This violin performs in the Pittsburgh Symphony. Its owner had been increasingly frustrated by the sound and performance of it over the years and decided to give it to me to do all it needed to become all it can be. It needed a higher neck angle (and in this case a new fingerboard) to exert more tension down on the top – along with opening up the violin -replacing the bass bar and some subtle adjustments to the thicknesses of the plates. Its always a challenge to work on a great violin that has been played by a great player for a long time and make it bolder-bigger – and more resonant and deliver all you promise.
A fascinating aspect of this violin is the question as to who made it. It is labelled Stefano Scarampella – the great Italian master who worked in Mantova in the late 19th and early 20th century. He is known for work of great rugged charm and is capable of great (somewhat rough hewn) beauty. During his working life Scarampella took on an apprentice named Gaetano Gadda. Gadda worked with him over many years and obviously absorbed the masters ideas and working habits. One of the great challenges of authenticating instruments is this master/apprentice working model. When you have seen many Scarampella instruments over the years you begin to see the subtle (and not so subtle) differences….and begin to appreciate the difference between a total Scarampella- a fascinating mixture of their both being involved – and the later work which is entirely Gadda. This can be difficult because Gadda has the same working methods – same varnish -wood-etc …and he often uses thew masters labels – and in this violin he uses the makers S.S. brand on the button of the back. Obviously it was in their financial interest to sell these as the masters work – and in some ways it is an instrument deeply tied to Scarampella…..but the market place values them very differently. Regrettably,value-wise, this violin is entirely the hand of Gadda
Interestingly Gadda’s work is in some ways “cleaner” than Scarampella’s – maybe more refined …..though it lacks the power,charm and personality of the master. Gadda’s instruments have an antiseptic quality next to the master’s vibrant aura…….That is always the deepest mystery……why and how are some artists able to infuse themselves into an artistic object more deeply than others. That seems to be the quality that the market place justly values at the highest heights