String instruments are obviously an important part of chamber music. But where do the instruments come from? Who makes them?
As early as the 9th century in Europe, there was the lira – a small bowed instrument that was held upright to be played. Over time, two different classes of lira developed. The lira da gamba (viol for the leg) was held upright between the legs when played and the lira da braccio (viol for the arm) was held in the arms. This further developed into the family of the violin of today.
Luthier is the occupation of someone who makes lutes and string instruments. In the 16th century, Andrea Amati was a respected luthier making lutes and rebecs. He was born in 1505 and died in 1577, residing in Cremona, Italy. Many credit him with developing the violin in the form we know today. There is some debate about that as Brescia has earlier records for the formation of their school. We do know that the oldest surviving violin was made by Amati for Charles IX of France.
Whether or not he was the first one to create the violin as we know it, Amati’s great contributions to the development of the violin cannot be denied. Aside from the physical developments made to the instrument, he was also the father of Antonio and Hieronymus and the grandfather of Nicolo. Antonio and Hieronymus became respected instrument makers in their own right. Nicolo is the member of the family who rises above the rest for the quality of his instruments. He also took on apprentices – among them Antonio Stradivari and Andrea Guarneri.
All in all the Amati family started us off on an amazing journey with amazing instruments!