What was the violin repertoire in Amati's time?
As I understand it, Amati is generally credited with inventing the violin in the 1500s. What kind of material was it used to play when it was first created?
At what point were the amazing technical possibilities of the violin first explored? I assume there was no one doing Paganini-like acrobatic playing yet in Amati's time, or is that not correct?
Did the great early makers - Amati, Stradivari etc. play? I don't find anything for example that talks about Stradivari as a player but I'm incredulous that he could have been such a superb maker, be that connected to the instrument without having some kind of playing chops himself.
hi Scott, like you say, Andrea Amati basically invented, or somehow standardized, the modern violin, and that also gave the starting point for composers and musicians to discover the possibilities of the modern violin. before Andrea Amati's time, the primitive violin was mainly a fanfare instrument really, and "orchestra music" was almost exclusively played on wind instruments. your other question (which is a totally different question, as we are talking about 150 years later), about how good did Stradivari played the violin, is a good one, but I can't recall reading anything about it. best!
I don't think there's any 16th century music specifically written for the violin that survives today. It's assumed that instruments of the violin family were mostly used to accompany dance. The really remarkable thing is that the basic design has survived for half a millennium and adapted to such a range of sounds that the original inventors cannot possibly have imagined.
There probably was little or no specific violin repertoire in the 16th century. At the time, most music was not written for specific instruments; instruments simply played whatever was in their range. The violin would have simply played the treble line. It wasn't until the 17th century that composers began to consider the timbres and capabilities of individual instruments and specify instruments in their scores. Even then, trio sonatas continued to be written without specified instruments well into the 18th century.
A very good source of information is “The Cambridge Companion to the Violin” ed. Robin Stowell. John Dilworth’s chapter on the origins and development gives quite a bit of detail on the Amati family, and Simon McVeigh on early repertoire explains some of the material early violinists played, and discusses the gradual way in which the violin family replaced the viols. I’m not sure to what extent Monteverdi specifies instrumentation but some of “L’Orfeo” is definitely violinistic, and the same is true of some passages in the Vespers of 1610. It seems that his later Venetian operas may have used fewer string players. A particularly interesting early violinist and composer is Salamone Rossi (1570-1630), a friend and collaborator of Monteverdi’s, who wrote beautiful polyphonic liturgical music for the Spanish synagogue of Venice. You can find some of his string works on ISMLP, and recordings on YouTube. Rossi deserves to be better known, so please, dear V.com colleagues, give him some concert time if you can!
I was considering mentioning Monteverdi, but didn't because I was in a bit of a hurry. He's mentioned in Adam Carse's
I can confirm that Andrea Amati (b. 1505) is credited with inventing the "modern" violin. The first pictorial reference of a violin is dated 1534, and that was 7 years before the other possible inventor, Gasparo da Salò, was even born.
Hi Scott! Thanks for your interest and the reply. I kind of agree that it's a shame that the Cremonese makers didn't hear some of the later wonders of violin literature: JS Bach, the best of the Mozart sonatas, the Beethoven sonatas (in their entirety), the Franck sonata...concertos by Tchaikovsky, Berg, Barber, Britten...one could run on almost forever! The other amazing aspect of the violin repertoire is that it is essentially the SAME instrument and sound across the centuries, unlike the keyboard world, with its conflicts at the harpsichord/piano border.
According to a tv programme on BBC Catherine de Medicis court musician wrote the first sheet music for violin, which was to be played on an instrument she had commisioned.
Richard, It don't fret me none, as we country folk say. Paganini leaves me cold and it's not envy or anything like that. I have simpler tastes.
Locatelli's caprices were written in 1733, so when Stradivari and Guarneri Del Gesu were making, though not Amati.
Lovely answer Ann! People who play folk styles should remember that music for dance was probably the violin’s original thing. We are the keepers of the flame!
Richard, I'm playing the classical repertoire but break out in Ashokan Farewell to my teacher's (perhaps pretended) dismay. Oh, how provincial! I have a book of Irish tin whistle tunes which are great fun. He's much out of fashion but Steven Foster wrote some danceable tunes. Leave out the lyrics (such as they are) and you're ok.
Richard - I suspect you might like this Cantabile by Paganini:
Ann - another enthusiast for 'Ashokan Farewell' here, having found it years ago in an American Strings magazine.
Richard, there is a truly heartrending version of Ashokan, played on violinperformers.com This lady's videos have helped me greatly, supplementing info from my teacher.
Ann - again, thanks for great conversation!
Richard, talking of Liszt, do you know his Faust Symphony? A highly underrated work in my opinion.
Although almost a century after Amati produced the first violins as we still know them, I think we had to wait until the 17th century to get really good violin music. What were violinists doing before that?
John, I’ll certainly give the Faust symphony a try. I like Les Préludes very much.
Will, very interesting contribution to the discussion, thanks!
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