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Antonio Stradivari

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The famous Cremonese violin-maker, b. in 1649 or 1650; d. at Cremona, 18 or 19 Dec., 1737. He was the son of Alessandro Stradivari and Anna Moroni. As there is no evidence of his birth and baptism in any of the parish registers of Cremona, it is supposed that he was born in some village near that town. In 1667 he began to make stringed instruments. Some violins, dated in the seventies, and signed by him, are supposed to exist, but evidences of Stradivari's workmanship are to be found in many violins of this date which are signed by Nicholas Amati. It is probable that during the years 1667-79 he worked as a pupil in Amati's workshop.

In 1680 Stradivari set up for himself in the Piazza San Domenico, and his fame as a violin-maker was soon established. He now began to show his originality, and to make alterations in Amati's model. The arching was improved, the various degrees of thickness in the wood were more exactly determined, the formation of the scroll altered, and the varnish more highly coloured. From 1698 to 1725 Stradivari produced his finest instruments and carried his manufacture to the highest possible finish, the outlines are designed with taste and purity, the wood is rich and carefully selected, the arching falls off in gentle and regular curves, the scroll is carved with great perfection, and the varnish is fine and supple. The interior workmanship is no less perfect, the degrees of thickness are carefully adjusted, and are remarkable for a precision which could only have been attained by much study and experiment. Everything has been foreseen, calculated, and determined with certainty. The instruments produced from 1725-30 are not so fine. After 1730 many are signed "sub disciplina Stradivarii," and were probably made by his sons, Omobono and Francesco.

Stradivari fixed the exact shape and position of the sound-holes, and his model has been copied by most makers since his time. He definitively settled the shape and details of the bridge, which cannot be altered in the slightest degree without in some way injuring the tone of the instrument. The only essential part of the violin which has had to be changed since Stradivari's time is the bass-bar. On account of the gradual rise in pitch the increased pressure of the strings demands an increased power of resistance in the bar underneath the bridge, hence it has been found necessary to re-bar all the old violins and violoncellos. Stradivari was buried in the Basilica of San Domenico.

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