Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Violin - the Soulful Musical Instrument

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday

Violins must be checked and played regularly to enhance their sound quality. A violin which has not been played for some time loses its timbre and radiance, like a singer who has stopped exercising his vocal chord.

The violin, while it has ancient origins, acquired most of its modern characteristics in 16th-century Italy, with some further modifications occurring in the 18th century. Violinists and collectors particularly prize the instruments made by the Gasparo da Salò, Giovanni Paolo Maggini, Stradivari, Guarneri and Amati families from the 16th to the 18th century in Brescia and Cremona and by Jacob Stainer in Austria. (Wikipedia)
If there is any musical instrument that appreciates with time, count on the violin. The more antique it is and it is "original" the more it is prized. An original Stradivarius was auctioned in the US for than $3 million. Since then there was a frantic search for the other Stradivarius violins - at least a dozen believed to be still existing.

I received a dozen calls and personal visits from my friends looking for a Stradivarius. One decoyed a ball park price. Who knows if there's one in the Philippines?

To my surprise a religious guest visited me  and asked if I know of a violin there has a hand written certification in ink by the master violin maker Stradivarius. The inscription is supposed to be expertly hidden in the violin's chamber and can be seen only through the sound hole with the aid of a magnifying glass. What a luck if indeed this is true. That would mean a fortune. I related to prominent violinists like the late Professor Paulino Capitulo of the Manila Symphony of this ambitious quest. He wryly commented, "Treasure hunting, huh!" 

Because of this incident, I am posting an article I sourced from the Internet, "Stradivarius Violin - How Genuine?" See Part 3: The Violin - Beware of "Experts" How do you know if a Stradivarius is Genuine?


Stradivarius instruments are recognized by their inscription in Latin: Antonius Stradivarius Cremonensis Faciebat Anno [date] Antonio Stradivari, Cremona, [made in the year ...].

My first violin was a three-quarter, then moved on to the standard (4/4) violin. Children can start early with the one-half or the three-fourth violin, to be able to reach the strings and learn the rudiments of this enigmatic classical instrument. The violin was already in its form as we know it today as early as during the Renaissance in Europe.

It was during the Spanish conquest in 1521 and subsequent colonization of the Philippines that the violin - and other classical instruments found their way to the hands of Filipinos - and were passed on through generations. One old violin found its way to my family. My dad got a 1776 Czechoslovakian violin, Guadagnini , which he gave to me as a gift in high school. It is the most treasured of all my violin collections.

Part 2:  Restoring Old Violins

The first time I tried to repair a violin was when I was in Grade 3. Two strings broke, the bridge cracked and all pegs got stuck up. Lolo Mariano Navarette whom I fondly called Uncle Anno came to the rescue. He was a violin maker and his children were all musicians. Manong John and Manong Berning both played the violin and Manang Katy would accompany them on the piano. What a lovely weekend the family did make! Anyone passing by would pause and looked up to this house of music. And we kids in our time would dream someday of becoming musicians.

Uncle Anno took the dilapidated instrument and gently examined it. "Come," he said, and we went to his small shop, a couple of blocks away from our house. Step by step the instrument returned to its original form and at the end of the day began playing the melodies of Mozart and Liszt. I did not only witness a Lazarus, I was transported into the land of the cherubim.

The violin takes you away from the cares and worries of the world. The soul leaves behind the material world. There musical notes are not mere symbols, they are real expressions. The sounds of Nature - waves, breeze, birdsong, even thunder - transform into music which only the violin can best mimic. But mimicry is a biological term; the violin does more - it elevates it to the level of humanities and the highest and most fleeting form of art.

Even the blue sky - silent and seemingly empty - exudes music, at first inaudible, then incubating into a musical composition. Music of the great naturalists like Beethoven can do just that. The conventions of music become intimately personal to a violinist and no one would question his honest interpretation emanating from mind-heart-soul. This is one aspect of the universality of music as a language for all humanity.

I saw the transformation of the forgotten musical instrument as Uncle Anno brought it back to life.

Since then for the past sixty years, I became a disciple of this unsung great violin maker, the local counterpart of Stradivarius - here in San Vicente, a small town three kilometers west of Vigan, which in many respects was then a little Vienna (Austria), and a little Cremona (Italy).

I really did not make violins, instead I repaired damaged ones and restored those that have been put away for a long time. Some relegated to the garbage bin. More often I would set (break, in technical parlance) new units until they "open up" into fullest expression. And I would check violins regularly or on occasions.

Violin is my favorite thing. Like in the song of Maria in The Sound of Music, the violin perks me up, "... and then I won't feel so sad." More so, every time a small child carrying a violin would come to me. Just like Uncle Anno, I would examine his violin and put music in it that would last a lifetime. ~
Parts of a Violin

Checking acoustic soundness; setting the bridge and strings, 
and post (inside); repairing a badly damaged violin; 

Part 3: The Violin - Beware of the "Experts." How Genuine are Stradivarius Violins?

NOTE: This article was published in Dr Progresso Reviews on the Internet. I decided to post it in this blog with the aim at making people aware on the genuineness of violins claimed to be original Stradivarius. This is a guide to unwary victims after a guest came to the museum looking for an original Stradivarius. For sixty long years as a violin enthusiast I never had a chance to get hold of a genuine Strad. Beware of "copy" versions. This holds true to other famous brands. - Dr AV Rotor

Antonio Stradivari (1644? - December 18, 1737) was an Italian 
luthier (maker of violins and other stringed instruments), the most prominent member of that profession. The Latin form of his surname, "Stradivarius" - sometimes shortened to "Strad" - is often used to refer to his instruments.

Edgar Bundy (1862-1922) painting of Antonio Stradivari in his workshop.1893

So You Think You’ve Found A Strad? Guess Again!

In 1908 a famous Belgian violinist named Eugene Ysaye was on a concert tour in St. Petersburg in Russia. He had with him four Stradivarius violins. One of the Strads was stolen from his hotel room, and was not recovered.

In 1951 a soldier in the Korean war found a violin hidden in the wall of a rundown farm house. It was subsequently authenticated as a genuine Stradivarius.

Out of such stories as these – which are supposed to be true – has arisen a collectors’ myth. That myth is that you might find an incredibly valuable Strad yourself – hidden away in your attic or basement or perhaps at a yard sale down the block. And many people actually have found violins which carry the name of that master genius of violin-makers, the maestro of Cremona, Antonius Stradivari (whose name some misrepresent as “Stradivarius”). But these people are most often the victims of a cruel, if perhaps unwitting, hoax.

Antonio Stradivari was born in 1644 and set up his shop in Cremona, Italy, where he made violins and other stringed instruments (harps, guitars, violas and cellos) until his death in 1737. He took a basic concept for the violin and refined its geometry and design to produce an instrument which has served violin makers ever since as the standard to strive for. His violins sang as none had before them, with a clearer voice and greater volume, and with a pureness of tone which made them seem almost alive in the hands of a great violinist. His was one of three great families of violin makers in Cremona during the 1700s and 1800s, the other two being those of Guarneri and Amati, but Stradivari’s violins have been judged by history to be the best. Two of Stradivari’s sons continued his work after his death.

Every Strad was made entirely by hand, with a painstaking care devoted to the selection of woods and even the texture of the finishing varnishes. This was no assembly-line operation, and the best estimates have Antonio producing no more than around 1,100 instruments, including the violins, in his entire lifetime. Of these, an estimated 630 to 650 still survive the more than 250 years since they were made. 512 of these survivors are violins. Many others were destroyed in fires or other accidents, were lost at sea or in floods, and some were destroyed by the fire-bombing of Dresden in World War II. Virtually none are unaccounted for. Today a genuine Strad is worth two to three million dollars.

So where did those violins which have turned up in attics and closets all over the world come from? Why would anyone who found one think he had a real Strad? The answer is very simple: copies.

Today master violin-makers are using modern science – including the latest scanning devices and digital imaging techniques – to unlock the “secrets” of Stradivari and recreate instruments of his quality. One Canadian violin-maker, Joseph Curtin, and his American partner, Gregg Alf, created a copy, right down to every scratch and shading of varnish, of a specific instrument known as the Booth Stradivari, which Stradivari made in 1716. It sold at a Sotheby’s auction in 1993 for $42,460 – to a concert violinist.

But for close to two centuries much shabbier copies have been made and sold – bearing “Stradivarius” labels. For this reason, the presence of a Stradivarius label in a violin does not mean the instrument is genuine.

The usual label – both genuine and false – carries the Latin inscription “Antonius Stradivarius Cremonensis Faciebat Anno [date],” which gives the maker (Antonio Stradivari), the place (Cremonia), and the year of manufacture, the actual date either printed or handwritten. It was this Latin label which gave the world the name “Stradivarius.” After 1891, when the United States required it, copies might also have the actual country of origin printed in English at the bottom of the label: “Made in Czechoslovakia,” or just “Germany.”

Hundreds of thousands of these copies were made in Germany, France, central and eastern Europe, England, China, and Japan, starting in the mid-19th century and continuing into current times – and literally millions exist today. They bear counterfeit labels proclaiming them to be by not only Stradivari but Vuillaume, Amati, Bergonzi, Guarneri, Gasparo da Salo, Stainer, and others.

Music shops and mail order houses originally sold these violins at prices which made it plain no deception of the buyer was intended – some were claimed to be “tributes” – they ranged from $8.00 to $27.00 apiece, and were identified in advertisements as “copies” or “models.” But their similarity to the instruments they were copied from is minimal to a trained eye – or ear. While some involved hand-crafting, the vast majority were mass-produced. It was not until 1957 that the words “Copy of” were added to some of the labels.

Even today one can find advertisements for a “Stradivarius Violin” which comes “Complete with Decorative Stand and Bow,” and is claimed to be “a wonderful replica of the eminent Stradivarius violin,” designed for displaying “on the wall or atop a bureau or coffee table” for a mere $29.95.
Once in a while a real Strad turns up – usually after a theft or accidental loss.

In 1967 a 1732 Strad, named for the Duke of Alcantara and owned by UCLA’s Department of Music, was loaned to a member of UCLA’s Roth String Quartet. He apparently either left it on top of his car and drove off, or had it stolen from inside his car. A woman turned up with it in 1994, claiming her former husband’s aunt had given it to her husband, and she had acquired it in a divorce settlement. She said their family lore had it that the aunt had found the violin beside a road. UCLA eventually gave the woman $11,500 to regain the violin and avoid a protracted court fight.

So what should you do if you find a violin with a Stradivarius label – or that of any other famous violin maker from centuries ago? You should have it appraised by an expert, and most such experts are members of the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers. Expect to pay for the appraisal. The authentication of a violin can be determined only by a careful examination of such factors as the design, model, craftsmanship, wood, and varnish. It’s not hard to separate out the mass-produced violins from the actual hand-made instruments, but it takes a well-trained violin appraiser to be able to attribute the violin to a specific maker or place of manufacture.

Don’t expect your find to be genuine. The odds against finding the real thing are slim to none. Nevertheless, you might have a decent violin, and if you can play the instrument, that will be its own reward.~

Violin -Stradivarius, Palacio Real, Madrid
Stradivarius violin: front and profile
 Messiah Violin

Famous Violinist-Composers
• Johann Sebastian Bach
• Ludwig van Beethoven
• Johannes Brahms
• George Enescu
• Fritz Kreisler
• Rodolphe Kreutzer
• Felix Mendelssohn
• Claudio Monteverdi
• Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
• Niccolo Paganini
Redentor Romero, Filipino

Acknowledgment: Dr Progresso Reviews

No comments: