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A Brief History of Stringed Instrument Bow Making

The supporting position notion of the violinist’s bow underestimates its significance. However a sure 18th century Frenchman modified every part. There is a well-known unattributed quote about bowed devices akin to cellos, violins and violas: “The left hand makes the notes, but the right hand makes the music.” This saying illustrates the significance of the bow in stringed instrument music making. Made by bow makers – additionally known as”archetiers” – handcrafted bows are complicated of their development and are sometimes misunderstood and underestimated. Seemingly fragile, however surprisingly sturdy, bows are balanced and require technical knowhow and may final a whole bunch of years when correctly cared for. Surprisingly, the event of the violin bow adopted a path separate from the violin itself, and that simply as violins had their Stradivari, Guarneri and Amati, bows have their famed and revered creators, most particularly Francois Xavier Tourte, a Frenchman, and his proteges Peccatte, Eury, Maire, Lupot, Maline, Henry and Persois. First, one should acknowledge the relative measurement and ease of the violinist’s bow, in comparison with the violin itself, suggests it is has a lesser position within the creation of stringed instrument music. However a research of the bodily operate and historical past of bows tells us one thing else. Previous to Tourte (1747-1835), bows had been shorter and lighter (manufactured from much less wooden and a lighter nut). They weren’t identified for his or her maker; both they had been merely of nameless origin or attributed to the luthier or an unnamed employee within the violinmaker’s store. Tourte modified that round 1785, a interval when Beethoven, Hayden, and Mozart had been actively composing their best-known work. He was the son of a luthier (Nicolas Pierre Tourte), however initially apprenticed as a watchmaker. Shifting to bowmaking in collaboration with violin virtuoso G. B. Viotti, he improvised upon the supporting instrument. It was heavier, longer (74-75 centimeters, with usable hair size of roughly 65 cm), and manufactured from pernambuco wooden, also called Brazilwood. Tourte decided that the steadiness level on the bow must be 19 centimeters from the frog. Heating and bending the wooden created the curve, whereas predecessors’ bows had been carved to the form. The bowmaker additionally gave it a heavier nut, with a screw and the spreader block, which maintain and create the specified hair pressure. The fashionable bow courtesy of Tourte is credited for altering the timbre of the violin’s sound, broadening the expression and articulation obtainable to violinists. Tourte appears to have been much less curious about fame and legacy, as just a few of his bows had been signed. Although he’s now and was in his lifetime broadly regarded for his improvements, his bows had been nonetheless usually referred to “the Viotti bow,” ceding higher credit score to his collaborating virtuoso. As we speak an authenticated Tourte bow will be valued at $100,000 or extra. Isaac Stern had one, as did Heifetz, Kreisler, and Milstein, amongst many others. Whereas there was latest public dialogue and inquiry into whether or not the older Italian devices sound higher than modern-made devices, it’s broadly accepted that older French bows are far superior to fashionable bows. Effective violin bows – in addition to effective cello bows and viola bows – are in fixed demand by each collectors and gamers.

Michael K. French

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