Violin - History

History

The earliest stringed instruments were mostly plucked (e.g. the Greek lyre). Bowed instruments may have originated in the equestrian cultures of Central Asia, an example being the Kobyz (Kazakh: қобыз) or kyl-kobyz is an ancient Turkic, Kazakh string instrument or Mongolian instrument Morin huur:

Turkic and Mongolian horsemen from Inner Asia were probably the world’s earliest fiddlers. Their two-stringed upright fiddles were strung with horsehair strings, played with horsehair bows, and often feature a carved horse’s head at the end of the neck. The violins, violas, and cellos we play today, and whose bows are still strung with horsehair, are a legacy of the nomads.

It is believed that these instruments eventually spread to China, India, the Byzantine Empire and the Middle East, where they developed into instruments such as the erhu in China, the rebab in the Middle East, the lyra in the Byzantine Empire and the esraj in India. The violin in its present form emerged in early 16th-Century Northern Italy, where the port towns of Venice and Genoa maintained extensive ties to central Asia through the trade routes of the silk road.

The modern European violin evolved from various bowed stringed instruments from the Middle East and the Byzantine Empire. It is most likely that the first makers of violins borrowed from three types of current instruments: the rebec, in use since the 10th century (itself derived from the Byzantine lyra and the Arabic rebab), the Renaissance fiddle, and the lira da braccio (derived from the Byzantine lira). One of the earliest explicit descriptions of the instrument, including its tuning, was in the Epitome musical by Jambe de Fer, published in Lyon in 1556. By this time, the violin had already begun to spread throughout Europe.

The oldest documented violin to have four strings, like the modern violin, is supposed to have been constructed in 1555 by Andrea Amati, but the date is very doubtful. (Other violins, documented significantly earlier, only had three strings and were called violetta.)Venice gave an important contribute to the birth of the violin that was called locally "lira". In the second decade of XVI century (it means 50 years before the flourishing acrivity of Andrea Amati) in Venice were present 7 "lireri" or makers of bowed instruments including protoviolins. The violin immediately became very popular, both among street musicians and the nobility, illustrated by the fact that the French king Charles IX ordered Amati to construct 24 violins for him in 1560. One of these instruments, now called the Charles IX, is the oldest surviving violin. The finest Renaissance carved and decorated violin in the world is the Gasparo da Salò (1574 c.) owned by Ferdinand II, Archduke of Austria and later, from 1841, by the Norwegian virtuoso Ole Bull, who used it for forty years and thousands of concerts, for his very powerful and beautiful tone, similar to those of a Guarneri. It is now in the Vestlandske Kustindustrimuseum in Bergen (Norway). "The Messiah" or "Le Messie" (also known as the "Salabue") made by Antonio Stradivari in 1716 remains pristine. It is now located in the Ashmolean Museum of Oxford.

The most famous violin makers (luthiers) between the 16th century and the 18th century include:

  • The school of Brescia, beginning in the late 14th with liras, violettas, violas and active in the field of the violin in the first half of 16th century
  • The Dalla Corna family, active 1510–1560 in Brescia and Venezia, Italy
  • The Micheli family, active 1530–1615 in Brescia
  • The Inverardi family active 1550–1580 in Brescia
  • The Bertolotti Gasparo da Salò family, active 1530–1615 in Salò and Brescia
  • Giovanni Paolo Maggini, active 1600–1630 in Brescia
  • The school of Cremona, beginning in the half of the 16th century with violas and violone and in the field of violin in the second half of the 16th century
  • The Amati family, active 1500–1740 in Cremona, Italy
  • The Guarneri family, active 1626–1744 in Cremona
  • The Stradivari family, active 1644–1737 in Cremona
  • The school of Venice with the presence of several makers of bow instruments from the early XVI century (in the period 1490 -1630 are registered more than 140 makers of string instruments).
  • The Linarolo family, active 1505 - 1640 in Venice
  • Matteo Goffriller 1659 - 1742
  • Pietro Guarneri 1695 - 1762
  • Domenico Montagnana 1686 - 1750
  • Santo Serafin (Sanctus Seraphinus) 1699 - 1776

Significant changes occurred in the construction of the violin in the 18th century, particularly in the length and angle of the neck, as well as a heavier bass bar. The majority of old instruments have undergone these modifications, and hence are in a significantly different state than when they left the hands of their makers, doubtless with differences in sound and response. But these instruments in their present condition set the standard for perfection in violin craftsmanship and sound, and violin makers all over the world try to come as close to this ideal as possible.

To this day, instruments from the so-called Golden Age of violin making, especially those made by Stradivari, Guarneri del Gesù and Montagnana are the most sought-after instruments by both collectors and performers. The current record amount paid for a Stradivari violin is £9.8 million (US$15.9 million), when the instrument known as the Lady Blunt was sold by Tarisio Auctions in an online auction on June 20, 2011.

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