How we lost the ancient quality of gut strings - part 2

How the history of a small Italian village influenced our taste for music

First part:

Violoncello da Spalla
How we lost the ancient quality of gut strings - part 1
The Este ambassador in Venice, in 1494, received this sort of acid complaint from his noble lady Isabella: “We received the lute strings that you sent us, and we understood that you could not play as they were really sad (low quality). We want that you put in charge of finding our strings someone who can judge the quality.” However, and how frustrating …
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What has all this to do with Violoncello da Spalla? Maybe very little, but in case Violoncello da Spalla was still alive and thriving in the mid of 19th century, it probably couldn’t find strings enough twisted and vibratile to support his short scale and render a strong, brilliant voice. But what does this mean for you today? A lot. Because if you want to string your Violoncello da Spalla with gut strings, you have to be aware that you don’t need just any kind of gut string, but something the closest possible to a good quality baroque string. Well twisted, flexible, vibratile. And the less polished as possible. Not varnished!!

This is a video of the procession for the 200th anniversary of Beato Roberto da Salle earthly remains being moved to Salle from Sulmona. Enjoy the ancient atmosphere of an Italian religious procession and marching band!

Updates from our workshop

Last week we had a pleasant road trip. We went to Rome for a flute festival. Then we decided to drive back to the Adriatic side of Italy, taking the occasion to visit Salle, mainly because I am in love with two churches in the surroundings there, featuring fantastic Romanesque art. I couldn’t go there since the last earthquake, and I wanted to see how they were. Restorers did a great job, as a big part of these buildings collapsed, but today, they are almost all intact again.

Then, we went to Villa Saraceno, a Palladian villa on the south of Vicenza. Some British friends rent this villa for a week every year and they come with their viols, to play Renaissance music in a Renaissance residence. Palladio was the center of the revival of ancient design tradition, through the study of Vitruvius architecture treatise. He was also a music student of Zarlino, because music intervals were the bricks of that design method. The same that we use for our musical instruments.

Now we are back in Meltina, and the colors of autumn are enhanced by the recent snow on the peaks. This time of the year is magical! Alessandro and I are both working at the back of our Violoncellos da Spalla, he already glued the purflings, while I am still carving the inside. I love to carve the inside first, because with the little curved plane in the picture everything comes so easy, the shapes, the volumes, they just come naturally as they should be. And in every moment of the process, symmetries are maintained.

Featured video of the week

Enjoy this beautiful Bach from Toshihiko Amano