In Focus: A 1660 Jacob Stainer viola

DP318300-JPG Original 300dpi

Bradley Strauchen-Scherer takes a closer look at a viola from one of the most important makers of the violin family

Jacob Stainer was one of the most important makers of instruments of the violin family. He pioneered an Austro–German style of violin making that was widely imitated. His instruments were the preferred choice of the Bach and Mozart families. Charles Hawkins’s 1776 History of Music states: ‘The violins of Cremona are exceeded only by those of Stainer.’ Sales records indicate Stainer’s violins commanded double to treble the price of those by Stradivari in the first decades of the 19th century. Stainer himself became an icon of German Romanticism. Working in relative isolation without a large cadre of apprentices, persecuted by the Catholic Church and plagued by mental illness, Stainer became a popular subject of novels and even of an opera, where he was portrayed as an artistic Einzelgänger, the lone genius championed by Romanticism…

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