1619 NICOLÒ AMATI VIOLA
We’re super-excited to introduce the newest member of the NZSQ – an Amati viola, made in Cremona in 1619 by Nicolò Amati (1596-1684) and on indefinite loan to the New Zealand String Quartet. Our NZSQ violist Gillian Ansell has fallen in love with the instrument and says:
A year ago, I would have simply not believed that I would now be playing on a Nicolò Amati instrument! The sweetness and complexity of the sound of this beautiful viola is incredible - it has so many available tone colours and the warmth, depth and lusciousness of the sound makes it a total joy to play on.
Nicolò was the most prominent member of the Amati family and, together with his brother Antonio, carried on the family business of violin making, handed down from their father Girolamo and grandfather Andrea. Nicolò was one of the first of the great luthiers to take on apprentices from outside his family and among those who trained with him were Andrea Guarneri and Antonio Stradivari (though there is some debate as to whether the latter was actually a pupil of Amati's or merely influenced by him).
Amati violas are comparatively rare these days, and the instrument currently on loan to Gillian started its life as a large 18-inch 'tenor' instrument but was later reduced in size to assist the playing of the more technically challenging music that was gaining popularity during the early 19th century. The highly-skilled procedure of reducing the instrument’s size was most likely undertaken in London during the early 1900s when small, high-quality violas were in demand. One clue to the viola's early history is a small crest on the back of the scroll indicating it was owned by the wealthy Medici family of Florence (see below). In recent years the viola was used by a member of the London Symphony Orchestra before it was sold and restored extensively.