When it comes to violin-making, Genoa is a law unto itself. In the 18th century a very tight-knit community of makers worked in collaboration, most notably Calcagni and Castello and their various colleagaues and employees. In the 19th century, violin makers were thin on the ground, in spite of the increasing fame that Paganini brought to the city. Rastelli is one of the few makers who spent his entire working life in the city.
His violins are beautifully loose in construction, using quite unconventional materials, but rigorous in the essentials – great tonewood, good proportions (more del Gesu than Strad), and well conceived flat arching.
This instrument is in superb condition structurally, with no cracks or damages. It languished in the light for many decades and the top was quite faded, so the varnish has been carefully restored.
People talk endlessly about Italian sound, French sound, German sound – I don’t believe it for a second. there are good violins and bad violins, and this is a good violin.
Any violin hound’s ears prick up when you hear the magic number 353 – so many of the great soloist’s instruments are this size or thereabouts, and this is what we have here. It’s a robust violin which needs a bit of goading to reach its full potential, but it has immense power that’s perfectly balanced throughout the range.
It has a quality which I first noticed in the Molitor Stradivarius – of itself, it seemed quite undramatic, very well rounded, meaty, perhaps a bit stiff. But after playing it, all the other great violins in the room just looked a bit embarrassed and wretched. Suddenly they weren’t great any more …
Its big achievement is to combine clarity with fullness of tone – it’s very articulate, but also broad and far-reaching. It just loves to be cranked up to 11, and the E string is massive.
So many violins get described as a “concert violin”, but this really is one. Operatic and indefatigable!
Dimensions: length of back 35.3cm, stop 131/192mm
Certificate: Alberto Giordano, Genoa (pro forma)
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