More than 18 arm-aching inches: Jacob Stainer’s tenor viola


The only remaining tenor viola made by the Tyrolean maker Jacob Stainer reveals the maker’s painstaking attention to detail and offers tantalising clues about Italian influence on his style, as Darren Freeman explains

Click here to purchase a poster of the Jacob Stainer tenor viola c. 1650

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In the time of Vivaldi and Bach, when the greatest virtuosos rarely climbed beyond fourth position, Jacob Stainer violins were more prized than instruments by Stradivari. Legendary musicians from Corelli to Tartini owned violins made by Stainer, and the Absam maker’s instruments commanded higher prices than even the finest Cremonese masterworks. He achieved something only a fraction of the world’s greatest makers have managed – fame during his lifetime. Stainer’s style became the standard of German violin making. He inspired the Tyrolean school, and his influence reached luthiers in Germany, France, England, the Balkans and even some Italian cities.

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