This is a rare and interesting Genoese violin from the mid 1700s in a wonderful state of preservation and with an outstanding tone. The head is probably not original to the violin.

As the accompanying documentation attests, in 1917 this violin was certified as a Calcagni by no less an expert than Joseph Chanot. And while it seems safer to describe it as Calcagni workshop, he was correct to see the violin as Genoese, and very accurate in his dating – a recent dendro analysis by Peter Ratcliff reveals a latest year date of 1742!

The construction is quite idiosyncratic and yet very stylish – one piece front, broad yet narrow-waisted, big corners, the purfling set well in from the very flat edges. The lower wings of f-holes appear to have been altered, presumably to make the violin look more Brescian.

Apart from this modification and the replacement scroll, the condition is pretty spectacular – there are no cracks, not even a table post patch, the edges and corners are in generally excellent condition, and the original varnish is beautifully preserved. There is a small amount of half-edging in the upper left shoulder and there’s a small insert in the bottom rib around the tailpin, but for a violin of this age the state of preservation is remarkable.

This is a great sounding violin, bold and warm but with a silvery edge – it has an unusually wide range of colours and dynamics. The tone is fully realized even with the lightest of bow strokes, but if you hammer into the G in 10th position it won’t crack. The overall character is muscular, but it’s also sophisticated and nuanced – lots of resonance under the chin, and a very satisfying sense that everything just works. More DG than Strad in character, a very classy 18th century Italian violin at a very attractive price.

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