Giovanni Battista Guadagnini

Violin made by Giovanni Battista Guadagnini in Milan in 1752. Atle Sponberg plays on this violin.

Made the year after the 1751 violin in Dextra Musica’s collection, while still early in his Milan period, this instrument offers a fine opportunity to study the repeated mannerisms and subtle changes in G.B. Guadagnini’s style.

The wood is not quite so dramatic in appearance; a more conventional two-piece arrangement of matched maple with a more subtle transverse flame is framed by slightly heavier edges and broader corners. The outline is overall slightly reduced, indicating the use of a new or altered mould or form in the workshop. This new form would provide the consistent model for the rest of Guadagnini’s period in Milan.

The soundholes are from the same template as the earlier violin, showing very clean and regular craftsmanship, but the lower circles have developed the distinctive oval shape which became a hallmark of Guadagnini for most of his career. They are almost certainly made initially with a circular cutter, as most makers would do, but modified with the knife. The lower wings appear long and slightly tapered, but are still without the slight flute that was a convention amongst other classical Italian makers. The head is very much like the previous example, but the throat is a little more closed; another quirk of Guadagnini’s was to extend the throat deep under the volute, giving the pegbox a very strong taper and a shallow terminus.

The varnish is a similar rich red concoction, but appears to have a little more substance than that of the 1751 violin. The distinctive wear pattern on the back shows a broken edge which is quite thick and chippy, revealing a clear white coat beneath.

The violin is in an equally fine state of preservation to that of the 1751 example, and is a first-class concert instrument. It bears certificates of authenticity from J. & A. Beare and Peter Biddulph, and was acquired by Dextra Musica in 2006.

Atle Sponberg

Atle Sponberg is a much sought-after and popular musician, a frequent festival guest as soloist and chamber musician, a central force through years with the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra and as Concert Master of the Norwegian Radio Orchestra.