Brescia School

The Brescia City, which located in the northern Italy, had long been famous for its industry in making string instruments and organs. In the 16th century, the first viola maker in history, Zanetto Micheli da Montichiaro(c. 1489-c. 1561), who was also the founder of the Brescia School, started his lengthy life as a luthier in Brescia.

During this century, Zanetto, Gasparo Bertolotti da Salo and Maggini had lead the violin-making industry of Brescia to the peak altogether. These luthiers had made a significant and unfading history in violin making.

Pellegrino di Zanetto De Micheli, c. 1520-c. 1606

Pellegrino di Zanetto De Micheli (c. 1520-c. 1606) was a pioneer in the history of violin making of Brescia, Italy. However, before speaking of Pellegrino, we have to know about his father first, Zanetto Micheli da Montichiaro (c. 1489-c. 1560) . The father, Zanetto the elder was believed to be the first viola-maker according to meticulous and extensive archival research. Violin making was still in its infancy in the early 16th century when neither the mould for making violin nor a certain form of the instrument itself was yet established. During that time, most violins were the results of trial and error. However, the splendid violas made by Zanetto the elder had combined ingenious idea and excellent workmanship, enabling future generations of Brescian violinmakers to imitate. Zanetto the elder had set himself a significant example in the history of violin making.

Although only few related archives were left behind, we are pretty certain that Pellegrino not only succeeded his father’s career but carried it to a novel frontier to be an outstanding violin maker, as can be shown from his existing instruments still preserved which, unfortunately, were very few after the intervening centuries. Among them, a tenor viola with the original label: Peregrino f.q.m. Zanetto in Brescia - meaning Pellegrino son of former master Zanetto in Brescia is now kept in the musical museum in Brescia- Museo Strumenti Musicali Liuteria Bresciana. Moreover, Pellegrino also made Viol and Lute -both were very popular instruments during that time. One bass viol made by Pellegrino is now preserved at Musée de la Musique, Paris. Its peculiar shape and volutes of the scroll reveals his ingenuity.

Gasparo Bertolotti da Salò,1540-1609

Anyone who studies the Brescian School would admit that the importance of Gasparo Bertolotti da Salò (1540-1609) cannot be over-emphasized. What he inherited from his forerunners and what he left for the predecessors was of unsurpassable significance. He was born in a craftsman’s family and after the death of his father; he came to Brescia and devoted himself to violin making. Just like other violin makers of that time, in the beginning da Salò’s violas were profoundly influenced by Zanetto the elder; however, his originality gradually revealed in his unique personal style. During his time, violin making was still in its premature stage, almost no violin makers wrote down the date on the label. Therefore, we can only approximate the date of its making from its size and features of workmanship. Though lacking in direct evidence, some experts believe that da Salò’s innovations helped in some way or other the development of violin making. His violins give forth a sense of strength and boldness, revealing obvious tool marks, not to mention their powerful and balanced sounds in full register.

Giovanni Paolo Maggini, 1580-c. 1630

Giovanni Paolo Maggini was the most talented pupil of Gasparo da Salò. His extraordinary workmanship led the Brescian School to its pinnacle. A pre-eminent maker especially in violins, the construction method and style of his works deeply influenced the two great masters to follow, Antonio Stradivari and Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù.

Maggini’s instruments also followed the style of Brescian School; however, the tone quality of his violins was mellower, capable of performing broader register and plentiful resonance. As for the instrument body, he preferred a simple and plain character. Their most notable feature was the use of reddish- brown and golden-orange varnish. Considering the forms of the violin, Maggini stood right at the turning point of the history of liuteria. He created two new forms of violin and also smaller forms of viola and violoncello. The most important contribution of Maggini was that he homogenized the tone quality of violin family, which made him even more outstanding among his contemporaries.

Giovanni Battista Rogeri, 1642-c. 1710

Giovanni Battista Rogeri (1642 - c.1710) was born in Bologna. He studied how to make violins in Cremona with Nicolo Amati (1596-1684) . His early instruments were heavily influenced by the Amati style.

The black plague had spread all across Europe by 1632. An outstanding luthier had not appeared in Brescia until 1663, when Rogeri moved there and opened his luthier shop. Not only did his instruments combine the Amati and Brescia styles, they allowed the violin making industry which had ended in 1630 to once again flourish; however, this time with an entirely new face.

Rogeri was a highly skilled instrument maker. His instruments appear very clean and well-organized, and the backs, ribs and scrolls all use the best maple wood that was available locally. He also used the “grand pattern” which Amati used late in his career. The F-holes are designed in the same way as Amati. Rogeri’s cellos and basses are his most praise-worthy instruments. The varnishes he used are exceptionally beautiful and are usually light red or light brown. The timbre of his instruments is sweet. The labels are usually red. From 1685 to 1690, he gradually developed larger body instruments, and took the family business to new heights. By 1690 his notoriety had spread to distant lands, and his skills had already surpassed all of his contemporaries.

Pietro Giacomo Rogeri, 1665-1724

凡尼‧巴蒂斯塔‧羅傑利 (Giovanni Battista Rogeri, 1642-1710) 的兒子,並於1705年繼承父親的工作室,1724年之後製琴數量趨少,製琴風格與特徵承繼自父親,但在工藝方面略顯粗曠。雖然 1630年,布雷西亞 (Bresica) 經歷了一場重大浩劫—瘟疫黑死病,但基本上1530年至1724年間仍屬於弦樂器製造黃金時期,不過反倒是 1724年之後,此城鎮便鮮少出現製琴家。