Paolo de Barbieri is a highly respected maker, and a leading figure in the modern Geonese school. For most of his life he produced copies of the del Gesu Cannone, which was gifted to the city of Genoa by Paganini and can still be seen in the Palazzo Tursi. This violin is an unusually attractive example with a rich golden varnish and an outstanding concert tone.
Genoa has always been an exciting melting pot of a city, a bustling maritime and cultural centre close to the French border. Its violin making tradition was already well established in the 18th century with major figures such as Calcagni, Cavaleri and Paolo Castello. But then Paganini happened, and Genoa became Paganini’s city.
The 20th century saw a major flowering of violin-making talent in Genoa, in part attributable to the influence of Enrico Rocca who set up shop in the 1880s, and whose exacting standards of workmanship carried over to subsequent generations of Genoese makers.
Paolo de Barbieri is perhaps the most important Genoese maker of the 20th century, and he focused for most of his working life on the Cannone model which he could go and study up the road from his workshop.
Here we have a beautiful later example of this model, in a very fine state of preservation. There’s very little to report – there’s a partial wing crack to the bass f-hole and there’s a small repair to the upper back where a flaw in the maple has been retouched. There are some minor dents and scratches to the varnish, but overall the violin is unusually well preserved.
Not just a looker, this is also a great sounding violin, and unlike so many modern Italians it justifies its price tag.
The most difficult challenge for any violin-maker is to strike a successful balance between clarity, warmth, ease of response and power – and to make this consistent throughout the register. If you can do all this you have made a great violin!
This instrument comes up to the mark in every way, with a slight emphasis towards warmth and sweetness of tone over brute force. It’s a very satisfying violin to play, with a quick easy response and a wide range of possible colours. The extremes of the register are great – lots of growl on the G, and a very solostic higher register, silvery, luminous and loud!
All in all, this is an excellent all-rounder, eminently suited to a young professional looking for a mature and reliable partner.