Watch the World’s Oldest Violin in Action: Marco Rizzi Performs Schumann’s Sonata No. 2 on a 1566 Amati Violin

Most of us are acquaint­ed with the sor­row­ful sound of the world’s small­est vio­lin, but what of the world’s old­est?

The instru­ment in the video above dates back to 1566.

Mean­ing, if it were the patri­arch of a human fam­i­ly, sir­ing musi­cal sons every 20 to 25 years, it would take more than 10 gen­er­a­tions to get to com­pos­er Robert Schu­mann, born in 1810.

And then anoth­er 31 years for Schu­mann to com­pose Sonata No. 2 for Vio­lin and Piano in D minor, Op . 121, the piece vio­lin­ist Mar­co Rizzi–age unknown–coaxes from this love­ly piece of wood.

Were you to peek at the back, you’d see traces of King Charles IX of France’s coat of arms. The Latin mot­to Pietate et Justi­tia–piety and justice–still lingers on its rib.

It was con­struct­ed by the mas­ter cre­ator, Andrea Amati, as part of a large set of stringed instru­ments, of which it is one of four sur­vivors of its size and class.

After leav­ing Charles’ court, the vio­lin spent time in the Hen­ry Hot­tinger col­lec­tion, which was even­tu­al­ly acquired by the Wurl­itzer Com­pa­ny in New York. In 1966, it was donat­ed to Cre­mona, Italy, Amati’s birth­place and home to an inter­na­tion­al school of vio­lin mak­ing.

Ven­er­a­ble unto the point of price­less­ness, from time to time it is tak­en out and played–to won­drous effect–by world class vio­lin­ists. It’s tempt­ing to keep anthro­po­mor­phiz­ing, so as to won­der if it might not pre­fer a for­ev­er home with a gift­ed young musi­cian who would take it out and play it every day. I know what a chil­dren’s author would say on that sub­ject.

You can view Amati’s Charles IX vio­lin in more detail here, but why stop there, when you can also like it on Face­book!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

What Makes the Stradi­var­ius Spe­cial? It Was Designed to Sound Like a Female Sopra­no Voice, With Notes Sound­ing Like Vow­els, Says Researcher

Why Vio­lins Have F‑Holes: The Sci­ence & His­to­ry of a Remark­able Renais­sance Design

Watch the Mak­ing of a Hand-Craft­ed Vio­lin, from Start to Fin­ish, in a Beau­ti­ful­ly-Shot Doc­u­men­tary

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine — issue 58 is hot off the press. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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