The Origin Of The Violin
I was surprised to recently read an article that claimed it was highly possible the violin was developed by the Jews. It was one of those quick read overs I intended to come back to in more detail. I can get sources if you want them.
The article didn't necessarily insist this was the case, it was more of an educated conjecture based on where the Jewish people had migrated to and the correlation with historical violin development which seemed to follow them.
I maybe falsely assumed the violin was mostly an Italian or French invention.Or much like the bouzouki, it might have originated in the middle east and seen various revisions as it went to different cultures.
It can't be argued that the Jewish people have fallen in love with the violin as one of their predominant instruments.
I'm sure I could use Wikipedia to find some answers, yet Wikipedia isn't always a reliable source since almost anyone can add to it.
Cite your source, please.
Almost nothing is "invented" completely new, virtually everything "invented" grows out of earlier forms, especially in technology, which includes musical instruments. There would be no violin had there not first been a vielle, etc. It is interesting to trace the developments but fruitless to think you'll identify a single inventor or even a single cultural source of the violin or virtually any other instrument played today. Remember the lira da braccio? Some say it was a precursor to the violin, but surely it too grew out of the vielle, which no doubt had precursors.
Unless it was invented by Jews from northern Italy, I'd have to say it's far fetched.
Unlike the saxophone which was invented by a man named Sax, or the piano, whose stages of development were pretty clearly demarcated, the violin's origins are much more misty. There's a bit of a chicken-and-egg thing going on here: at what point do we decide that a fretless, bowed, instrument placed on the shoulder is finally a violin and not something else?
Well, the Brescian maker Seraphim was possibly Jewish, and the spike fiddle as precursor to the violin is from the 11th century Middle East, which had Jews residing there, so possible influence, but more likely slow development led to the original losing the spike and being held up for increased playability and taste of changing times (because the baroque violin did a similar thing-started at mid-chest level, going higher up as music became more challenging).
Probably should think of the "history of the bow" without which there is no violin......
More likely its of Arabic origin!!
Rebec, renaissance fiddle, and the lira da braccio are the direct ancestors to the violin. David Boyden has a great book about this. If you want to talk about the first 'true' violin, you need to look in northern Italy in the first two decades of the 16th century. If you want to talk semantics, and 'this is a violin or that is a violin', then you can look to any of a number of countries where bowed stringed instruments existed for a thousand years prior.
Almost all historians agree that the violin was invented by Andrea Amati (1505-1577). It was developed from the renaissance vielle, which in turn may have been derived from the rebec.
Then you've got the guy in Israel that claims any cheap Czech production violin with an inlay resembling a star of David is a priceless "holocaust fiddle".
Amati was illiterate but the commissioner of the violin could have designs made for the instrument, that was very common. Benvenuto Cellini, (1500 - 1571) made a design for a compass, many objects as candelabra, salt cellars, furniture, jewells, etc. Cellini always made a point to his patros that he needed no designer since he was able to make them.
Dimitri - my understanding is that Andrea Amati is credited with being the first master maker of what is no doubt recognized as a violin but that the road to the violin was too gradual for us to say that upon the midnight hour of a certain year we now had the violin.
Yes the "violins of Hope" are nothing but very cheap Schoenbach boxes from well before the holocaust. I would imagine most Jewish people horribly caught up in the holocaust would have much better taste in instruments.
Here is the source I read.
Well, Sephardic Jews also settled in Bosnia (the Ottoman province) after Reconquest, but no one in their right mind claims that they invented
Is there any hard evidence that Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) influenced the development of the violin as we know it?
I agree Rocky. It is a roundabout. For me it's interesting.
Lyndon - I would suggest that Amnon Weinstein's extensive and pains-taking research into this most emotionally scarred subject trumps your glib and insensitive speculation.
Amnon Weinstein is a fraud that profits over way marking up cheap violins with no legitimate claim to actually being anything to do with the holocaust, he's been exposed multiple times on other forums.
Mr. Weinstein's premise is that Jewish musicians were primarily attracted to cheap crappy Schoenbach violins just because they had crudely inlaid 6 pointed stars inlayed in the back that resembled the star of David. I'm the one that gives Jewish musicians much more credit than that, not Mr. Weinstein.
Trevor, Leonardo's instrument of choice was the lira da braccio:
Well, Lyndon, that's quite a serious charge. I don't know Mr. Weinstein personally but I just did a quick Google search and found innumerable references to him and his project - and not one charge of fraud or anything else at all negative about him. If you want me to go back and cite them, I will. Otherwise, I'm curious about your citations.
Ethnomusicologist Frank Denyer claims that bowed strings originated among the nomadic people of Mongolia. Makes sense - they had the horses for the bows (originally horsehair strings too). They still play an instrument called the Morin Khuur with its horse head scroll (apparently the instruments were originally made from horse skulls). Frank Denyer also claims that the horse symbology remains: saddle, frog (part of a horse's hoof), tailpiece; even neck, belly and ribs allude to a creature.
In her memoir "The End of Romance: A Memoir of Love, Sex, and the Mystery of the Violin" Norma Barzman described her 10-12 days of search in Cremona and Venice for the Jewish origins of the violin. Norma Barzman was one of the writers banned by the Unamerican Activities Committiee in the early 1950s. She and her husband, Ben Barzman, a famous screen writer moved to southern France where they continued to work their crafts, when they could.
Two experts, Jacob Saunders and Ben Hebbert comment on the "Violins of hope""
As Ben Hebbert points out, Amnon Weinstein is collecting these "priceless" relics and then has the gaul to regraduate them because he considers them tonally deficient. Imagine that, good enough for the holocaust victim, but not good enough for Amnon Weinstein, so he mucks about with the thicknessing, to make a new violin sound never heard during the holocaust!!
Lyndon, I just checked out your "multiple" citations - that is to say, TWO citations - and only ONE of them is critical of Mr. Weinstein's work as such. It's mostly about someone who came across a violin on Ebay and is inquiring about it and its similarity to the "Violins of Hope".
If we assume the premise (I don't) that these violins are rare relics of the holocaust owned by Jewish musicians during the war, regraduating or altering them in any way would be a crime IMHO. Regraduation is the fodder of incompetent repairers the world over. The violins themselves ARE historical relics, though maybe not of the holocaust, they deserve to be set up and played just as they were during their early life. No need to improve on a historical relic, if you want to improve something, try to build a better violin yourself, don't be a cheat and try to glory of some other workman's effort.
I appreciate the views expressed.
By that logic the pope could be Jewish too!!
Perhaps we could all agree that violin is a result of common history of mankind, not a particular tribe, religion or nation?
If you all look back enough, we're all Jewish.
I thought we were all African?????
A couple of things to think about:
Lyndon said "altering them in any way would be a crime IMHO. Regraduation is the fodder of incompetent repairers the world over."
@Raphael: to be fair, the masses being happy about something isn't saying much... they tend to be very ignorant/misinformed, so I see no problem if Lyndon links to other knowledgeable luthiers and uses his own experience in stating that the person behind an idea is bunk.
Last time I checked, I was a respected maker, of clavichords. I don't know if Mr. Weinstein is a maker.
How many Holocaust violins has Mr. Weinstein (allegedly) repaired, improved, restored, regraduated, rescued, or in any way worked on? Just curious. In the hundreds... or thousands? Does he then sell them?
Lyndon I like you, but you're being a bit snarky here :)
Were they allegedly played right in concentration camps?
From what we have been able to gather, Weinstein has nothing to link the violins to the Holocaust other than they have a 6 pointed star inlayed on the back. We know from our studies of Inlayed Czech and German violins that these were the cheapest grade produced roughly around 1900. It is my understanding that Jewish musicians would have been just like any other and had violin of a quality appropriate to their playing level and pocketbook. While some poorer Jewish musicians may have been attracted to cheap violins with 6 pointed stars, these would have been the exception rather than the rule IMHO. Most of these inlayed violins were made for the American market anyway. You see them in the Sears and other catalogues from the time period, priced at the bottom end of the spectrum.
Well that six star inlay design is all over the backgammon sets in the Middle East. I got one from the bazaar in Istanbul, and later discovered it was not real inlay but a fake sheet glued on plywood. Once I saw thousands of those sets in big boxes in the back of a store, I realized they were not made in the Middle East but the Far East. Do a search for "Syria backgammon inlay" and you'll see the six star design/pattern/sun everywhere. Even in furniture and tea tables. It's not a jewish but gypsy and Middle Eastern thing
Dexter, as a Turkish guy who lived there for 7 years, you are absolutely correct. :)
I'm pretty sure though that Amati and Stradivarius, quite entrepreneurial for their time, were descendants of meditarrenean (Italo-Spanish) Jews.
Also, Jewish interpreters of recent have done more for the violin than any other race...
Of all people, I think Jewish ones would be especially concerned when someone starts talking about a "master race".
In my humble opinion, it was a bad choice to name a group of instruments after a terrible set of events.
Agree with Rocky, and it is a terrible idea to name possible heirlooms after tragic events...
The Titanic was a terrible set of mistakes and events
Dexter you asked if the violins were played in the camps. I don't think they would have allowed that. There were Jews who entertained the Nazis and so they might have been allowed to have them. Other than that there were the walled cites where they lived until they were "resettled". They may have played them there.
I don't believe there is a master race, either. People are people. Races that have historically done better than other races invariably did so by oppressing other races.
I read that the viola was depicted in the Glory of Angels (1534-1535) fresco in the Duomo of the Santa Maria dei Miracoli Saronno.
It's hard to pinpoint the origin of the violin. The same goes for the spoon.
The viola might be older than the violin. In a museum in Vienna I saw a viola dated before 1550. The date would be the museum's opinion. A saw that it had the all-important sound-post, which is a major difference between the violin and viol family. I couldn't tell if it had a bass bar. If we restrict ourselves to the actual surviving instruments, the violin,viola and cello appear simultaneously in the middle 1500's, the first makers of record being Andrea Amati and Gaspar da Salo. Everything else is entertaining conjecture. I think it is an interesting clue that the Gaspar da Salo Violas are still some of the best ever made.
@Joel: I would argue that Gasparo and Maggini made some of the best violins too with their phenominal response and dark sonority, but nobody plays them anymore because the modern soloist standard is one of treble clarity versus the viola-like thrum of the Brescian makers.
Italy. Andrea Amati. Fact.
I thought there were German violins as old as Andrea Amati???
I had the privilege to play on a Gaspar da Salo last month at Bein&Fushi. It is mind-boggling that such very very old violins can be so powerful.
I agree about the Gaspar da Salo violin. I have a copy of a violin comparison recording done by Ricci; Strads, del Jesu's, Amati's, and one da Salo. My favorites were; Nicolo Amati, with a sweet, beautiful,"feminine" sound and Da Salo, with a very different, "masculine", woody, dark, with just the right amount of nasal edge. Ease of playing and projection are something else; can't tell that from just a recording ~jq
I also love the roar of Brescian makers, my pretty ideal tone being the ex-Piozzi Maggini here:
Hmmm hello everyone.
thank you Ben for such a quality contribution to this thread.
Very nice post Ben! Interesting to know that Isabella d'Este asks varnish from an instrument maker to be used by the painter Mantegna.
Ditto Ben. Excellent.
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