Watch Marco Rizzi perform Schumann’s Sonata No. 2 on the World’s Oldest Violin, a 1566 Amati Violin

Byvu lita

Dec 18, 2023

Most of us are acquainted with the sorrowful sound of the world’s smallest violin, but what of the world’s oldest?

The instrument in the video above dates back to 1566.

Meaning, if it were the patriarch of a human family, siring musical sons every 20 to 25 years, it would take more than 10 generations to get to composer Robert Schumann, born in 1810.

And then another 31 years for Schumann to compose Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano in D minor, Op . 121, the piece violinist Marco Rizzi–age unknown–coaxes from this lovely piece of wood.

Were you to peek at the back, you’d see traces of King Charles IX of France’s coat of arms. The Latin motto Pietate et Justitia–piety and justice–still lingers on its rib.

It was constructed by the master creator, Andrea Amati, as part of a large set of stringed instruments, of which it is one of four survivors of its size and class.

After leaving Charles’ court, the violin spent time in the Henry Hottinger collection, which was eventually acquired by the Wurlitzer Company in New York. In 1966, it was donated to Cremona, Italy, Amati’s birthplace and home to an international school of violin making.

Venerable unto the point of pricelessness, from time to time it is taken out and played–to wondrous effect–by world class violinists. It’s tempting to keep anthropomorphizing, so as to wonder if it might not prefer a forever home with a gifted young musician who would take it out and play it every day. I know what a children’s author would say on that subject.

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