Italian Violin Making

It all began with Casper de Salo in about 1560, other historical sources claim Andre Amati was the first to create the violin as it is today. In any case these two men opened the gates to the violin world , which survived for 450 years, it become the world’s most beloved instrument. In the post-World War Two my family was migrating in Europe, so I was taught the violin because even a 10 year old child could carry it to violin lessons. This instrument’s portability made it ubiquitous. It evokes and provokes joy in the listener, joy happens to be the music of life.

 The electronic violin was invented in the 20th century but it lacks the intricate sound produced by the original creation. All the authentic instruments of Casper had double purfling in the top plate. The Amati family of violin makers followed. Then the most famous maker Stradivarius and his contemporary Guarneri Del JESU. The former was blessed with three wives, who died each one leaving him a small fortune so that he and his boys could perfect their trade. The other found himself in prison because he was in debt. He depended on the jailor’s daughter to supply the wood to him in jail so he could work himself out of the debtor’s prison. Debts hounded every violin maker, the technical term is a luthier they made no money for daily bread. All luthiers historically were as poor as church mice. They depended on mentors to pay them enough to survive on with their families while they toiled at their trade, very few mentors honoured their obligation for various reasons.

About 500 hours are required to make a good violin painstakingly by hand and then varnish it to protect it from the weather and preserve the wood. The varnish use is still a secret lasting 300 years and not only that but it also is contributing to the sound of the violin. The wood used is maple, spruce, ebony, boxwood and rosewood. The back, scroll and ribs are maple but the top, which is the soundboard, is spruce. The finger board, tail piece and pegs are ebony a very hard timber.

To select the best sounding piece of wood the maker taps it and carefully listens to the pitch of the sound he wishes to work with. The two big pieces top and bottom are the most important in the production of the sound. The old masters devised a method of using half the instrument for front and bottom they would try to match up the other half with a similar ring pattern and glue the pieces together in the middle.

They also found that by cutting the timber longitudinally for the top and a quarter cut, that is from the outside of the log towards the middle of the log, for the back produced best sound. Occasionally some backs are one piece when the timber was suitable. They paved the way for the science dendrochronology established in 1937, the study of tree rings in which we can determine the age of a given timber. The old guys did it all by guesswork - I don’t know how!

Technology today measures the density of maple at 660kgs/cubic metre with 12% moisture, and spruce 470kgs/cubic metre with 15% moisture, which is the standard of violin making timber, most of the timber comes from Yugoslavia today.

 Some authentic violins of Stradivarius are 350 years old still playing beautifully. But there is more, the timber Italians used grew in the southern forest, in the southern part of the forest of Carpathian Mountains. This region is extremely cold, very cold winters produce very dense timber, which is traditionally cured in what is known as ‘pigs’, blocks of timbers, turned every week a quarter turn to dry it out evenly, the whole process takes about 50years and from that the violin takes birth. The climate favoured the old masters their timber was denser than the modern makers have access to that is one of the reasons we are unable to match the sound of those old instruments. However science may discover a process to harden a given timber in the future.

To begin with each tree could be about 100 years ,automation which began in 1930, has reduced the quality of this tedious process, it made many more violins available albeit of poorer quality, but provided access to the instrument to everyone who wished to learn how to play it. Italy is a very Christian country, the Pope lives here. So when Jesus Christ was on earth he was a carpenter that was his trade in Jewish tradition. That trade deals with the living tissue of the wood, so it was just the right trade for Jesus in our case in the violin world it covers over 500 years in one instrument, from the first seed of a tree to the finished product. So it is only a skip and a jump in history to the beginning of Christianity 2000 years ago.

The first official display of the violin was by painter Gaudurzio Ferrari who painted in 1530  a cherub playing a bowed instrument similar to a violin. Bowed instruments in Europe go back to the 9th century with the Byzantine Lira. In the 20th century the Stroh violin was invented using amplifiers to produce very loud sound that can be tuned to a particular auditorium of performance, but the sound of electronics is more powerful but lacks the quality and verve of the original creation.

History records that Florence was the place where the European culture re-emerged after the dark ages, so it was Italy that led the field in our modern progress. Therefore European culture flourished from this source. A big part of the Renaissance was the world of art in which the violin is a very integral discovery and began to develop at around that time. To me it seems quite natural that the violin world grew from this vey source that is in Italy. What made the instrument acceptable to the Italian culture were the soirees of nobility who were entertained by this new instrument.

But it took Paganini (1782- 1840) to expose, popularise and display the instrument to the masses in circuses playing on a tight rope to the general public to experience its beautiful tone. He also insisted on extending the neck of his Guarneri Del Jesu instruments, of which he owned 4, because he had big hands and that gave the violin a longer string and more powerful tone, It was like taking in more air into the lungs of singer to produce better sound. Since then it became a standard longer neck, older instruments had their necks extended.

​He bequeathed his chosen instrument to Genoa city where it is displayed in the city hall. From the above experimentation the fiddle took to the village green and became a tool of entertainment to the general public not just the nobility and from here that idea spread all over Europe. Today I was able to purchase a green violin to play on the village green at an Irish St Patrick day.

Round about that time the itinerant gypsies seized the violin as their national emblem and travelled everywhere with it in European villages and towns. You see even the most remote village in the mountains could have several violins, because they are so portable. The gypsies left no record of their music as they passed on their kind of music to the next generation by word of mouth and playing by ear. Our musical notation is a very great blessing to our universal music making. The gypsies played in market places, weddings, at campfires, at any public gatherings. In Hungary they took to playing in eating houses a custom still prevalent today. The gypsies developed a custom to bury the violin with the violinist, in the funeral corsage the coffin would be followed by the violin carried on a cushion with cut strings – very symbolic!. Many an excellent violin bit the dust that way. In English folklore we hear “Oh play to me gypsy the song that I love”, in Germany we have “Du Schwarze Zigeuner.” I find it very interesting to witness the adaptation of culture worldwide making use of the violin.

Let me share now with you a story of a violinist in Dublin, he was very hungry and had no money. What he did while standing on the street corner he paid attention to the speed of the feet of the passers-by, he then pulled out his violin and played to that ‘beat of the feet’. Very quickly he had enough money for a decent feed. Like gypsies he learned to gauge the mood of his audience and played to that genre. I would have starved playing my classical sonatas. We do have a great distinction between the highbrow connoisseurs of classical violin concerts in great concert halls and the popular side of jolly music making.

In 1937 a violin making school was established in Cremona in Palazzo Raimendi a 16th century building. Today it has 140 mostly international students, who undertake a four year course. There are no machines all is done by hand, as it was constructed in the “Golden Age” a period of 1560 to 1740 of violin making. 

One must consider acoustics, the science of sound, the sense of hearing which this intricate musical instrument is all about. There are 70 parts in the complete violin they must be compatible to produce the best possible music. BY trial and error we discovered the violin sound box, the amplifier exact dimension to make use of the existing natural physical properties just right. We invented and perfected the base bar on the left side of the sound board and the sound post on the right side just under the bridge.

Once the violin is strung up there is 70 ponds per square inch pressure under the bridge that is why the above supports are so essential, added to that are the pressure of the bowing plus the weight of some of the performers arm directing the bow. The weight is also resolved by the arching of the instrument according to engineering principles.

 One has to match the densities of the bridge supporting the string and the sound post. As a rule of thumb a good match is a hard post and a soft bridge or vice versa, but one has to experiment with this to be quite certain. We don’t know exactly when all this was discovered in antiquity. Scientists attempted to vary these dimension, but none others can match that beautiful sound than the given established measurements provide. No other substance but wood can give such beautiful effect. How we derived these facts remains a total mystery. The persistence and dedication of a few unknown individuals who solved this problem, the world owes a huge gratitude to, for music today sounds like it was never heard before on this planet.

Improvements were added by universal standardizing the pitch in 1929, improving the modern bow and strings, adding a chin rest and as shoulder rest which frees up more of the sound board for tone production. A silk cloth was used on the violin to hold it in place while playing before the chin rest idea it muffled the tone of the instrument. I remember Howard Sleath a luthier in Brisbane telling me when he played the violin in the silent movie days during the performance of the film to add effect with music to the film .He spent hours clipping off the microfibers off the gut strings which unravelled during the constant playing with his nail clippers. He was absolutely delighted when the steel strings became available, they saved him hours of useless toil.

The population become healthier and fitter in performing and devising better techniques of playing. To put it bluntly humanity improved its anatomy with better nutrition and better medical care, which in turn improved our music making. It was only in 1920 that we discovered the metal slide between the frog and the wood of the bow. That little bit of invention produces a more brilliant sound to the instrument. The bare timber of the bow muffled some of that brilliance.

All humanity is blessed by all this wonderful input and expertise, it is a great boost to the artistic culture of music making and general development of human progress and culture. Once the violin was used in orchestras, which became bigger with more instruments and good players being available, it affected the techniques of singers to produce the bel canto singing, which in turn lead to the delightful musical experience of the invention of the opera. Yes the violin was partly responsible for this magnificent discovery.

 As I said to my grandson who is struggling with the techniques of intonation and learning how to play this instrument, even if you don’t do much with it in your life, the discipline of learning is a good character building exercise it teaches self-reliance and it can fill your empty hours of your life with composure and pleasure! You become introduced to the world of ‘fiddlers’, who are a wonderful bunch of people to make your life much more bearable.

 Learning to play violin is exciting, inspirational, methodical and delightful once you learn how to conquer the difficulties both physical and emotional, it becomes a skill another feather in your cap of life. Personally I found that achievement and aspect thrilling. What I am saying is that the violin is not just a dead object it teaches you how to perfect sound, produce pleasant noises invariably and how to express the nuances of music in a most pleasing manner. A very good violin with an excellent bow makes the performer to impress the audience. The bow and the instrument are like a marriage, same sex or otherwise it does not matter, you can’t have one without the other. Yet the luthiers and the bow makers traditionally don’t talk to each other, they are different trades and too busy to waste time in idle chatter, they need to make money to survive. Unfortunately in history too many bow makers turned to big use of alcohol, now that problem besets many artists who live on their nerves during performances.

A word of warning. Human nature being what it is many of the less gifted luthiers copied and imitated the work of the more gifted, better and more successful luthiers to make a fast buck, in the past. The violin market is renowned for fake instruments. There is a saying in the trade there are more fake instruments than horse thieves. Animato deal only with genuine instruments which they guaranty. For your own piece of mind and satisfaction study the validating documents very, very thoroughly!

My question is why was the violin invented?  Who were the Italian makers that made it happen grow and develop? The answer to the question is the human inquiring mind is eternally searching and is excited by the challenge posed by nature. The creation of music began with the drumming, then progressed to the whistle, singing is another exploration of making sounds and from there the scientific mind progressed on and on. With the discovery of strings made from silk and intestines to begin with and as we moved through the Bronze Age into iron, imagine the thrill our ancestors derived from making noises with those strings. The crusaders brought back to Europe a two silk string instrument from Arabia called Rebec round in the 14th century. Initially it may have been like chime, hollow pieces of wood tied up moving in the breeze making strange sounds. Then the bells came along that churches utilised so very well in the middle ages

 But the inquiring mind is not at rest, it cannot stand fixed it has to push the limits. Archaeologists discovered musical instruments dating back 3000 years one was a harp would you believe, another I recall was an antler of a deer with holes drilled in it very much like the modern flute, they seem to think that it was a tool to frighten animals and thus make them run into a set trap, where they were killed and butchered for food to survive on. Actually the eating of meet and discovering how to prepare it properly improved the human mind to search and research our environment even better.

 Only when we converted to agriculture and began stable life, not just hunter gathering, art and musical instruments took on a new need, the pressure was to control the crowds as well. This was achieved by entertainment in theatre and any other form to make the community cohesive, buoyant, and interactive at peace with each other. In Roman times we hear the statement ‘give them bread and entertainment’. It became an enormously pressing task for the trade’s people in the community to accomplish.

Thus we meet a man Gasparo da Salo , who lived in Brescia in 1542 to 1609 who was a gifted and brilliant pioneer in the design of the violin, his favourite pupil was Maggini and also Andreas Amati(1535 – 1611). It was in 1906 that in Brescia a commemoration monument was erected by the people to honour Gasparo for his contribution to humanity. He was an originator of the ‘THE Golden
Age’of violin making that is 1560 to 1740. Despite the fact that some historians attribute the fame to Andreas Amati.

Francesco Ruggieri {1620 – 1695) was one of the first makers of the Cremonese School but his instruments did not survive.

Then followed the Amati family beginning with Nicolo (1596 –m 1684), Antonio Amati made violins for the orchestra of King Henry the 4th of France. Antonio Stradivari (1644 – 1737) was taught by the Amati clan. Hironimus (there were two of them) were the outstanding ones. Stradivarius was succeeded by his sons Francesco(1671–1743) and Omobond (1679–1742) they were not as gifted as their dad. Antonio in his very long life made 500 violins. Joseph Del Jesu Guarneri, who also was taught by Amatis and was a rival of Antonio Stradivarius of very similar ability, some claim his instruments superior to Antonio.  250 instruments are of his making. He signed his name IHS a Greek abbreviation of Jesus. Andrea 1626 – 1695 and Peotro (Mantua) 1655 1720 belonged to his Guarneri family of makers. Peter went to Mantua in 1680 to start the Mantuan tradition of violin making. The last Mantuan maker was Mario Gadda who passed away in 2008.

Michelli family of luthiers appeared on the scene Zanetto {1490 to 1560], Peligrano (1520 – 1616), Giovani (1562- 1616) Francesco (1579 – 1615) and their brother-in-law Batista Donedo (1529 – 1610).

Bergonzi family came on the scene of whom Carlo was outstanding.

We migrate to the Neopolitan school of makers with Alessandro Gagliano (1700 – 1735) who was a pupil of Stradivarius, Followed by Milanese School with Domenico Motagnana (1786 –1850) with  Gudagini (1711 – 1780).

In 2015 at a funeral one of my friends insisted on playing a CD recorded by Andre Real “I did it my way” to be played as the cask departed from the church. The Catholic Church setting was ideal, the recording was superb, the sound of the Stradivari instrument was beyond perfection, absolutely thrilling and enchanting, the very best violin sound I ever heard. At the wake I talked to the priest and he did not hear even one bar of that performance, he was too busy conducting the funeral. One has to focus attention to be able to register the magnificent glory of the violin and not let it pass you by.

The above is a brief analysis of the Golden Age of violin makers, who initiated the world of the violins an instrument of classical music for the enjoyment of all nations for the first 250years of its existence. It brings us into th19th century of music making. Personally I consider the gypsies and above all Paganini’s input to the world of violins more significant than the best luthiers, not only in his antics but his development of a technique and compositions of playing. The instrument is only a tool it has to be played to its very best possible! There has to be ‘the holy trinity’ to experience the beauty of this instrument that is the wooden instrument, the wooden bow and a healthy, skilled accomplished player, of course the human brain has to hear it, evaluate and enjoy it. The tools of trade are just the beginning. Many excellent composers appeared, they wrote astounding, glorious music for the violin.

The enjoyment of the violin depends on our ability of hearing sound, the interpretation of sound in turn is the sole intellectual property of human brain. Our intellect gives meaning to the mechanical vibration on this earths of interest to us. Our range of hearing lies between 20 to 20,000 Hertz,, humans select only this range of vibrations because within it are all the necessary clues of survival for us on this planet. A Hertz is a measure of sound waves passing a given point in a second. Sound travels in waves in every direction, but we only concern ourselves with what is essential for our survival. Above that range we call supersonic and below that range subsonic. One conundrum is that it is possible to become deaf being submitted to supersonic subharmonics of sound we cannot hear. Musicians playing in orchestras do suffer hearing problems and it is an occupational health hazard which mangers have to address.

Another cultural aspect I discovered in the monthly magazine, ‘the Strad’ the voice of the string music world since 1890, November issue 2005, page 48, this magazine is shut down now, an article written by, the famous in my time, violinist Itzhak Pelman prefers to play different instruments in summer, his 1743 Sauret Guarneri del Jesu, and in winter, his Stradivarius known as the “Soil”, which he purchased in 1986 from Jehudi Menhuin. Both instruments are ln excess of 300 hundred years old and very well matured.  In the article he outlines his reasons for these decisions. Interestingly enough both the above mentioned gentlemen happen to be jewish, many of that race are among the gifted violinists.

Some years ago when Yehudy Menhuin visited Brisbane with his orchestra that he conducted and then played a violin concerto himself, On that day he instrument didn’t warm up and it began to sparkle half way through the performance. Actually Yehudy was as surprised as I was that night when we spoke in the wings. I understand the Great Itzhak’s choice of playing the Strad in winter, for it was in fact a hot subtropical, summer day in Brisbane on the described occasion.  

Each maker created their instrument with persistent, loving care imparted his distinctive personality into it and .each instrument became better with age we call this process being played in. The result to a listener is a perception of something that tends to soothe our soul. The classical music gave society embellishment, poets refer to classical music as the language of love. Basically an indoor cultural activity.

Humanity is at the cross roads and in crisis at present, electronic music is challenging all that established pattern with its brash, dead, excessive aggressive sound in contrast to above it is like ‘the sound of war’. Society is deafened by the volume of electronic noise which is delivered full blast to the audience. Deaf people cannot appreciate any music, thus are being robbed of this divine privilege.

The challenge of the pipe organ and electronic organ is still going on. I understand the pipe organ is still holding its own so far but the human mind keeps on pushing the boundaries, the future is unpredictable. Humanity is exposed to excessive noise like never before in human history of 2 million years. Aeroplanes, jets, motor cars, TV, radio and general industry generate excessive noise, medicine believes that may affect our genetics in the future and were this leads to is a total mystery, old values may vanish. By now we have established schools of makers in various nations. Their distinctive tone seems to be peculiar to each different school of makers. The Italian sound is described as oily and well rounded.      

The love of the violin I hope will endure the tides of future change, for it is a most valuable contribution to music and in a way to general culture. A happy society functions better. The philosopher Nietzsche pronounced that life would be a mistake without music.  The plethora of luthiers of various calibre contributed to the task of music making. To enumerate them all would take hundreds of pages. In considering the enormity of this task, to begin with I shall limit my search to the Italian luthiers.                 

Before we go on let me share some of the modern views with you

Music in a quartet, where you have four accomplished players giving their all interpreting a piece of music, the hearer overlooks the fact that the synergy of their effort produces the fifth entity, a fifth dimension ‘that specific sound of a particular quartet’. Each quartet is individual and unique in its sound even in interpreting similar compositions. Question arises if quartets are democratic or autocratic in their function. It is claimed that this kind of music is more intimate, in its composing, interpreting and performing. Orchestras bring music to the people, but the successful quartet invites the audience into their music. It is the most refined delivery of good chamber music to the masses. Oddly enough it began because four musicians sat idly in an Austrian castle so Hayden composed some music for them in nineteenth century, which gave birth to this wondrous, astounding medium of musicianship.

 In the literature we find that perception, memory and understanding involve the entire brain not just specific sites in it. The brain acting like a hologram allows constant movement in simultaneous, varied paths according to individual capacity. Sure most of the hearing is achieved in the area of the gyrus of Herschl in the map of the brain, but to that is added that quality of the three dimensional super speed flight paths of: perception, memory and understanding in the processing of the sound signals receive from the ear. The brain works in nanoseconds that is one millionth of a second is in that ‘constant whirlwind’ of response to sound that each individual attempts to shape their tone production with that is their ‘tool box’ for them. Does this make sense to the reader? Don’t worry neuroscience is becoming more and more complex. The appreciation of music innately registers all above automatically.

The Great Itzhak discussing violin music says:” It’s like being a cook; you can make food that looks great, the texture is right, but the taste is??? (Itzhak grimaces here). He says to his students you sound like yogurt and I want ice cream and some days I want peanut butter. Each great violinist of the 40ies to 50 had their own distinctive tone like their fingerprint ‘tone is in your head, tone is what they hear… they all have their distinctive sound that is the technical quality of how you produce the tone.” Here Itzhak speaks like an accomplished neuroscientist on the topic of timbre and unknowingly alluring to synthesia. Very much like a speaker who uses audio-visual aids which allow us to better focus the attention of the audience may overlook the fact that he, the presenter, he is an audio-visual aid himself.

 Now my perception of the statement of the Great Itzhak on yogurt is that if you make it Greek yogurt full of body and add to it mixed wild berries – wow, that’s real yummy, as compared to the gutless tasteless fat free stuff. Ice scream I understand as bright, breathtaking, and full of surprises and a bite (frost bite) to it.

To my mind his article is lateral thinking that is thinking outside the box, at its best! At last I am able to perceive, as a violinist myself, that there is a difference between sound and tone. The latter  is the selection of excellent timber, an almost perfect construction technique which is referred to as timbre, the superimposed harmonics, all the formants, the speed and variability of vibrato, the purity of intonation that is the perception of the exact number of Hertz and the amount of variability by the vibrato and it’s type. Added to this is the lengthening of the neck invented and popularised by Paganini, the longer string giving the violin more brilliance as if it has taken in a second wind. Today we are very privileged to benefit from all that expertise in appreciating good music, fortunately for us the enquiring inquisitive minds of our ‘scientists’ never sleep!

 Bow and instrument are like a marriage. The sound of a flute is simple and pure tone, but he sound of the violin is probably the most involved and complicated and intricate sound in music making.. Everything vibrates around you even you back bone when you play the Violin. The bow which originates the sound has to be managed very well, that is found best by exhaustive, individual experimentation the type of wood, the bow maker and the type of bow, its length about 73.1cm, the quality of the 150 to 200 stallion hairs in it and even today the Mongolian hair is one the best , the weight of the bow (55gm to 65gm). The modern logarithmic bow was  invented a thousands of years ago but perfected in the 18th century and the technique of bowing ‘drags the very soul out of the violin’, which is only a wooden box. The Mongols invented a type bow to play on an instrument constructed from bone of a horse in the 13th century and the lira, a bowed instrument in Byzantium in the 9th century.

The weight of the bow is not that significant it may be only a very few grams, but then consider that kinetic energy = ½ mv squared, where mass is expressed in kilograms and velocity squared is expressed in metres per second. It becomes obvious that energy is enhanced by the weight, but that does not necessarily equate to better tone production, although at times this can be a very significant difference depending on the type of music and the violin response! The length of the bow is governed by the balance of weight distribution. It is a mathematical equation so any increase in length defies control at the extremes of the bow that is at the tip and near the frog. The original bow makers found this out by trial and error they did not know the physics and mathematics involved in its design. Tightening of the hair by the screw attached to the frog is another variant that influences the production of good sound. It was only 1920 that a slide was developed between the wood of the bow and the frog. It is like a small steel washer used widely in industry. It was found to give the violin sound more brilliance by not muffling the sound by contact with the softer wood. Many compositions really require a different tension in the hair for various passages to maximise the output of good sound.

 We mustn’t forget the micrometre that checks the exact size of each string and the type and age of strings and the reputation of the string makers, nor the quality and the amount of the rosin applied to the hair of the bow.   As the above article points out the type of instrument, the varnish, the temperature around and the response of the instrument to it and the humidity or lack of it. The combination of the type of instrument and the individual bowing technique, itself composed of player and the vibrations produced in the actions thereof , but  modulated by the corpus of the performer himself.

In an orchestral setting pure sound is rather dull, each orchestra develops it ‘sound fingerprint’ that colour and verve in sound we refer to as rich, deep or magnificent tone. Ultimately musical ideas are conveyed through sound, if you look at a film of great players, you will see that variety of bow speed is a major contribution to expressivity. AS a rule soft playing vibrated the string less, but very loud playing vibrates the string to its maximum. The bow by putting tension on the strings creates the amplitude that is the loudness of sound. In a down bow movement here is tremendous tension on the string if one presses real hard, but in fact one will produce more sound if  one releases the pressure slightly. This is the secret of technique of bowing, how to get it just right and not overpower the instrument?

.Musical notes produced are not of single tone, but a whole series of tones known as partials. A low note played on a large booming horn in the Alps, will travel for miles, while a   piccolo note will be lost after a very much shorter distance. For this reason the performers and the audience hear different tone, they do not hear identical sounds. Front rows and back rows of the audience will also hear different sound. So much is happening at the same time, it is hard to follow completely.

I discovered something else in the violins I was exposed to. The different schools of violin making are recognizable in their tone. The French school has a specific ‘melodious’ sound like the French language, the German school is loud and and direct, Chinese instruments are close to transmitting almost any European sound, depending on which model they reproduce. They achieve a more or less 'authentic' European sound, perhaps often somewhat less 'intimate' and 'personal', compared to the original European models. The peak of the violin world is the Italian School with an an oily, rounded, brilliant, sonorous tone. Furthermore I once was asked to play a particular instrument, which I did for about forty minutes there was something very different about it, so I asked: ”has this instrument been made by a woman?” would you believe the answer was a resounding –Yes, Kitty Smith of Sydney! So what is going on when the personality of each maker or school of makers using the similar wood, similar tools, glue and varnishes impart their personality to this inanimate object!? 

Modern CT scans, done on any violin unobtrusively in a few minutes provides some 1500 views, can now select the type of instruments that are best suited to each other by measuring their thicknesses of wood used, and Spring to Autumn ratios of their spruce sound boards. If the reader finds all this complicated I urge one to think that technology never sleeps it is perfecting itself little by little, ultimately imagine how music will sound in heaven that place of perfection!!!???

 Let us continue to explore the high lights in the trade and the luthiers as a group. Don’t be brow beaten by the above, as a doctor I relate to it all, I have that background. I am not trying to confuse you the field is very complicated but that is what makes art so impressive, that is how it ‘fires up ’our brain. Before Beethoven musical compositions were delicate and minuets to dance to were played in salons of nobles. Steiner models were suited for this task. The tone of such music was like a flute pure and simple. The orchestras became bigger with more instruments in the market, a larger tone with resilience and strength was evolving, so in the 19th century the Italian luthiers achieved internationally fame for their clarity of tone in their instruments. It was a veritable miracle. They were the masters of stunning perfection. It is a great pity that old instruments cannot last for ever, at times the parasitic wood borers destroy the wood, so humanity awaits hopefully other masters to attain relevant distinction in this field.  The modern schools and luthiers are striving hard to achieve this, but one stumbling fact is the unavailability of best timbers, the climate change displays its effect. As already mentioned we may find out a method of improving the hardness of timber.

Modern Italian luthiers span the time since 1900.The present Italian luthiers in Cremona alone number over 100 today. After the luthiers finish their training they usually work with someone to begin with. There are other famous recent violin makers who were based in other cities, such as Mantua, 70 kilometers east of Cremona. The Manuan tradition includes Stefano Scartampella, Gaetano and Mario Gadda.

The violinist Itzhak Pelman has a Strad and a Guarneri, and he still is not completely happy with their performance that he expects. You can’t get any better than that in the violin world. Big boys keep demanding a great lot from their opulent toys.

The luthiers declare their addresses on the net, modern times demand marketing skills to dispose of their work of modern art. The average price begins at $ 20,000 and the more famous luthiers ask up to $40,000.  I can go on and on enumerating the luthiers, but one can see all their advertising on the net. The whole process is very, very personal taste, and then you agonise again if the instrument will play up after some hours and hours of concentrated playing.

Occasionally exhibitions are advertised of violin schools displaying their best instruments. The ‘Cremona School’ does it quite often.

Bergonzi is a well renowned maker. One purchaser bought his instrument for himself because it gave forth a bright masculine sound. I don’t actually know what that means but he was quite happy with his purchase.

Delfie Merlo in Milan makes good instruments.

In Cremona Vittorio and his brother Morello Villa have received accolades.