A Massive Achievement

Amati_VA_1677_belly

Made in 1677, the ‘Romanov’ Nicolò Amati viola is one of the maker’s late masterpieces. Alberto Giordano and Rudolf Hopfner investigate its turbulent history and examine how it fits into the Amati family’s oeuvre

In 2018 an exhibition took place at the Venaria Reale palace near Turin. ‘Precious Instruments, Illustrious Names’, curated by Giovanni Accornero, featured many treasures including guitars, mandolins and bowed instruments, once played by such virtuosos as Pugnani, Paganini and Segovia. In this group of about 30 instruments, among which were a few made by the best Cremonese makers of the Golden Age, a viola by Nicolò Amati stood boldly in its glass case: an instrument of large dimensions and its own archaic charm, made in Cremona in 1677 when the luthier was aged 81.

Having dominated the string music scene for about a century, by then the large-size tenor viola was slowly going out of fashion. It was replaced by the smaller contralto viola, of which the first designer was probably Girolamo Amati I (1561–1630). The design of the ‘Romanov’ has a particular charm, coming as it does from the family’s lineage: the overall look is reminiscent of the tenor violas made about a century previously by Nicolò’s grandfather Andrea. The overall shape, the carving of the scroll and the design of the f-holes all suggest an archaic approach to the making of this instrument.

Read more in The Strad’s December 2019 issue…

Already subscribed? Please sign in

Subscribe to continue reading…

We’re delighted that you are enjoying our website. For a limited period, you can try an online subscription to The Strad completely free of charge.

  • Free 7-day trial

    Not sure about subscribing? Sign up now to read this article in full and you’ll also receive unlimited access to premium online content, including the digital edition and online archive for 7 days.

    No strings attached – we won’t ask for your card details

  • Subscribe - online subscriptions from £4.50/month

    No more paywalls. To enjoy the best in-depth features and analysis from The Strad’s latest and past issues, upgrade to a subscription now. You’ll also enjoy regular issues and special supplements* and access to an online archive of issues back to 2010.

 

* Issues and supplements are available as both print and digital editions. Online subscribers will only receive access to the digital versions.