Friday, July 13, 2018

Origins of the Violin Part 3 - Andrea Amati (1505-1577)

Andrea Amati was born in 1505 Cremona, Italy.  It was in the workshop of Andrea Amati (ca. 1505-1577) in Cremona, Italy, in the middle of the 16th century that the form of the instruments of the violin family as we know them today first crystallized.  Several of his instruments survive to the present day, and some of them can still be played. Many of the surviving instruments were among a consignment of 38 instruments delivered to Charles IX of France in 1564.

According to a biography by Roger Hargrave, Amati was one of the top candidates scholars have advanced for the "inventor of the violin." The two other candidates he named were Fussen born in a region now part of present-day Germany. The other candidate he named was Gasparo' da Salo from Brescia.

The violin-like instruments that existed when Amati began his career only had three strings. Amati is credited with creating the first four stringed violin-like instrument. Laurence Witten also lists Amati and Gasparo' da Salo, as well as Pellegrino de' Micheli, also from Brescia; as well and Ventura di Francesco de' Machetti Linarol, of Venice. Amati's first violins were smaller than modern violins, with high arches, wide purfling, and elegantly curved scrolls and bodies.

Andrea Amati's two sons, Antonio Amati and Girolamo Amati were also highly skilled violin makers, as was his grandson Nicolò Amati, who had over a dozen highly regarded apprentices, including Antonio Stradivari and Andrea Guarneri.

Few of Andrea Amati’s instruments survive today. Of those that do, many were commissioned by wealthy patrons and royalty, such as the celebrated group of instruments made for Charles IX of France. These instruments date from 1564 to 1574, and we must assume that Amati had been working for some time prior to that date to have won a commission from the French court. His earliest known instrument is thought to date from 1546, but sadly all trace of it has been lost. The instruments made for Charles IX were decorated with the royal coat of arms, and the cutdown viola illustrated here was also decorated to reflect its ownership, in this case by a noble Italian family of the rank of Marquis.


Gigue from Partita No. 2 in D minor by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
played by Sean Avram Carpenter.  Violin: Andrea Amati (ca. 1505--1578), Cremona, ca. 1559

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