Guarneri to Balestrieri
By the early 17th century, Mantua had become a strong cultural center in post-Renaissance Italy, and its new wealth and freer attitude towards secular music attracted musical talent like composer Claudio Monteverdi away from the more parochial Cremona, barely 30 miles to the west.
In 1680, violin maker Peter Guarneri left a family dynasty in Cremona to strike out on his own in the same city. He eventually established a style of instruments that was very close in quality to the Cremonese, but was tailored to be more affordable for the local clientele. His violin designs were copied and modified by later Mantua makers Camillo Camilli and Tommaso Balestrieri, both of whom may have been his pupils.
Balestrieri’s instruments are in two patterns. His original is a larger bodied violin with square shoulders. He also used a smaller, more classically-sized pattern based on an older Peter Guarneri design. The example shown was the concert instrument of violinist Raphael Fliegel, former concertmaster of the Houston Symphony.
Fliegel’s instrument was renowned in Houston and beyond for its enormous and beautiful tone. This instrument also has Balestrieri’s characteristic golden varnish which often has a fresh appearance that, even after 250 years, is often mistaken for being newer.
Look for the next post in this series on the Mantua School from Dall’Aglio to Scarampella to Gadda.