Baroque nuts… (not the type you were thinking of).

Neck grafts obliterate all evidence of where the original fingerboard ended on an early instrument, and finding original necks on mainstream violins of the past is a very difficult, making meaningful interpretation hard. Benjamin Hebbert looks at four London-made violins from 1685 to 1740 and explores what the original nut positions can tell us about playing styles of the time.  Original necks on baroque violins … Continue reading Baroque nuts… (not the type you were thinking of).

Roller Skates and Mechanical Swans: John Joseph Merlin’s Cremona Emulus.

John Joseph Merlin was one of London’s most significant inventors and entrepreneurs of the late eighteenth century. Amongst automatons, clocks and a bewildering variety of inventions he may well have paved the way for Charles Babbage‘s invention of the computer. He produced musical instruments of unparalleled ingenuity. He also held the secret to Cremonese tone – or did he?  Charles Babbage (1791-1871) is considered by many to be … Continue reading Roller Skates and Mechanical Swans: John Joseph Merlin’s Cremona Emulus.

Hard cases aren’t flight cases: Tips on flying with your instrument.

Musical instruments get damaged in flight with depressing frequency. As another instrument bites the dust with heartbreaking consequences for the owner, Benjamin Hebbert shares some experiences for the musician putting their instrument in the hands of the airlines.  On average 8 million people fly every day, with more than 3 billion people flying every year. Musicians with their special needs will always comprise a small part … Continue reading Hard cases aren’t flight cases: Tips on flying with your instrument.

A Grand Experiment: Childe Harolde’s Tenore and a 170th Anniversary Concert

On 27 January 2018, the Royal Orchestral Society celebrate the 170th anniversary of the London premiere of Harold in Italy, performed at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane under the Baton of Berlioz himself. Memoirs recalling the performance praised Henry Hill, one of the foremost viola players in Europe and brought attention to his Barak Norman viola which Berlioz himself praised as “incomparable”. A recent discovery sheds light … Continue reading A Grand Experiment: Childe Harolde’s Tenore and a 170th Anniversary Concert

Stradivari’s fabled “Messiah” three centuries on: The most controversial violin in History?

Antonio Stradivari’s “Messiah” made in 1716 is simultaneously the best preserved of all his instruments in existence, and an example from the height of his “Golden Period”. Owing to it’s new-like condition, it was donated to the Ashmolean Museum in 1940 by the firm of W.E. Hill & Sons to become a benchmark for future makers. Despite their high hopes for it, its usefulness has been … Continue reading Stradivari’s fabled “Messiah” three centuries on: The most controversial violin in History?

The Forensic Challenges of a Renaissance Cittern

One of the highlights of British instrument making of the Renaissance is a small “Shakespearean-period” cittern that turned up unexpectedly on my desk in 2007. At the time, despite an enviable repertoire and historical record, no English examples were known. As a result, the business of authenticating what turned out to be the only known English example involved producing comparisons from an enormous field of … Continue reading The Forensic Challenges of a Renaissance Cittern

Baroque Bass Bars

In a series of blogs, Benjamin Hebbert looks at the ideas behind the “baroque violin” and questions the assumptions that are brought into play in defining a historically informed sound.  At some time, I will get around to writing a fuller criticism of David Boyden’s A History of Violin Playing from it’s Origins to 1761, which was a praiseworthy landmark in the development of historically informed … Continue reading Baroque Bass Bars