Blog / The ACO Golden Age Instruments

The ACO Golden Age Instruments

Posted on 11 May 2015 by Leo Messias

In Egarr & The Golden Age, expect to travel back in time with Richard Egarr as he presents music from the Golden Age performed on the ACO’s stunning collection of rare Italian instruments from the past 5 centuries.

Over the last few years the ACO has amassed a wonderful collection of eight rare, historic instruments crafted anywhere between the late 16th and 18th centuries. These prized objects are on loan from private benefactors, the Commonwealth Bank Group, the Australia Council and from the ACO Instrument Fund.

We’ve explored the stories behind just three of these magnificent instruments.

If you’d like to dig in further on the subject, we’ve recently posted a video of ACO Principal Double Bass Maxime Bibeau who explains some of the fascinating history behind his 16th-century Gasparo da Salò double bass.

Richard Tognetti, Artistic Director and Lead Violin
Instrument: 1743 Guarnieri del Gesù violin

This 1743 violin nicknamed ‘Carrodus’ was crafted by Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù during his final years in Cremona, Italy. Del Gesù (meaning ‘of Jesus’) was a more mysterious craftsman than Stradivari, and he was implicated in a variety of crimes – murder included! Despite his more controversial pursuits, he is widely recognised as one of the most accomplished violin makers of all time, having produced some of the best violins ever made.

But it wasn’t until Paganini, the most celebrated violin virtuoso of his time, started playing del Gesù violins that the instrument maker became as well-known and celebrated as Stradivari. In fact, part of the wood from this 1743 violin has been proven to come from the same tree as that of another authenticated del Gesù violin, known as the ‘Cannon’, which was played by Paganini. According to legend, the Carrodus is the same violin that Paganini lost while gambling.

The sound of the Carrodus is unique in that it is rougher, broader and richer than common violins’, and not as penetrating as that of a Stradivarius. The violin scroll is particularly bold and strong, and Richard likes using gut strings to add richness of sound – which means that more pressure also needs to be applied to get the desired result from this type of strings.

Satu Vänskä, Principal Violin
Instrument: 1728/29 Stradivarius violin

Antonio Stradivari was about 80 years old when this violin was made. It is a fine example of the Italian’s unique standard of craftsmanship – widely acknowledged as the epitome of excellence in violin-making. He made many instruments in his unusually long life (by 18th century standards), but this particular violin has a cutting, soprano-like quality that exudes warmth and a unique brilliance that sets it apart from other darker sounding instruments – such as the Carrodus played by Richard.

Satu has said she can’t believe she plays an instrument with such a rich history, and the fact that it has survived many centuries and will continue to outlive many other generations of listeners is humbling for any musician lucky enough to play it.

Timo-Veikko ‘Tipi’ Valve, Principal Cello
Instrument: 1729 Giuseppe Guarneri filius Andreae cello, with elements of the instrument crafted by his son, Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù

Tipi’s cello was made in Cremona, Italy, in 1729 in what is considered the ‘golden period’ of instrument making in the country. Instruments from this time have a unique personality in their sound which is deemed impossible to replicate on their modern counterparts.

This cello has a unique history in that it was made by two people. Giuseppe Guarneri filius Andreae, the patriarch of the famous Guarneri family of luthiers, worked on the cello until he fell ill in 1729, and his son del Gesù took over. This two-stage approach is made apparent when the top of the instrument is compared with others also produced by Guarneri filius Andreae. To this day, there are only two known examples of cellos completed by del Gesù in his lifetime, and this is one of them.

The 1729 Giuseppe Guarneri filius Andreae cello has a very dark, male voice, very bass heavy and sweet in tone. And experts agree that the cello is a ‘close relative’ and fitting musical partner to Richard’s del Gesù violin. Tipi has said that it took him about two years to fully master these unique qualities from the cello.

13-28 June

Travel back in time with Richard Egarr as he presents music from the Golden Age performed on the ACO’s stunning collection of rare Italian instruments from the 16th to the 18th centuries.

PURCELL The Fairy Queen: Suite (selections)
W LAWES Consort set in 6 parts in C major
JS BACH Violin Concerto in A minor
HAYDN Keyboard Concerto in D major
HAYDN Symphony No.44 in E minor