George Grove.

A dictionary of music and musicians (A.D. 1450-1889) by eminent writers, English and foreign : with illustrations and woodcuts (Volume 4) online

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ince that the ribs, bridge, and soundpost of

2 violoncello are relatively higher than those
the other instruments. The tenor is one

?enth larger tlian the violin, the violoncello
ice as large : the double-bass is about double

3 size of the violoncello. The number of
jarate pieces of wood which are glued together
• the fixed structure of the violin is as
lows : —

Back .
Belly .
Bibs .
Bar .
Nut .

. 2 pieces (sometimes 1)

. -I, „ (^sometimes 1)

• 6 „

. „ (aometimea 5)

. Vi „

• 1 ..
. 24 „
. 1 ,>

Handle or Neck 1
Lower Nut . 1 „

Total 57

The moveable fitlings comprise thirteen ad-

iional parts : —

Tailpiece . . 1

Loop . . .1
Button or Tailpiu 1

Screws . . . 4

Strings . . 4

Soundpost . . 1

Bridge . . .1

Total 13
The violin thus consists of seventy different
rts, all of which, except the strings and loop,
3 of wood. The wood employed is of three
rts — maple for the back, handle, ribs and
idge ; ebony for the fingerboard, nuts, screws,
ilpiece and button ; the purfling is partly of
ony, partly of maple ; the belly, bar, blocks,
lings, and soundpost are of pine. All metal

a profane substance in fiddle-making : no
igment of it should be employed, whether con-
ructively or ornamentally. The parts must be
it together with the finest glue, and with in-
sible joints.

The tone, other things being the same, depends
rgely on the quality of the maple and pine used,
le wood must not be new : it should have
en cut at least five or six years, and be well
Eisoned. It is, however, not advisable to use
3od that is so old as to have loat much of
s elasticity. Both pine and maple should be

white as possible, with a grain moderately
ide, even, and as a rule peifectly slrai^jht.

Local shakes and knots render the wood useless.
Curves in the grain derange the vibration, and
are therefore usually avoided : but the writer has
seen violins in which a slightly curving grain
has produced an exceptional power of tone.

The belly and back are often made each out
of a single block of wood. This, however, is
wasteful, and they are usually made each in two
pieces. A square block of maple of suitable
grain for the back, having been selected some-
what exceeding in length and in half breadth
the dimensions of the intended fiddle, and about
an inch and a half thick, the saw is passed
obliquely through it from end to end, dividing
it into two similar pieces, each having a thick
and a thin edge. The thick edges are planed
perfectly true and glued together. The figure
of the grain, when the fiddle is made, will thus
match in the halves.

The first thing to be done is to settle the
design of the instrument. The modern maker
invariably adopts this from a Stradivari or a
Giuseppe Guarnieri (flel Gesii") fiddle, some-
times mixing the two designs. The old makers
generally worked by rule of thumb, using the
moulds of their predecessors, and if they made
new patterns only slightly varied the old ones
as experience suggested. It was by a succession
of such minute experimental changes that the
classical patterns were reached, and though at-
tempts have been made to reduce their designs
to mechanical principles, and to frame directions
for constructing them by the rule and compasses'
no practical violin-maker would think of doing
so. There is no reason \Vhy he should slavishly
copy any model ; but his design should be based
on study and comparison of classical patterns,
not upon any theoretical rules of proportion.

Having settled the design, whether a tracing
from an old instrument, or aa entirely new one,
the first thing is to trace the outline on a plate
of hard wood about as thick as a piece of card-
board, and to cut this carefully out with the
pen-knife. This is called the Pattern, and io
serves both for back and belly.

The next thing is to make the Mould, which
is made out of a block of hard wood al/out
three quarters of an inch thick. Its outline
stands three eighths of an inch all round inside
that of the Pattern. Having cut out the mould
to the requisite size and shape, the workman
cuts rectangular spaces for the six blocks^,
large ones at the top and bottom and small ones
at the four corners. The next thing, and one of
great importance, is to trim the edges of the
mould so that it shall be everywhere perfectly at
right angles to the faces. Eight finger-holes are
now pierced, to enable you to manipulate it
without touching the edges. The making of the
mould requires the greatest care and nicety :
and fiddlemakers will keep and use a good one

1 The most noticeable of these is the 'calcolo* of Antonio BagateIJa
an amateur of Padua, published in 1782. by which he preter.ds to
' reveal the secret of the proportions used by the brothers Amati. It
] is reprinted in Folegatti's "il violino esposio geometiicamente nella
1 sua costruzlone' (Eulogna. 1ST4). Eagaiella seems to have ruined
j many a good violin by adapting it to the Frociustea]! bed ol li.s
1 • calculu.'




all their lives. In addition to the pattern and
the mould the fiddleniaker requires four templates
of varying size, cut to curves wliich are the
reverse of ihe principal curves of the surface.
The largest is the curve lengthwise in the
middle of the fiddle (i), the other three are
transverse, being (2) the curve of the surface at
the greatest width in the upper part, (3) that at
the narrowest part of the waist, (4) at the
greatest width at the lower part.

The first part of the fiddle .nctually made is
the back. The block out of which it is made is
first reduced to the exact shape of the pattern ;
its upper surface is then cut away and brought
to the right curves by the aid of the four
templates. The maker then hollows out the
inside, ganging the proper thicknesses by means
of a pair of callipers. Precisely the same method
is used for the belly, but its thicknesses are every-
where somewhat less than those of the back.

The top and bottom blocks are next prepared
and shaped, temporarily fixed in the mould by
means of a single drop of glue, brought to the
exact height of the mould by the knife and file,
and cut to the right shape by the aid of the
pattern. The next task is to prepare a long
strip of maple planed to tlie right thickness for
the ribs. The proper length of each rib is
ascertained on the mould by means of a strip of
cartridge paper, and each rib is then cut off to
its length and the edges prepared for joining.
The ribs are now dipped two or three times in
v.'ater, and bent to the curves of the mould by
means of a hot iron. They are then placed in
position on the mould and glued to the blocks ;
eight moveable blocks of wood, trimmed as
counterparts to the ribs, one in each bout, one
in the outer curve of each corner block, and two
at the top and bottom, are applied outside them,
and the whole mass is tightly screwed up in a
frame and left to dry. When the frame and
moveable blocks are removed, the ribs and blocks
form a structure which only requires the addition
of the back and belly to be complete. The back
is first glued on, and the inside joint is filled up
v^'ith linings of pine passing from block to block
and dovetailed at each end into the blocks,
similar linings are now glued to the upper edge of
the ribs and brought to a flat surface. Lastly, the
belly, on which the bass bar has already been fitted,
is glued on, and the resonant box is complete.

The design and cutting of the head, the carving
of the volute, and the double grooving of its
back, are amona: the most difficult branches of
the violin-maker's art. When the handle is ready
it is accurately fitted and glued to the top block
and to the semicircular button at the top of the
back, which hold it firmly in the angle they form.
The fiddle is now ready for varnishing. After
bemg sized, three or more coats of varnish are
successively applied. This is of two kinds, one
made with oil and the other with spirits of wine.
Oil vajnish is long in drying ; hence in this
country, except in hot weather, the process is
tedious, and the old English makers usually pre-
ierred spirit varnish, which dries very quickly.

The best makers in all countries have used o'
varnish, the soft texture of which penetrates an
solidifies the wood without hardening the tone. ,

When the varnishing and polishing are coni '
pleted the fingerboard is glued on, and the violil ^
is then ready for its moveable fittings. The pe|
holes are now pierced, the pegs inserted, and tl
button prepared for the bottom block. The souni
post is made so as to fit the slopes of the bac;
and belly and inserted in a perfectly vei'tici
position : this is ensured by observation throug]
the bottom block and soundholes. The bridge
then prepared and fitted, the tail-jiiece looped 01
and the violin is ready for stringing. , i

Many of the best fiddle-makers, howevej «
seldom make new instruments, which can b
produced more cheaply and expeditiously h i
inferior workmen. Their principal and mo! i(
profitable occupation is the pui-chase, restoratiot s
anil sale of old ones, which are preferred b k
modern purchasers, the best, because they reall, »
.surpass in workmanship and appearance any < )|
modern times, the inferior ones, because age hi j
rendered them more picturesque to the eye, anl ii
easier to play. An old violin has generally t| 1
undergo many alterations before it is fit for usi 1
If any part is worm-eaten, it must be renewe|j ,)
If the blocks and linings are out of repair, 1$
badly fitted, they must be properly arrangeqj
Cracks must be united ; if the belly or ribs haw
been pressed out of shape, they must be restorefl
to shape by pressure on the mould : the damage
to the belly, above the soundpost, which is su
to have occurred, must be repaired ; if the ol
bass-bar remains, a larger and stiffer one mm
be provided, to enable the belly to bear the
creased tension of a higher bridge. In almi
every case the neck must be ' thrown back,' ».
so re-arranged as to raise the lower end of tl
fingerboard farther above the belly, and tb
admit of a bridge of the modern height : the ney^
handle, carefully grafted into the head, must bj
made of somewhat greater length than the oU
one. The peg-holes, enlarged by use, must b<
plugged and repierced : a new bridge and sound'
post must be adjusted with all the accuracy
which these important details demand. Great
labour and attention are demanded by an old
violin, and it will be thrown away unless every
detail of it is considered with strict reference to
the particular type of instrument which is in
hand. Hence the restoratitm of old instruments
demands a knowledge of the fiddle which is
wider and deeper than that required for the
mere fiddlemaker.

For further information on the subject of the
Violin the reader is referred to Riihlmann's
'Geschichte der Bogen-Instrumente ' (Bruns-
wick, iSS2),a collection of valuable materials,
with .an excellent Atlas of Illustrations ; Duhourg
on the Violin (R. Cocks & Co.) ; Mr. Hart's
excellent work, 'The Violin' (Dulau & 00.);
M. Vidal's ' Les Instruments k Archet,' 3 vols.
4to. Paris, 1S76-8, and Mr. E. H. Allen's recent
publication ' Violin-making as it was and is'
(Ward & Lock). [E.J.P.]


lOLIN DIAPASON. An organ stop of 8 ft.
h, in scale between the Open Diapason and the
3iana. The pipes are O] len, and have a slot near
;op. It is usually inthe Swell organ. [W.Pt.]
lOLIN - PLAYING. Some account of the
ical employment of the mediaeval fiddle,
I which the viol and the violin were deve-
i, will be found in the preceding article (p.
. From this it appears that all the elements
iolin-playing were already in existence in
[3th century. But it was not till the middle
)e 1 6th that players on bowed instruments
.n to shake off the domination of the lute,

its tunings by fourths and thirds, and its
ssive number of strings ; and it appears that
urrently with this change, the modelled
;, which gives the characteristic violin tone,
} into use, and the fiddle finally took its
3nt form. It seems to have spread quickly
in France and Italy. At Rouen, in 1550,
insiderable number are said to have been
oyed in public performances, and Mon-
16, in 1580, heard at Verona a Mass with
IS. Too much importance, however, must
be attached to such statements, since the
s ' violin ' and ' viola ' were then often ap-

to stringed insti-unients of all kinds.

order to gain an idea of the way the
1 was played at this early period, we na-
ly look to the scores of contemporaneous
posers. But here we meet with a difficulty.
n to the end of the i6th century we do
ind the instruments specified by which the
•ent parts are to be played. On the titles of
sarlier works of A. and Gr. Gabrieli (1557-
) we read ; ' Sacrse Cantiones, tum viva vote
jmnis generis Instrumentis cantatu commo-
nse' (most convenient for the voice, as for
inds of instruments), or 'Sacrse Symphoniae
vocibus quam instrumentis ' (for voices as
as instruments) ; or ' Psalmi tum omnis ge-
instrumentorum tum ad vocis modulationem
lodiiti ' (Psalms for all kinds of instruments
he voice) ; or ' Buone da cantare e suonare,' or
similar directions.* No doubt settled usages
iled in this respect, and it is of course to be
led that whenever violins were employed,
took the upper part of the harmony. It is
us that, as long as the violins had merely
pport and to double the soprano-voice, the
i-parts were of extreme simplicity. Soon,
ver, we meet with indications of an inde-
;nt use of the violin. As early as 1543
itro Ganassi, in the first part of his 'Kegula
rtina' (Venice), speaks of three varieties of
IS as Viola di Soprano, di Tenore, e di Basso ;
'astiglione, in his * Cortigniano, ' mentions a
osition as written for ' quattro viole da

which almost seems to indicate a stringed
et. Towards the end of the century we
with the Balletti of Gastoldi and Thomas
sy, some of which were printed without
i, and appear, therefore, to have been in-

se expression? are exactly equivalent to the words so often
)n the tille-pages of English madrigals of the 17th century
for voyals [viols] and voices.'



tended for independent instrumental performance.
Nevertheless, they are entirely vocal in character,
and do not exceed the compass of the human
voice. Among the earliest settings which are not
purely vocal in character are the ' Canzoni da
sonare' by Maschera (1593), — originally, per-
haps, written for the organ, but printed in sepa-
rate parts, and evidently therefore intended for
performance by various instruments. The earliest
instance of a part being specially marked for
'Violino' we find in ' Concerti di Andrea e Gio-
vanni Gabrieli — ]ier voci e stromenti musicali
Venetia, 1587.' TJp to this time the leading
instrument of the orchestra was the Cometto
(Germ. Zinlce) — not, as might be concluded from
its German name, an instrument made of metal,
but of wood. The parts written for it correspond
to the oboe parts in Handel's scores. In Gabrieli's
the cornetti alternate with the violins in taking
the lead. His instrumental compositions may
roughly be divided into two classes, tlie one evi-
dently based on his vocal style, the other de-
cidedly instrumental in character. In a ' Sonata '
belonging to the first class, we find an instru-
mental double-choir, a cornetto and 3 trombones
forming the first choir, a violin and 3 trombones
the second, and the two being employed anti-
phonally ; the setting is contrapuntal throughout,
and the effect not unlike that of a motet for
double-choir. The violin-part does not materially
differ from that for the cornetto. To the second
class belong the Sonatas and Canzoni for 2 or 3
violins with bass. Here the setting is much
more complicated, mostly in fugato-form (not
regular fugues), reminding us to a certain ex-
tent of organ-style, and certainly not vocal in
character, but purely instrumental. The scores
of Gabrieli contain the first beginnings of the
modern art of instrumentation, and mark an
epoch in the history of music. Not content with
writing, in addition to the voices, obligato instru-
mental parts, he takes into consideration the
quality {timbre) of the various instruments. That
this should have been brought about at the very
period in which the violin came into general use,
can certainly not be considered a mere accident,
although it may be impossible to show which of
the two was cause and which effect. Once the
violin was generally accepted as the leading in-
strument of the orchestra, its teclinique appears
soon to have made considerable progress. While
Gabrieli never exceeds the 3id position, we find
but a few years later, in a score of Claudio
Monte verde (16 10), passages going up to the
5th position : after an obbligato passage for 2 cor-
netti, enter the violins (ist and 2nd) :

Violin 1





I h

sir n .J- .*^L«_J_5_^'V
— =-»^^^ — i ' ' ■ i-+-r-i — i>-7 ^i^ — - :

1 r


The manner in which, in this example, the violins
lire ' used ' divisi' is worthy of notice. In another
work of Monteverde's, ' Combattimento di Tan-
credi e Clorinda, diClaudio Monteverde. Venezia,
1624,'^ we find modern violin-effects introduced in
a still more remarkable way. Here we have re-
citatives accompanied by tremolos for violins and
bass, pizzicatos mark-ed thus, * Qui silascia I'arco,
e si strappano le corde con duoi diti '; and after-
wards, ' Qui si ripiglia Tarco.' That violinists
were even at that time expected to produce gra-
dations of tone with the bow is proved by the
direction given respecting the final pause of the
same work : ' Questa ultima nuta va in areata

The earliest known solo composition for the
violin is contained in a work of Biagio Marini,
published in 1620. It is a ' Romanesca per
Violino Solo e Basso se piaci ' {ad lib.) and some
dances. The Romanesca ^ is musically poor and
clumsy, and, except that in it we meet with the
shake for the first time, uninteresting. The de-
mands it makes on the executant are very small.
The same may be said of another very early com-
position for violin solo, 'La sfera armoniosa da
Paolo Quiigliati' (Roma 1623). Of far greater

1 Quite in accordance with Berlioz's advice.

2 See MONTEVEBDE. vol. ii. p. 369a.

3 Reprinted in the Appeudli of Wasielewslii's book : ' Die Violine
im xvU. Jalubundert.'


importance, and showing a great advance in exi

cution, are the compositions of Carlo Farina, wl:

has justly been termed the founder of the race i

violin-viituosos. He published in 1627, at Dre

den, a collection of Violin- pieces. Dances, Frenc

airs, Quodlibets, etc., among which a ' Caprice

stravagante ' is of the utmost interest, both musi

ally and technically. Musically it represents 01

of the first attempts at tone-picturing (Klajij

malerei), and, however crude and even childis

the composer evidently was well aware of tl

powers of expression and character pertaining

his instrument. He employs a considerable varie

of bowing, double-stopping, and chords. The 31

position, however, is not exceeded, and the four

string not yet used. Tarquinio Merula (abo-

1640) shows a technical advance in frequef

change of position, and especially in introducii

octave-passages. Paolo Ucelltni, in his canzo

(1649), go^s "P *° *^^^ ^^^ position, and iias

great variety of bowing. Hitherto (the midd

of the 1 7th century) the violin plays but an u

important part as a solo instrument, and it is on

with the development of the Sonata-form (in t

old sense of the term) that it assumes a positit

of importance in the history of music. The terr

'Sonata,' ' Canzone,' and 'Sinfonia' were origi

ally used in a general way for instrumental s«

tings of all kinds, without designating any speci

form. Towards the year 1630, we find the fii

compositions containing rudimentally the forni

the classical Violin Sonata. Its fundamental pri

ciple consisted in alternation of slow and quij

movements. Among the earliest specimens ''■.

this rudimentary sonata-form may be counted ti

Sonatas of Giov. Battista Fontana (publish j

about 1630), a Sinfonia by Monf Albano (162]

Canzoni by Tarquinio Merula (1639), Canzonia

a Sonata by Massimiliano Neri (1644 and 5

From about 1650, th« name Canzone falls out'

use, and Sonata is the universally accepted tei

for violin-compositions. M. Neri appears to ha

been the first to have made the distinction 1

tween 'Sonata da chiesa' (chuich-sonata) a

' Sonata da camera ' (chamber-sonata). The 5

nata da chiesa generally consisted of 3 or 4 mo^

ments : a prelude, in slow measured time and

pathetic character, followed by an allegro in 1

gato-form ; again a slow movement and a finale

more lively and brilliant character. The Som

da camera, at this early period, was in realitj

Suite of Dances— the slow and solemn Sarabant

and Allemandes alternating with the lively G

vottes, Gigues, etc. The artistic capabiUties

the violin, and its powers for musical expressi(

once discovered, the Roman Catholic clergy, w

have ever been anxious to avail themselves of t

elevating and refining power of the fine arts, wi

not slow to introduce it in the services of t

Church. We have seen already the extended i

which Gabrieli, in his church-music, made

orchestral accompaniments, and how, from mer;

supporting and doubling the voices, he proceec

to obligate instrumental settings. From ab(

1650, instrumental performances — unconnecl

with vocal music— began to form a regular p


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of tlie services of the Church. This was probably
nothing new as regards the organ, but the violin
was now introduced into the Church as a solo-
instrument, and the Violin Sonata — then almost
the only form of violin-composition — thereby re-
ceived the serious and dignified character which
exercised a decisive influence upon the future
development, not only of violin-playing, but of
instrumental music generally. The influence of
this connexion with the Church afterwards ex-
tended to secular violin -music. The Dances pure
and simple soon made room for more extended
pieces of a Dance character, and afterwards
almost entirely disappear from the Chamber So-
nata, which begins more and more to partake of
the severer style of the Church Sonata, so that at
last a difference of name alone remains, the
Church-Sonata-form dominating in the Chamber
as much as it did in the Church. The first great
master of the Violin-SonataisGiovANNi Battista
ViTALi (1644-1692). He cultivated chiefly the
Chamber-Sonata, and his publications bear the
title of ' Balletti, Balli, CoiTenti, etc. da Camera,'
but in some of his works the transition from the
Suite-form to the later Sonata da camera, so
closely allied to the Church-Sonata, is already
clearly marked. In musical interest, Vitali's
compositions are greatly superior to those of his
predecessors and contemporaries. His dances are
concise in form, vigorous in character, and in
some instances — especially in a Ciaconna with
variations — he shows high powers as a composer.
[See VlTALl.] His demands on execution are
in some instances not inconsiderable, but on tlie
whole he does not represent in this respect any
material progress.

The first beginnings of violin-playing in an
artistic sense in Germany were doubtless owing
to Italian influence. As early as 1626 Carlo
Parina was attached to the Court of Dresden.
About the middle of the century a certain
JOHANN WiLHELM FURCHHEIM is mentioned in the
list of members of the Dresden orchestra, under
the title of ' Deutscher Concertmeister,' implying
the presence of an Italian leader by his side.
Gerber, in his Dictionary, mentions two publica-
tions of his for the violin: (i) ' Violiu-Exerci-

Online LibraryGeorge GroveA dictionary of music and musicians (A.D. 1450-1889) by eminent writers, English and foreign : with illustrations and woodcuts (Volume 4) → online text (page 67 of 194)