This will be a different kind of post.
There’s no instrument in the world quite like the violin.
For centuries it has found itself surrounded on all sides by mystique and wonder, and it seems only justified. Considered the most difficult instrument on the planet to master, looked upon with wonder and a ceaseless fascination that those who cause them to sing with an almost human voice have given perpetual motion to.
Yes, violins are wondrous creations.
While other instruments are subject to strict measurements and specifications, no two violins are ever the same. Luthiers have little regard for imposing such strict measurements upon their imagination, and why should they?
That is why every violin in the world sings with a different voice, bears a different weight, their curves and quirks as unique as we ourselves are want to be. There are boxy violins; slender violins; violins with narrow waists and flaring bell bottoms while others are more square. It could explain why so many of us become so attached when we discover the instrument that fits us best: each is one of a kind, after all.
To discover a violin that fits the player to perfection is as happening across a diamond in the muck. Not only the size and shape are important, but the tone. Some violinists prefer a rich, dark tone that no heavy mute can dampen (I have one such violin and do love him but he can be a bit brash for my tastes). Some prefer a softer, sweeter voice that echoes with sadness and melancholy, while yet others seek a middle ground.
For some violinists obtaining the perfect instrument becomes the pursuit of a lifetime; I’ve witnessed some play a dozen in a single afternoon, only to walk away empty handed. There’s something missing, a lack of expression and reflection they wish to portray via the elegant curved maple they cradle.
I have found my violin.
She’s Eastern European in origin, and has made the journey from the wilds of Vlad the Impalers’ country to my less than quaint corner of England. I am not a fan of bare maple as a rule; the darker the stain, the happier I tend to be. However my teacher sees beyond the material and understood what I needed. After two trips to the luthier, a setup including a new soundpost and handcarved bridge along with gorgeous wooden fittings to die for (I must thank Stuart Cooper as he is a true artist) she is home.
While classed as a 4/4 she is rather petite and very much in the baroque style; every inch the ladys’ violin so I suppose I must now endeavor to become a lady. While the shadow has a booming voice that commands attention and the strad Lucia has been softened by the ages, she falls between the two in a perfect harmony.
Her delicate size and shape and the well chosen chin rest mean she fits me as a glove; I could tuck her under my chin for hours, with or without shoulder rest. Her voice is plaintive and melancholy, with a touch of sweet sadness that brings to mind Tchaikovsky or certain pieces of Shostakovitch.
In short, she is perfect. I cannot thank my violin teacher or new luthier enough for enabling me to find my perfect partner in music: a violin is a little like a soulmate. When you pick up the right one it’s less a feeling of giddy newness and more a sense of returning home after a long absence. I could not be happier and despite the struggles of physiotherapy, psychotherapy and the other difficulties I face I walk into them knowing I have found the perfect friend to carry me from the darkness with sweet melodies.
If you’ll excuse me, I have to go practice 40 hours a day.