|UNITED ARTS CLUB
3, Fitzwilliam Street Upper
Wednesday, 4 March 2020, 7.30 pm.
Voice of the ‘cello
In times of sorrow
1492: Jews from Spain are expelled
“By decree, we have decided that all Jews, men, women and children, will leave our kingdom and not return!” Ordained King Ferdinand II of Aragon and his wife, Queen Isabella 1st of Castile, on 31 July 1492.
The date is important because January of that same year saw the beginning of the “Reconquista” when the Moors were beaten in Granada and forced to flee across the Mediterranean ending eight centuries occupation of Spain.
For the manufacture of a violin, today as for Stradivarius yesterday, the Master Violinmakers choose their wood species scrupulously, depending on whether they have to cut the “table”, the bottom, the splints and counter-splices, the “soul” of course, ankles, etc… Thus the “soul” will come from Tyrol or Switzerland, made from common spruce. The splints (thin wooden plates used in violin) and the bottom will be cut in sycamore maple from Bohemia or Hungary… etc…
The chosen wood will be aged for 20 years, in a cold place and sheltered from humidity, wind and dust, “before being ready to serve the psychic temperament of the virtuoso.” Then the production will start, bringing together 71 elements of wood, glued or assembled to one another. How long will it take for the Master Luthier to complete the instrument? Will we say that it takes, like the cooling of the barrel of the rifle, some time? Yes and no, it all depends on the area, on the experience of the luthier, but it is estimated today that it takes about 30 to 45 days to make such a work, such a marvel. The longest stage will be the varnishing, as each of the many layers is applied only after drying the previous one. But there can be up to 30 successive applications! The varnish has an aesthetic and moisture protection role due to sweat and ambient air. The varnish consists of a variable mixture of solvent and lacquers, turpentine essence, resins, gums and dyes. It can have different shades, ranging from golden yellow for Amati violins (Amati was the Master Luthier who taught Stradivarius and Guernarius del Jesu) to the dark orange of the Stradivarius. The secret of varnish making is also jealously guarded by the Master Violin Makers.