Biographical notice of Nicolo Paganini
Analysis of his Compositions,
AND A SKETCH OF
THE HISTORY OF THE VIOLIN.
F. J. Fétis.
WITH PORTRAIT AND WOOD ENGRAVINGS.
SCHOTT & CO., 159, Regent Street, W.
B. Schott’s Söhne
Schott & Co.
|Sketch of the History of the Violin||1|
|Art and Artists||15|
|Paganini Appreciated as a Composer. Analysis of his Works||79|
Despite all contrary assertions, based upon pretendedmonuments, Oriental, Greek, and Roman antiquity wasunacquainted with instruments played with a bow. NeitherIndia nor Egypt furnish the least traces of them; nor do Greeceand Italy; nor, in fact, does the whole of the old civilizedworld. As I stated in the “Résumé Philosophique de l’Histoirede la Musique,” the bow comes from the West; it was introducedinto the whole of Europe by the western nations. ThoughViols are found among the modern Arabs in Persia and Turkey,they were taken there by Europeans in the time of the Crusades.The Goudock of the Russian peasant, and the Crwth of theancient Irish, appear to proceed from the highest antiquity, andto have been the type of instruments of this nature. The Irishchroniclers speak of musicians who, in the sixth century, werecelebrated for their talent on the Crwth, a species of Viol withsix strings; and Venance Fortunat, a Latin poet who wrote in609, states distinctly that this instrument belonged to GreatBritain.
It is not my intention to follow up here the various transformationsof bow instruments in the middle ages; it will sufficeto observe that there were frequent changes in them from thethirteenth to the sixteenth century; as much in the commonkinds, vulgarly called in French Rebec, and in German Geige2ohne Bunde (Violins without band or side pieces), which possessedonly three strings, as in the improved Viols, the body of whichwas formed of belly and back joined by side pieces, as in ourViolins, Tenors, and Basses. The smaller kinds also possessedonly three strings; the larger kind had four; there were alsoothers with five, six, and seven strings.
In the middle ages, the Rebec, called Rubebbe, possessed buttwo strings. It is the same instrument which in Arabia acquiredthe name of Rebab. From the fifteenth century it is found withits three strings. This instrument took nearly the form of amandoline; the neck and the body being formed of a single piece,the finger-board being as wide as the entire instrument, andreaching within a short distance of the bridge. No passage wasleft for the bow in the body of the instrument, but the body wasvery narrow, and the bridge formed a point for the middle stringto rest upon, so that this string could be touched by the bowwithout touching the others. Like all instruments later than thefifteenth century, the Rebec was made of four different sizes, thesmallest of which was called Discant, or upper; then followed, inprogressively larger proportions, the Alto, the Tenor, and the Bass.The dancing-master’s Kit, of the latter years of the eighteenthcentury, was all that remained of the ancient Rebec.
The Viol was called Vielle in the middle ages. This is theViola of the Italians, and the Vihuela of the Spaniards. Therewere several kinds. As early as the fifteenth century, one of thiskind had a flat belly, and a place for fixing the strings similar tothat of the Guitar. As in the Lute, and all stringed instrumentsplayed with the fingers, the finger-board was divided into distancesfor placing the fingers. From the fifteenth century thebellies of Viols assumed the raised or vaulted form, the backsremaining flat. The cavities at the side, which had formerly beenvery large and straight, were made in the shape of a section of acircle, and were reduced to the dimensions necessary for the useof the bow. The raised bellies rendered it necessary to alter thebridge into the bridge-shape, so as to incline towards the ribs.Hence the term Bridge, which is called by the Italians, from its3form, Ponticello. The divisions for the fingers on the finger-boardwere retained on the Viols up to the second half of the seventeenthcentury. During the fifteenth century the vaulted form of Violpossessed five strings; in the commencement of the sixteenth ithad six. The first string was called in Italy Canto, the secondSotana, the third Mezzana, the fourth Tenore, the fifth Bordone,and the sixth Basso.
The Viol was divided into three kinds, which were calledUpper or Soprano, Tenor, and Bass. The Tenor was used also forplaying the second upper part, or Alto; it was then tuned a notehigher: the tuning of the upper Viol was, commencing from thefirst string, D, A, E, C, G, D; that of the Tenor tuned to Alto, A, E, B,G, D, A; the same instrument tuned to Tenor, G, D, A, F, C, G; and theBass, D, A, E, C, G, D. At the commencement of the seventeenthcentury, the use of instruments specially for accompanying thevoice became general; there was added to the other Viols a Double-BassViol, which was called Violone, that is, large Viol. This alsohad six strings, and was tuned a fourth lower than the Bass Viol,thus A, E, B, G, D, A. Prior to 1650, this instrument was rarelyused in France, it was then called “Viole à la mode de Lorraine.”
In imitation of the vaulted form of Viol, there was made,already in the fifteenth century, a small instrument of the samekind, which the Italians called Violino, that is, small Viol. Thisis the instrument which was called Violon in France, and Geigein Germany.
It is probable that the Violin originally had the same numberof strings as the other Viols; that these were tuned a fourth abovethe upper Viol, viz., G, D, A, F, C, G; and that the neck alsopossessed divisions for the fingers; but it was soon discoveredthat the finger-board of the Violin was not wide enough to allowany one to play with facility on so large a number of strings;and that the space for the fingers to produce the notes was toonarrow to admit of divisions. These were removed; the strings,reduced to four, were tuned in fifths; making the first string E,as it is at the present day. It cannot be doubted that theseimprovements originated in France; for on reference to the4list of instruments employed in the “Orfeo” of Monteverde, it willbe seen that the Violin was called in Italy, at the end of thesixteenth century, and the beginning of the seventeenth, “Violinopiccolo alla francese.”
The oldest maker of Violins on record was a native of Brittany,named Jean Kerlin. He followed his trade about the middle ofthe fifteenth century. La Borde, author of the imperfect and voluminous“Essai sur la Musique,” relates that he saw in Brittany aViolin with four strings, the neck of which did not appear to havebeen changed, and which, instead of the ordinary tail-piece, hada small piece of ivory inlaid, pierced with four holes. This Violinwas thus labelled, “Joann. Kerlino, anno 1449.” It was afterwardsbrought to Paris, and Koliker, a musical instrument maker of thatcity, had it in his possession in 1804. The belly was more raisedthan in good modern Italian Violins, and was not equally roundedat the upper and lower extremities; the sides were ill-formed andflattened. Its tone was sweet and muffled, and resembled that ofinstruments made by Antonio Amati at the close of the sixteenthcentury. After Jean Kerlin, there is a lapse of sixty years in thehistory of the manufacture of Violins, for the only maker of thisinstrument whose name has come down to us is GaspardDuiffoprugcar, born in the Italian Tyrol, who commenced makinghis Violins at Bologna about 1510, working afterwards in Paris,and at Lyons. One Violin only of the large pattern which bearshis name is in existence; it is dated 1539. The quality of toneof this instrument is powerful and penetrating, but when playedupon for some time, it loses its intensity. Like an old man, itneeds repose to recover its faculties. The scroll represents thehead of a king’s jester, with a plaited frill. This Violin belongedto M. Meerts, formerly first solo violinist of the Theatre Royal,Brussels, and professor at the Conservatory of that city.
Gaspard di Salo, thus called from being born in the smalltown of Salo, on the lake of Garda, in Lombardy, worked inthe second half of the sixteenth century. He was specially celebratedfor his Viols, Basses, and Double-Bass Viols, then more usedthan the Violin. Nevertheless, an excellent Violin of his make,5dated 1576, was met with in a collection of valuable instrumentswhich were sold at Milan in 1807; and the Baron de Bagge wasin possession of one of which Rodolphe Kreutzer often spokewith admiration. These instruments, of rather a large pattern,possess a powerful tone, approximating to that of the Alto.
Contemporaneously with Gaspard di Salo, the two brothers,Andrea and Nicolo Amati became famous for the excellence oftheir Viols and Bass Viols; they also made excellent Violins, thetone of which was mellow and agreeable, but they were wantingin power, like all the instruments made by the members of thisfamily. Andrea and Nicolo, about 1570, made Violins of a largepattern for the chamber music of Charles IX. King of France.These instruments were remarkable for the beauty of their form,and perfection of finish. They were covered with an oil varnish,of a golden colour, shaded with red. Two of these were seen inParis by Professor Cartier about 1810. The successors of Andreaand Nicolo Amati retained in the family the fame of thoseartists for more than a century and a half. Antonio, son ofAndrea, Geronimo, his brother, and Nicolo, son of Geronimo, wereinstrument makers of high repute, but the sonority of their Violinsand Basses, admirably adapted for the music of their time, ismuch too weak for the modern noisy system; however, Paganinipossessed a Violin of Geronimo Amati, of large pattern, which heprized most highly.
Two Italian makers were also famous at the beginning andtowards the middle of the seventeenth century for their Violins:the first is Giovanni Paolo Maggini, who had an establishment atBrescia, his native town. His instruments are dated from 1612to 1640. The pattern of these Violins is generally very large;although there are some of the small size. The bellies are raised,the back, rather flat at the extremities, swells out exceedinglytowards the sides, which are very wide; the curves being wellrounded towards the angles. A double row