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You are watching: The strings of baroque violin were made out of wrapped steel.


The materials and also conclusions of this article1 room based upon plenty of years that practice and also experimentation top top violins strung as they had been prior to 1920, with E, A, and D strings of pure gut and conventional G cable overspun with silver wire. The bows have actually been the kind in typical use, the model perfected by François Tourte in the so late 18th century. If I have actually at various times had actually the chance to practice on and experiment v so-called baroque violins and also with yes, really 18th-century bows, ns am not came to here v the older instrument nor the old bows, yet with the modernized instrument, one that can well be referred to as the 19th-century violin, played through its perfect counterpart, the Tourte-model bow. The old recordings cited listed below to reinforce my conclusions were part of a separate and an ext recent study done to check the validity of the valuable decisions which had been made through violin in hand.

The first revolution in the background of the violin has actually been well and amply documented. It took place during the late years of the 18th century and was an ext or much less coincidental v the arrival of the Tourte bow. The violin neck to be lengthened and tilted back so the the fingerboard climbed at a sharper angle, bring about a higher bridge and consequently higher tension of the strings. As a result, the bass-bar had actually to be enlarged to assist support the greater pressure top top the belly of the instrument. These transforms in the violin were clearly related come the higher sostenuto, bigger scale the dynamics, and more vigorous format of bowing made feasible by the new bow. The interdependence of composer, performer, and instrument may be make clear v a minimal number of examples: (1) there is no the brand-new bow and also concomitant alters in the violin the lengthy sustained melodies and also the more heavily accented and also dynamic layout of the 19th century (both solo and orchestral) might hardly have actually been achieved; (2) there is no the longer thinner neck (relieved that the old special wedge between neck and also fingerboard) and the longer fingerboard, Paganini"s dazzling virtuosity would most definitely have been restricted to part extent.

While the first revolution adjusted some the the internal and also external fittings the the violin, the human body of the instrument, together perfected through the great masters prior to 1750, continued to be unchanged. Among the exterior fittings of the 18th-century violin, the E, A, and D strings to be of pure gut. The G string, make by winding fine wire approximately a thin gut core, had actually been introduced during the very first half of the 18th century. While its use may have been sparse for a long time, there can be tiny doubt the the wire-wound G to be well established fairly early in the 19th century when virtually all old violins had been refitted come the new standards. And also such was the violin and set of strings that lasted v the 19th and also into the 20th century: a violin that conformed come the brand-new standards of much longer neck and greater bridge, strung with 3 strings the pure gut and also a silver- or copper-wound G.

The 20th-century transformation made no changes in the body of the violin or in the wood fittings; the only change was in the strings. This second revolution started really slowly in the at an early stage years that the century and also reached its crisis about 1923 with the adoption of the steel-wire E cable by expert violinists at every level. A couple of concert artist had embraced the stole E during the years of civilization War I, specifically those that toured in the United says where well Italian gut strings were no much longer available. There to be a few violinists who "on account of excessive perspiration" supplied the steel E in the an extremely early year of the century.2 while an undue lot of perspiration is likely to influence any gut string, the E, the thinnest and also most tense, is most easily destroyed. Thus, the stole E was supplied in isolated cases before World war I, by part violinists throughout the war years, and also by nearly every experienced after the at an early stage 1920s.

As an explanation for replacing the gut E string, the was stated that the stole E sounded "almost the same" and also was "more reliable" for many reasons. There are two questions: (1) What does "almost the same" mean in state of any art—in this case, in regards to niceties of style and interpretation that written between 1780 and also 1920 by composers who had actually the sound of gut strings in their ears? (2) What is the value of the efficiency uncovered in a "more reliable" string i m sorry supposedly transforms the tone color only slightly, and also yet opens up the way to additional string changes and also finally come a finish subversion of the previously tone colors?

It was a brief step indigenous the acceptance of the cable E string to the use of the D string v gut core wound in aluminum wire; and also that was adhered to by the development of to adjust of all-metal strings, not only for the violin but likewise for the viola and also cello.3 if the all-steel mix was not welcomed by everyone, that was supplied for a time by number of leading artists. The was ultimately proven unfeasible (at the very least for professionals) when priceless instruments started to buckle under the unrelenting pressure of the steel. During the mid-1930s many violinists assumed they had actually made an ideal compromise as soon as they supplied a steel E, one A through steel core wrapped in slim aluminum ribbon, a D of gut core wrapped in aluminum wire, and also the normal G that gut core overspun through silver wire. Still, the press of the stole E and also A strings was, in most cases, too lot for good instruments.

However, for the player, there was no turning back: violinists who had played on stole wires and covered strings can no longer create professionally satisfactory sounds from strings of pure gut. Because that had actually all to be "drawn in" by one "practical" string after ~ another, their technical formats had changed to a better or lesser extent, both in the application of the fingers and of the bow. Suitable performance, top top gut once again, would have forced an extensive period of mental and physical retraining, something that was hardly possible when most had a day-to-day living to it is in earned, and some, global reputations to guard. Part hardy souls continued to usage a pure gut A wire on the violin, and a minimal number have never offered it up. In spite of the truth that the pure gut A is a weird neighbor come a steel E and also an aluminum-wound D, the still helps the violin retain several of its initial tone color. This day the traditional stringing for practically every experienced is the steel E, one of two people a steel A or one A with gut or nylon core wound in aluminum wire, a similar aluminum-wound D, and a G wound in silver- wire.

There has been, in this second revolution, a cumulative effect, not only the minimal but clearly discernible readjust when a pure gut string was changed by one aluminum-covered one, but additionally a collection of various other changes, effected through the artist"s an answer to what the string available him. Interaction in between the artist and his tool of performance can hardly be discounted.

Since there has actually been so tiny support throughout the past fifty percent century because that the may be old-fashioned idea of utilizing gut strings top top the contemporary violin (almost none native the expert violinists), probably the explanation of 2 eminent british authorities need to be taken into consideration here. Thurston Dart said: "The true gut-string ton of a violin is now as obsolete as the ton of a crumhorn or regal."4 Cecil Forsyth, referring to the typical gut strings that his time, composed in 1914:

Perhaps the finest explanation the the fiddle-quality is linked with the product of i beg your pardon the strings are made. These, fan to their excessive lightness, room rich in harmonics which, in your turn, are easily damped out by the short elasticity the the catgut. For this reason "the ultimate top quality of the note" is appreciably softened. No man exists. The minute the keep in mind stops every harmonics cease.5

Forsyth may truly have touched upon the most important suggest of all. The steel-wire or the metal-wound wire announces its existence with a slight however appreciable "extra ring."

It might be the that "lingering bit of resonance" has had quite an impact on one ensemble sound and ensemble playing. As soon as a an initial class string quartet now (using the conventional metal and also metal-wound strings on the violins, viola, and also cello) dram a four-note chord over there is a homogeneous sound produced by the 4 instruments that may be very rich and also beautiful; however, the does differ from the four perfectly matched tones of comparable chords to it is in heard in a recording of the famous Flonzaley Quartet (playing on gut strings).

All of the documents mentioned below are rare, but not therefore rare the they cannot be heard in many private collections, and, in most cases, procured by dealers that specialize in old recordings. I have heard each of them plenty of times and have made every possible effort to judge tonal and also other features as objectively as possible. In each case I shall perform recording company, procession number, and, as soon as known, date of recording or date of very first appearance in the company catalogue.

Of every the Flonzaley Quartet recordings most likely to it is in available, i recommend most strongly the solitary disc record of the very first movement that the Haydn "Lark" Quartet, Op. 64, No. 5 (Victrola 74726). It showed up in the Victor Red Seal Catalogue in 1923 and was probably recorded the year before. It should prove to it is in a revelation to numerous chamber lovers. Later on recordings through the Flonzaley group are not fairly as impressive; the quartet to be approaching the finish of a long and also glorious career.

The 2nd violin change is certain of no much less moment 보다 the first. The universal adoption of metal and metal-surfaced strings may have actually made the most drastic acoustical change in the entire history of the violin. Currently that that change has been accomplished, that becomes daunting to look earlier beyond the year of world War i with an ext than one imperfect comprehension of performance methods at the turn of the century, or with any kind of real basis for an expertise of the tone colors which to be so necessary to the the the Romantic Century. The literary works written for the 19th-century violin, the violin "between the revolutions," consists of not just Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Brahms, but also a cool virtuoso literature and a great number of genre pieces. That literary works is dying, and also most the the genre pieces are currently gone because the typically beautiful and also varied ton colors feasible on the gut-strung violin have ceased come exist.

Although many of the best professionals to be being won over to the stole E between 1915 and around 1923 (by i m sorry time nearly everyone had capitulated), there were, nevertheless, some solid expressions of dissent. The complying with are quote from interviews released by Frederick H. Martens in 1919. David Mannes said:

. . . If Stradivarius, Guarnerius, Amati, Maggini, and also others the the old-master contractors of violins had ever had wire strings in view, they would have constructed their fiddles in accordance, and they would certainly not be the same we currently possess. First of every there are clinical reasons versus using the wire strings. They adjust the ton of the instrument. The rigidity of stress of the cable E string wherein it the cross the bridge tightens up the sound of the lower strings. Their advantages are: integrity under adverse climatic conditions and also the incontestable truth that they make things simpler technically. Lock facilitate purity that intonation. Yet ns am ready to forgo these advantages when I consider the exorbitant pliability of the gut strings because that which Stradivarius developed his violins. I have the right to see the creative retrogression of those who space using the wire E, for once materially things space made easier, spiritually over there is a loss. . . .6

Tivadar Nachez said:

. . . I cannot usage the cable strings that are now in together vogue here. I have to have Italian gut strings. The cable E cuts my fingers, and also besides I notice a perceptible distinction in sound quality. Of course wire strings are practical; they carry out not "snap" on the concert stage. . . .7

Toscha Seidel said:

. . . As to wire strings, I hate them! In the an initial place, a wire E sounds distinctly different to the artist than does a gut E. And it is a difference which any type of violinist will notice. Then, too, the wire E is for this reason thin the the fingers have actually nothing come take organize of, come touch firmly. And also to me the metallic vibrations, especially on the open up strings, are many disagreeable. That course, indigenous a purely practical standpoint, there is much to be claimed for the wire E. . . .8

There were others that sang the praises the the cable E string, usually emphasizing that it to be unaffected by humidity, remained well in tune, and seldom snapped on stage.

As listed above, the readjust from pure gut to various steel or wire-wound strings to be a one-way process. The player who went back to gut ~ using metal strings uncovered that he produced a weak or poor sound; and, if the tried for better volume, his tone ended up being scratchy. No surprisingly, there have been part otherwise intelligent urbanbreathnyc.comians that rationalized the gut strings had always been tiny in tone and also probably scratchy, yet no one had actually realized those truth in the "old days" since "they had never heard anything better."

Nothing said here is expected to belittle the artist of our own time. They play differently due to the fact that the strings they usage respond differently. Well-planned and also deeply feeling interpretations room not lacking. What is absent is the necessary selection of tone color for the romantic and the purity that sound that the gut. Correctly produced, the tone of a modern-day long-necked violin strung with gut is unusually pure transparent the whole dynamic variety from pp come ff. That type of purity must be thought about indispensable for that the standard period, and for baroque too, if one plays it on a modern-day violin.

Since violin style has changed so substantially during the 20th century, maybe something need to be said about the violinists" portamento, the slides used to affix some that the tones that the melodic lines. A much more or less audible slide has constantly been a issue of taste; the shift, ~ above the other hand, describes a readjust of position, enforcement as almost inaudibly as possible. There is no concern that several of the enlarge violinists made better use the the portamento or slide than do any type of of the violinists living today. Alters of urbanbreathnyc.comal taste end a duration of years cannot it is in disregarded. However, the complying with may be a large part that the complete explanation. The well-executed portamento top top a pure gut string in a romantic legato melody played in a huge hall may have been reasonably unobtrusive and entirely in location as that emulated vocal style; a portamento done in the same means on an aluminum-wound string was standing out as well obviously and also may it is in objectionable. The contemporary violinist who shifts nimbly from tone to tone, with only an occasional ide of a slide, does not necessarily have far better taste 보다 Joachim or Ysaÿe had; it is an ext likely that he is accepting the possibilities and limitations the his medium—doing what he deserve to most artistically through the steel and aluminum strings under his fingers.

The masterworks that the violin literary works will last; they have much come offer even if the metal-strung violin tone shade should come to be monotonous. However, the lesser works and also genre pieces space important, plenty of for their very own sakes, practically all for a knowledge of the performance practices of your era. Left-hand pizzicato, man-made harmonics, and one-finger glissandos might seem like juggler"s tricks—probably nobody would have invented them for metal strings; ~ above gut they have some top quality to commend them.

The more quickly flat-disc recordings do by a world-famous violinist to be those that Pablo de Sarasate (1844-1908), recorded shortly after the turn of the century. Return the initial discs are extremely rare, it is fortunate the in the late 1950s a solitary LP to be issued (American Stereophonic Corporation—ASCO, A-123) comprised of re-recordings of a frighten collection: one finish side is committed to Sarasate, the various other to rarities by Auer, Joachim, Ysaÿe, and also Jan Kubelik. That the Sarasate pieces the sports of his Caprice Basque room outstanding. The sound the the harmonics and also the grace of the slide into a herbal harmonic high top top the E string will never be duplicated on a cable string. Together for the passages of left-hand pizzicato, one deserve to hardly stop from saying the the present-day virtuoso to produce pitches; top top gut strings Sarasate produced The E string tone is notable, both in the technical passages the Caprice Basque and Zigeunerweisen, and also in the legato melody that an setup of a Chopin nocturne.

A few years after the Sarasate recordings, Joseph Joachim (1831-1907), nearly too old to play, videotaped two the his kinds of Brahms" Hungarian Dances (opposite next of the very same LP). A significantly solid, wealthy tone, nearly no vibrato, and a class in 19th-century Hungarian format is presented in about five minutes of videotaped The is comforting to know that Joachim, leader the a most well known quartet, performer of the Beethoven Concerto and the Bach Solo Sonatas, and advisor come Brahms in the creating of the solo part of his violin concerto, to be not above giving his ideal in his extreme old age to a couple of genre pieces.

In 1912 Eugen Ysaÿe (1858-1931) recorded eleven quick pieces because that Columbia Records. They were the just commercial recordings he ever made. Some of the old discs room still available but most are in an extremely poor condition. Fortunately, a complete set in good condition was moved to a single LP bowl in 1963 (Delta Record company Ltd., London—TQD 3033).9 Ysaÿe was the critical world-famous violinist to pat on gut E, A, and also D strings transparent his energetic career. His was one of the purest and yet many sensuous tones created by any violinist. Great examples of that tone high quality on the three upper pure gut strings may be heard in his recording of Wilhelmj"s setup of the Prize track from die Meistersinger and also in the plan of Wagner"s Albumblatt. In few of the other pieces over there is a one-of-a-kind verve, technically the an outcome of a magnificent bowing style. He might obviously strike the gut strings come get whatever accentuation the wished; and with no concern at all around the strings buckling under the push of his bow or creating the faintest scrape or scratch. In fact, none of the artists who taped on gut appeared to have had any problems v purity of sound. In Caprice Basque, Sarasate hammered the end triple-stops v the greatest clarity, sounding all 3 tones in ~ once. Joachim, old together he was, had no trouble with strongly accented double-stops and also chords.

Of the violinists younger 보다 Ysaÿe, only an extremely early recordings made as soon as they were still using gut E strings will be mentioned. 2 recordings by Mischa Elman, one made once he to be fifteen year old, the other made in ~ the age of twenty-one, demonstrate plainly why he achieved the fame the had throughout the years prior to the very first World War. This recordings substantiate everything that was ever said about his format or about the famous "Elman tone," described at one time by an older generation as the most beautiful violin tone ever before produced. The very first Elman record is that Saint-Saens" advent and Rondo Capriccioso, truncated to fit one next of a key (Victrola 74165, 1907); the other is the Cavatina, Op. 85, No. 3, by Joachim Raff (Victrola 74336, may 1914).

There is one at an early stage recording by Efrem Zimbalist i beg your pardon is remarkable in that is purity that tone, most especially in a long passage the double-stopsLégende by Henri Wieniawski (Victor 74337).

No recordings by Fritz Kreisler or through Jascha Heifetz might be suggested. In each case, the faster commercial recordings it seems to be ~ to have actually been made with steel E, gut A, and also gut D.

Now that contemporary violin methods have helped to deal with all technical difficulties for the most talented of the younger generation the virtuosos, a new difficulty arises: just how to acquire the selection of tone color, the vital bravura, and also the suitable sentiment ago into performances the the violin that the 19th century. Careful listening come the recordings discussed over may persuade plenty of that a good approximation that 19th-century layout may never be accomplished on metal strings.

1This write-up expands upon principles originally expressed in a lecture-demonstration offered by the writer at the Smithsonian school in November that 1974, because that the meetings the the AMS.

2Carl Flesch, The art of Violin Playing, amendment edition (New York, 1939), Vol. 1, fn., p. 11.

3In more recent years complete sets the all-steel strings have end up being standard for professional double bass players.

4Thurston Dart, The interpretation of (London, 1955), p. 33.

5Cecil Forsyth, Orchestration, second edition (London/New York, 1941), p. 305 (1st edition, 1914).

6Frederick H. Martens, Violin Mastery: speak with understand Violinists and also Teachers (New York, 1919), pp. 157-58.

7Ibid., p. 172.

8Ibid., pp. 225-26.

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9The original list very first appeared in the Columbia document Catalogue of 1913. The eleven pieces are on ten single discs. The matrix numbers are: 36513, -14, -16, -19, -20, -21, -23, -24, and also 36525.