Choosing the model for the VSO violin was quite easy. I have known Jaime Laredo, violinist and Music Director of the VSO, for many years and have made copies of two of his violins. The Strad he used until recently was built in 1717 and has been a successful model for me. For several years I have had an ongoing project building 300th anniversary Strad copies. Strad was almost 300 years older than I, so these instruments were made at a similar stage of life. Studying them in detail is informative as well as inspiring, both technically and personally. I am focusing on instruments dated 1717, and Jaime’s violin was already in my plans along with the “Nightingale”, which I studied while it was in the hands of a Boston Symphony Orchestra player, and a couple of other 1717 violins.
We know a good deal about Antonio Stradivari. Much of it is reconstructed from his work, as there is not a lot of contemporaneous documentation. He was highly regarded in his lifetime and, fortunately, the next generation preserved many of his patterns and tools. He was consistent and methodical in his work, so the study of his existing instruments gives reliable insight into his working methods and design principles. He was clearly a very thoughtful and talented maker. One interesting theory suggests that an apprenticeship with an architect while he was in his teens gave him a sense of proportion, an understanding of design principles, and a scientific turn of mind he could apply to acoustic issues.
The year 1717 lies in the heart of Strad’s “Golden Period”, encompassing those instruments of highest aesthetic and acoustic merit. In 1717 Strad was in his late 60’s, still vital and successful, having accumulated 40 years of experience. Two of his sons, then in their 40’s, were working with him, providing keen eyes and practiced and steady hands to help realize his ideals.
Strad made violins in a range of sizes. The “Laredo/Gariel” model we will be using is slightly larger than average. It is, however, within the comfort range of most players, and the additional size tends toward a fullness and slight darkness of sound that I find appealing. The distinctive shape of Strad’s archings gives flexibility to the tone quality and a bit of brightness that balances well the slightly dark quality of this body size. More on this when we get to that stage of the making.
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Note: Throughout this blog series I speak of violins, but the same principles will usually apply to all members of the violin family.
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