Tyrol School

Tyrol is an historical region in Western Central Europe, geographically part of the Alps mountain range. During the Middle Ages, it was part of the Holy Roman Empire, but by the 13th century the area was ruled by various lines of the Austrian Habsburg Dynasty until it was eventually ceded to the Austrian Empire in the early 19th century. It currently borders Italy, Austria and Switzerland. The historical area of Tyrol is now divided between Italy and Austria.

When it comes to making musical instruments in the first half of the 15th century, because the region was so close to Italy, it is commonly said that the region was greatly influenced by the Italian style of instrument making. Though this is true, it is still not possible to accurately deduce when instrument making began in this region. It is only known that in the early 17th century, a master luthier appeared here that went by the name of Jacob Stainer.

Jacob Stainer (c. 1617-1683) was born in Absam, Austria. As a child he received training in singing psalms at church, and thus he was indeed educated musically; however, whether he had formal training as a luthier is still a mystery even today.

Legend has it that Stainer stayed in Cremona, Italy to study how make violins with the Amati family, but the veracity of this is still unknown. It is unfortunate that the Tyrol region Stainer represents does not have any families like the Amati family or a region like Brescia where such traditions were kept alive and passed on to future generations.

Jacob Stainer, c. 1617-c. 1683

本資料庫收藏: Violin (1656a), Violin (1656b)

Jacob Stainer (c. 1617-1683) was born in Absam, Austria. As a child he was trained to sing psalms in the church, and thus had a music education, but whether he had formal training as a luthier is still unknown. Legend has it that Stainer sojourned to Cremona to study how to make violins with the Amati family. However, no historical documents exist to back up such claims. Prior to 1640, he mostly stayed in Absam, a municipality of Tyrol, Austria. He later spent time in other parts of Austria and southern Germany. Stainer also spent time in prison because his religious perspectives differed from those that were locally accepted. He eventually died from disease in his old age.

Some scholars believe that the main difference between Stainer’s violins and the ones made by the Amati family is in the timbre of the violins. Unlike the sonorous quality that the Italian’s required in their violins, Stainer believed that an instrument must have a meticulous quality along with a noble and sweet character in order for it to be as good as the violins of made by the Amati’s and Guarneri’s. Is has been said that Stainer learned the secrets about the varnish used on violins from the Amati family. Along with the high-quality wood of the Tyrol region, he was able to increase the popularity of the instruments. From data found on the instrument trade website Cozio.com, Stainer’s violins were actually sold at a higher price than those of Nicolo Amati and Antonio Stradivarius. However, since the 19th century the spaces in which music is performed and the changes in taste have allowed the Cremona luthiers to gradually surpass Stainer in popularity. Nonetheless, Stainer’s violins still preserve a very high aesthetic value and a strong historical significance.

It is noteworthy that a lot of performers and musicians throughout history have used Stainer’s instruments, including J.S. Bach (1675-1750) and Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1770) . Legend had it that W.A. Mozart also owned a violin that Stainer made in 1659, but the label on the instrument was later found to be a forgery. Stainer’s violins were obviously popular. The violinist Abbe Sibire (1757-1827) once said that although he liked the violins that were made in Cremona, he thought Stainer’s violins had a certain magic to them because their timbre sounds like the stars in the sky giving you a hint of light. He also felt it was an honor to feel the beautiful sound that hovers around you when you play them. Unfortunately, Stainer did not have a family to carry on his work like the Amati family did.