Antiques Magazine - July 2014, Violins - ANTIQUES.CO.UK

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    Posted by Gillian Jones on 02/07/2014


    Some of the most beautiful music has been written for the violin.

    Some of the most beautiful music has been written for the violin and other stringed instruments. No other instrument can sing like the violin can and no other instrument can move me to tears the way a violin can. It can express human emotion so beautifully and so eloquently.


    For those of us who’ve either learnt to play a stringed instrument or lived in a house with someone who’s learnt, then a violin doesn’t always necessarily sound that great to start with, but as Joseph Wechsberg once said “A violin should be played with love or not at all.”


    The violin family has many members with the violin itself, the viola, violincello and the contrabass. But it goes back a long way, with at least a 500 year history behind it.

    The violin was born of something else, something similar, but not quite the same. The chordophone came from the Greek for “khorde” string and “phonos” meaning a sound or voice, the oldest stringed instrument was the Lyres of Ur dating back nearly 5,000 years. Bowed chordophones would be developed in Central Asia and then evolve into the Ravanastron, which would eventually mutate into the 2 string Rebab brought across the land via the Silk Road, it would influence the design of later violins.


    The Lyra Da Braccio came next during the 15th century until the beginning of the 17th with its popularity increasing in Italy as it accompanied recitations of poetry perfectly.


    It seems pertinent then that the first and greatest violin maker would originate from Italy in the form of Andrea Amati, who would give us the modern violin with its classic shape and design, a fourth string and a light convex to the body of the instrument. He would pass on his skills to his family to continue with the tradition of violin making.


    Another great violin maker would be Antonio Stradivari who would complete an apprenticeship with Amati’s grandson Nicolo. His violins are still in demand today selling for millions the world over.


    What other interesting facts can we glean from the violin?


    Well –

    • Violins are usually made from Maplewood or spruce, and around 70 pieces of wood come together to make one single violin
    • The most expensive violin sold for nearly $20 million and was made by Giuseppe Guarneri
    •  Violin strings are usually made from sheep gut which are then dried and stretched. Other materials used are stranded steel, synthetic materials, solid steel and various metals
    • The word violin comes from the Latin word “vitula” which means “stringed instrument.”
    • Violin bows consist of up to 200 hairs of either nylon or horse hair
    • You can actually lose nearly 200 calories from playing the violin for an hour. If that’s not a good reason to take up the instrument, then I don’t know what is.


    You may not be able to afford a Stradivarius or a Guarneri, but if you’ve taken up the violin then you may be looking for a new instrument. On there is a rather unique “copy” of a Stradivarius with case that’s in excellent condition. Or if you’re after something to hold your current instrument then there’s a mahogany display case with a 1926 name plate, it comes with its own violin but you may prefer to replace it with your own.


    Whatever your predilection, whether it’s to play or simply listen, may the violin continue to bring you great pleasure.






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