INFORMATION ON SOME ORIGINAL STRADIVARI AND GUARNERI VIOLINS
Antonio Stradivari produced 1,116 instruments of which 960 were violins. Around 650 instruments survived, including 450 to 512 violins.
Arranged alphabetically below is some information on the following Stradivarius violins: the “Cremonese.” the “Lady Blunt,” the “Messiah,” the “Soil,” the “Vieuxtemps,” and the “Viotti.” Also, two Guarneri del Gesu violins are included: the “Cannon” and the “Lord Wilton.”
THE CANNON GUARNERI – made in 1743 – played by Paganini
“The Cannon” violin is also known by the variants Il Cannone del Gesù, Cannone or Canon, and is often appended with the maker’s name “Guarneri del Gesù.” The violin received its name as the Cannon from a former owner, the Italian violin virtuoso Niccolo Paganini (1782–1840), because of its power and resonance. Paganini called it “my cannon violin,” referring to the explosive sound that he was able to make it produce. This is considered one of Guarneri’s masterpieces. The violin has distinct features that set it apart from modern instruments, including a slightly shorter and thicker sound box and a markedly curved neck. Its tone is distinctly bright, yet full. The violin has survived intact and whole and was given by Paganini to the city of Genoa. Body length 35.4cm., Upper Bout 16.8 cm., Center Bout 11.1 cm, Lower Bout 20.7 cm.
Photo of Il Cannone Guarnerius on exhibit at Palazzo Doria Tursi, Genova, Italy. Photo Attribution: Sailko [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D
THE CREMONESE STRADIVARIUS – made in 1715
The Cremonese violin is one of Stradivari’s greatest masterpieces made during his Golden Period. The Cremonese was once owned by the famous violinist, Joseph Joachim. It was returned permanently to the Italian city of Cremona in 1961. The choice of wood, pattern, arching, varnish and sound is proof of Stradivari’s genius. This instrument has inspired some of the greatest makers in history and continues to be an inspiration today. The Cremonese is unique in the way it combines the sweetness and grandeur of a good Strad, while having the depth of a fine del Gesu. Body length 35.7cm., Upper Bout 16.8cm., Center Bout 11.2 cm, Lower Bout 20.75 cm.
THE LADY BLUNT STRADIVARIUS – made in 1721
The Lady Blunt Stradivarius violin of 1721 is named after its first known owner Lady Anne Blunt, daughter of Ada Lovelace, granddaughter of Lord Byron. The Lady Blunt is one of the two best-preserved Stradivarius violins in existence. It has survived in near-original condition since it has resided mostly in the hands of collectors and seen little use. The Lady Blunt was sold by Tarisio Auctions on their 20 June 2011 online auction for £9.8 million (US$15.9 million), more than four times the previous auction record for a Stradivarius, held by the Molitor. The proceeds will go to the Nippon Foundation’s Northeastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund.
Attribution: Tarisio Auctions.Violachick68 at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D
THE MESSIAH STRADIVARIUS – made in 1716
The Messiah is considered the greatest surviving Stradivari violin by most leading experts. Thickness graduation maps of the “Messiah” violin show similar characteristics to those of the Betts (1704), Cremonese (1715), Tuscan-Medici (1716), and other Golden Age Stradivarius violins. Top plates are generally thin (2-3 mm), with the thickest areas (3-4 mm) occurring between the c-bouts and the f-holes. Back plates have a central concentric zone of greatest thickness (4-5 mm), in which the center of thickness lies distinctly left of the centerline in the Cremonese, Tuscan-Medici, and Kashininov violins. The thickness pattern on the back of the Messiah violin is almost identical to that of the Cremonese violin, including asymmetrical center of thickness points located more than 30 mm left of center. Body length 35.5 cm., Upper Bout 16.75 cm., Center Bout 10.83 cm, Lower Bout 20.8 cm.
Attribution: © Pruneau / Wikimedia Commons
THE SOIL STRADIVARIUS – made in 1714 – played by Menuhin and Perlman
No other Stradivari has had as much experience on the concert platform as this violin. The Soil has a strikingly handsome appearance. It would be difficult to find maple wood with more extravagant figure, illuminated by Stradivari’s greatest varnish. The provenance of this violin includes the French luthier and collector Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume .The Soil was acquired by Yehudi Menuhin in 1950 and in 1986 by Itzhak Perlman. In the opinion of many, this is the greatest sounding Stradivari of them all. Body length 35.8 cm., Upper Bout 16.8cm., Lower Bout 20.8 cm.
LORD WILTON GUARNERI DEL GESU – made in 1742 – played by Menuhin
Considered a masterpiece, the Lord Wilton was constructed during del Gesu’s latter years. This instrument was in the possession of the great violinist Yehudi Menuhin and would become his favorite violin to play in public. A letter from Menuhin in 1974 tells how he preferred the tone of his Guarneri over that of his Stradivari violin. Guarneri used deeply rippled, beautifully figured maple for the back, neck and scroll. While the maple is typically used by Guarneri in his latter years, the spruce used for the top is from the same stock he had at his disposal in his early years. The oddly cut, extended sound holes and freely cut scroll expresses the master’s extravagant style. As with many of the violins by del Gesu, the Lord Wilton possesses great tone and reponse. Body length 35.2cm., Upper Bout 16.8 cm., Center Bout 11.2 cm, Lower Bout 20.6 cm.
THE VIEUXTEMPS STRADIVARIUS VIOLIN – made in 1709:
The Vieuxtemps Stradivarius violin has a body length of 357mm and upper and lower bouts of 168mm and 208mm respectively. It is among the fullest, broadest violins that Stradivari ever built. The choice, highly figured maple on the back recalls the wood used in other violins of the period including the King Maximilian and Scotta violins, both of 1709, and the Ries of 1710. Stradivari often made heads of less figured wood than on his backs, presumably for ease of carving, but the head and the ribs of the Viuextemps violin are all made of highly figured wood that matches that of the back. The spruce for the top of the violin is also extremely fine and the front, sides and head of the violin are all covered with the finest possible varnish of a fiery red color on a brilliant ground coat. The tone of the 1710 Vieuxtemps violin is nothing less than thrilling. There is reserve power in every range; indeed there are no problem notes and no discernable weaknesses save for a wolf-note on C natural on the G-string. The whole violin, and especially the E-string invites seemingly limitless colors and beauty of tone. The response of the violin is fast and even as long as one is playing close to the bridge.
THE VIOTTI STRADIVARIUS VIOLIN – made in 1709:
This violin is one of the best masterpieces made by Stradivari during his golden period. If the “Messiah” is preserved in a superior condition, then we can say that the “Viotti” is in a very good condition. Besides the wonderful craftsmanship, the wood is superior and the ruby-like varnish also makes this violin incomparable. In France, the Viotti was admired and highly sought after among the instrument makers of the era, most notably Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume. The first biography of Stradivari, authored by Francois Fetis, explained the unparalleled quality of his instruments and contained a list of the best examples, placing the Viotti third.