Amati, Stradivari, Guarneri, Rogeri at the Museo del Violino - Cremona
Long ago in 1539, at the time when the town was surrounded by high defensive walls, a craftsman rented a house and its annexed workshop.
It was the place where the first Cremonese violin maker Andrea, Amati (c.1505-1577), lived and crafted his extraordinary instruments, among which violins, violas and cellos for the Spanish Court of Philip II and for the French king Charles IX’s orchestra. When he died in 1577, his sons Antonio (c.1540-1607) and Girolamo (c.1548-1630) took over a fully flourishing workshop.
Andrea’s heirs used to label their instruments with both their names, and Girolamo continued to use the same label long after the death of his brother; early on in his career, his son Nicolò (1596-1684) had started to assist in his workshop. Girolamo died in the 1630 plague epidemic leaving Nicolò alone to run the workshop.
That same year, the death of the luthier Giovanni Paolo Maggini in the nearb town of Brescia marked the end of the local violin making tradition.
The rise of Nicolo’s workshop was extraordinary and, in order to meet his increasing commissions, he soon required the aid of young apprentices, including his familio Andrea Guarneri (1623-1698).
The mid 17th century was a time of great creativity for Andrea Amati’s nephew. In 1649 his son Girolamo II (1649-1740) was born: everything seemed to indicate that the Amati family would keep its leading role in town for a long time.
In these years, Antonio Stradivari built not only violins, violas and cellos, but also plucked instruments like baroque guitars, mandolins and harps. In the guitars construction, as well as in other instruments built by him, he showed his great ability as a builder and innovator seeking a better sound due to a neck longer than many Baroque guitars of the time, which provided benefits in terms of resonance and rich harmonics.
In those years, the workshops of the Guarneri and Rugeri families were also active in town. Francesco (c.1620-1698) was the first violin maker of the Rugeri, a lesser known but nonetheless important Cremonese family of luthiers; beside Francesco, his four sons Giovanni Battista (1653-1711), Vincenzo (1661-1719), Giacinto (1663-1697) e Carlo (1666-1713) were also violin makers.
In those years, the workshops of the Guarneri and Ruger families were also active in town. Andrea Guarneri worked until the end of the century and left his son Giuseppe (1666-c.1740) the difficult task of taking over in his workshop; his other son Pietro (1655-1720), also a violin maker, moved to Mantova.
At the beginning of year 1700 Antonio Stradivari establishes himself definitively. Nicolo Amati was died some years before. His son Girolamo II was unable to continue the family business. A few years later, the economic situation of the Guarneri family was not prosperous and in later years the business of the Rugeri family was less successful.
In contrast, Giuseppe Guarneri’s sons were not as successful as Stradivari: Pietro II (1695- 1762) moved to Venice while Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù (1698-1744) was troubled with financial difficulties all his life. However, he was recognized posthumous renown: his instruments would be much sought after only during the following century when his name became associated with that of Nicolò Paganini.
Similarly, and despite his conspicuous skills as a craftsman, Girolamo II, last heir of the Amatis, left the town in search of fortune after the ruin of his family’s business – the craft of making instruments in which the Amatis had dominated for over one century.
Cremona - December 19, 1737 - Act of death of Stradivari
In the year of the Lord 1737 ... Antonio Stradivari, widower, about 95 years old, died yesterday .... “I myself, Domenico Antonio Stancari, pastor of the Church of St. Matthew, today I accompanied her body .... to the Church of the very reverend fathers of San Domenico in Cremona, where he was buried
Cremona - December 19, 1737 - Act of burial of Stradivari
Burial was given to: Sig.re Antonio Stradivari buried in the tomb of Sig.re Francesco Villani in the Cappella del Rosario Parish St. Matteo
In the following years his sons Francesco and Omobono, Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù and eventually in 1747 Carlo Bergonzi, died.
This marks the end of the golden period of the Cremonese violinmaking
Texts: Fausto Cacciatori, Curator at Museo del Violino Cremona
Technical supervision: Roberto Domenichini
-Roberto Domenichini - all performances with instruments except Andrea Amati 1566c "Carlo IX" violin and Girolamo Amati 1615 viola
-Mino Boiocchi and Matteo Sessa - performance with Andrea Amati Carlo IX violin
-Cerrato Brothers - performance with Girolamo Amati 1615 viola
-Mino Boiocchi - all instruments (except for the Hellier violin, the Rugeri violin and the Sabionari guitar)
-Claudio Mazzolari - Hellier violin
-Cristian Chiodelli - Sabionari guitar
-Alfredo Zagni – Rugeri violin
-Claudio Mazzolari - moulds, drawings, tools and objects belonging to Stradivari
-Mino Boiocchi - The Treasure Trova
-Archivio di Stato di Cremona - last wills and testament of Antonio Stradivari
-Archivio Storico Diocesano di Cremona - Act of death and Act of burial