WHILE the piano demands the maximum amount of effort from the performer, the violin (German, Geige; French, violon; Italian, violino) is the instrument that is capable of the greatest variety of expression. Like the human voice, it may echo every emotion.
The origin of the violin, as already intimated, is shrouded in mystery. The rebab of Arabia, the ravonastron of India, the early Welsh harp known as the crwth, or even the primitive instruments of Africa, may have played their part in its development. Greilsamer, a French authority, now claims that it may have come from the kithara, because of the expansion of one of the latter's sides to a violin-like body in certain early mediæval specimens.
The term fiddle, also viol, is derived from the Latin fidicula, meaning a stringed instrument. The early viols, which came into general use in the time of the Jongleurs, were flatter in shape than the present violin. Their tone was different, being less incisive and brilliant, but more calmly sweet and plaintive. Viols of various sizes remained in use some time after the violin had developed. When the early sixteenth-century music is revived for modern ears, the viols are often used in place of violins, and with very pleasing effect if heard with harpsichord, for example.
Gasparo da Salo and the Amati family were pioneers in violin- making, the former living in the Tyrol and the latter in Cremona. Andrea Amati, the pioneer in the Cremona manufacture, was born in 1520. His two sons Antonio and Geronimo continued the work, but it was brought to greater perfection by the latter's son Nicolo. The last-named was the teacher of the greatest of violin-makers, Antonio Stradivarius ( 1650-1737). Another famous family of violin- makers was that of Guarnerius, of whom Joseph ( 1683-1745), called Del Jesu, is known through having one of his instruments used by the great Paganini. Other famous violin-makers were the Magginis, the Ruggieris, the Guadagninis, the Cerutis, and Storioni.