Nothing matched the violin for universal and varied expression, Jean-Jacques Rousseau declared in 1768. Affordable, portable, and equally adaptable to Bach, Beethoven, jazz, klezmer, reels, ragas, gypsy fiddlers, and indie rock, as David Schoenbaum notes in this original study, it is still unmatched as an icon of globalization.
First spotted in the mid-sixteenth century, it had become the instrument of kings and courts by the mid-seventeenth and the instrument of choice for some of the world’s greatest music by the mid-eighteenth. By the late twentieth century, Jewish boys and Asian girls had made it an instrument of social mobility; the Cold War had made it an instrument of soft power; and artists, writers, and Hollywood had made it into art, novels, and movies. Today, Asian foundations compete with post-Soviet billionaires for Italian specimens with brand names that Coca-Cola might envy at dollar prices in eight figures, and contest winners come from almost everywhere.
About the Author
David Schoenbaum, a lifelong amateur violinist, has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and The Economist. His books include Hitler’s Social Revolution and The United States and the State of Israel.
[A] terrific read--one of those rare epical surveys that can be read in a single long stretch or picked up and savored, chapter by chapter. ...Schoenbaum deftly melds history, criticism, legend and occasional snatches of good gossip into a book that will be necessary reading for anybody who plays the violin, and it ought to appeal to anybody simply in search of some engrossing and exhaustive nonfiction.--Tim Page
David Schoenbaum's witty, exhaustively researched, and fascinating history of the violin, born of the same passion that has inspired luthiers, collectors, players, and composers for centuries, is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the societal implications of craftsmanship, artistry, and great music.--Eugene Drucker, member of the Emerson String Quartet and author of The Savior
An incomparable compendium of everything you could ever and should ever want to know about the world's best-loved musical instrument.--Jason Price, director of Tarisio Fine Instruments and Bows
Schoenbaum's splendidly detailed social history follows a giddy parade of humans as they buy, sell, play, collect, build, copy, steal, reinvent, love, and try to understand the most coveted of all musical instruments.--Joseph Curtin, violinmaker and MacArthur Fellow