an enduring normative influence. The history of this Lombard town's local artisanry is simultaneously the history of the earliest days of violin making, the study of which always begins with examining the classic Cremonese violins and masterpieces. The artistic and technical standards defined by Cremona violin makers Nicolo Amati, Antonio Stradivari and Joseph Guarneri del Gesù in the approximately 150 years of their work remain unchallenged to this day.
Maker: D. Scolari
Length of back: 35.3 cm
Inventory No.: 860
Maker: Roberto Zeliani
Length of back: 35.6 cm
The figure at this pinnacle of Cremonese violin making is Nicolo Amati of Cremona (1596-1684), whose instruments are characterized by their size and their highly arched tops. Cremona violin maker Amati used his model to produce a large but sweet sound which helped Italian violins from Cremona to distinguish themselves from those of the Salo and Maggini schools of Bresica for the first time. Amati's greatest student, Antonio Stradivari (1648/49-1737), spent half of his career following in the footsteps of his master before he began to build smaller violins with a lower arch and a more powerful sound. As the rigours of soloist performance increased over the course of musical history, Stradivari's Cremonese violins became more and more of a template for other copies. Even in light of the long-term dominance of the Stradivari violin, however, the Amati model is in no way to be regarded as an obsolete predecessor; for centuries it remained a viable and widely imitated style, and it increased the artistic possibilities for all generations of Cremona violin makers to follow.
The most interesting person among the great violin makers of Cremona, however, is most likely to be Joseph Guarnerius del Gesù (1698-1744); his short life is steeped in legend and produced an oeuvre of fewer than 200 violins, a slim yield. In comparison to the constant perfection of the Stradivarius workshop, Guarneri's Cremonese violins are noteworthy in part due to some of their inadequacies in craftsmanship: it would seem that del Gesù was so radical and uncompromising in his pursuit of the ideal of a large sound that he was glad to overlook a few "incidental" aesthetic issues. The sound he created confirms his approach, however, and the effects of his violins have continued to have a lasting impact, even to this day. For example, Nicolo Paganini's favourite Guarneri was one the legendary soloist reverently dubbed "il cannone." It was repeatedly copied by the great Jean Baptiste Vuillaume, and today one of these copies is played by the young virtuoso artist Hilary Hahn.
Stradivari's heirs: contemporary violin makers in Cremona
Eric Blot, expert of Cremona and Italian violin making
Ente Triennale Cremona and other international violin making competitions
Contemporary violin makers - the modern artisan elite
Daniele Scolari and the second generation of the new art of violin-making in Cremona