The Amadeus Book of the Violin: Construction, History, and Music

The Amadeus Book of the Violin: Construction, History, and Music

The Amadeus Book of the Violin: Construction, History, and Music

The Amadeus Book of the Violin: Construction, History, and Music


First published in 1972, Walter Kolneder's Das Buch der Violine quickly established itself as the standard work on the violin, dealing with every aspect of the instrument in truly encyclopedic fashion. This first English-language translation, by eminent scholar and educator Reinhard G. Pauly, is based on the fifth German edition, published in 1993. Ours is more than a translation, however. Dr. Pauly also took the opportunity to revise the text, for American and English readers particularly, and has included information on recent developments not available to the author. The book begins with an examination of the violin's construction and history. Part One offers fascinating detail on woods, glues, varnishes, shapes and dimensions, and bows and strings; Part Two traces the evolution of the instrument's form, from the violin's pre-history through the five centuries, roughly, that have elapsed since it took its present shape. Part Three is a chronological survey of the violin's musical aspects, treating performance techniques, pedagogical philosophy, and literature for the violin. Kolneder examines the various national schools for their distinguishing characteristics and shows the influence of composers (Bach and Beethoven, among others), virtuosos (Paganini, Kreisler), and teachers (including Tartini and Geminiani) upon the development of the modern violin and its music. Together the three parts form the best single volume on the violin and its music, an extraordinary encyclopedic resource for the general music-lover as well as for violinists.


Is the violin an endangered instrument? Yes and no, I would answer. It is true that pianos, trumpets, guitars, and many electronic instruments now appeal to more prospective players than do the members of the violin family. It is also true that the first few months of practicing the violin may not provide the same kind of gratification, for player or listener. Nevertheless, the violin has attracted generations of listeners, and the large body of string music written during the last three centuries has inspired many to take up the instrument. As players, their accomplishments may have been modest or magnificent, but most became more sensitive and enthusiastic listeners. Some, together with a few kindred spirits, discovered the joys of playing chamber music. Others joined school and community orchestras, or pursued their studies professionally and became members of symphony and opera orchestras. A select few succeeded on the concert stage.

For all these--players and listeners--a vast, wonderful repertory of music including the violin exists. This book was written for them. Its author, Walter Kolneder (1910-1994), a distinguished Austrian string player, conductor, musicologist, and pedagogue, was the author of an impressive number of publications before the present volume first appeared as Das Buch der Violine (Zurich 1972). It has been highly successful; the fifth German edition, translated here, appeared in 1993. An early reviewer pointed out that this was the first book to deal, in one volume, with virtually all aspects of the violin: with its construction, history, and literature; with violin playing and teaching; and with violin virtuosos through the ages. "One author accomplished what normally would require five specialists." A glance at the table of contents will give an idea of the wealth of information Kolneder presents.

This first English-language edition is more than a translation. It includes many revisions, most of them dealing with recent developments. In the book's last section in particular I tried to include information, not available to the author, that may be of interest to American readers. I have also omitted some material chiefly useful for readers in German-speaking countries. This applies to much of the book, including the lists of important compositions for the violin. The so-called standard repertory has never been static. For instance, Kolneder's exclusion, in 1970, of Chausson Poème from that repertory might well be questioned a generation later. The lists of twentiethcentury virtuosos have also been revised.

An encyclopedic book of this kind--broad in scope, with thousands of names, dates, and other facts--will continue to need periodic updating; I therefore would welcome comments from readers that will lead to improvements in future printings.

Many fellow musicians and others (Friends and Fiddlers, to quote the title . . .

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