Baroque Instruments: Evolutionary Road

Evolution Road

In the first of a two-part article from February 2013, Roger Hargrave traces the development of the violin from the Baroque era to modern times – and refutes some long-held beliefs in the process

If we examine both new and antique violins that have been set up in the modern style, we see a variety of bridge designs, each one finished in its own unique way. We see different fingerboards, some narrow, some wide, some rounder, some flatter. We see many different tailpieces and bass-bars. We see different neck angles. We see necks set at different heights and depths in relation to the belly edge. We see a large variety of strings. We see all these things and many more. The truth is that at a time when international violin making schools, international conferences and the internet are arguably creating a greater degree of conformity, our ideas about such details still differ considerably.

This raises the question: if we cannot agree about how a modern violin should be set up, why do we suppose that there was ever a specific set-up for Baroque violins?

Let us begin by looking at the subject of repertoire. On both new instruments and antique ones that have been set up in the modern style, musicians play anything from Monteverdi to Philip Glass. They also play pop, rock, jazz and blues…

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