Music | 1960 | Sound | Colour
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The Violin with Manoug Parikian
The development of the violin and its construction since its known origins, alongside music written specifically for this instrument. It is spoken and illustrated by Manoug Parikian, a distinguished English violinist of Armenian extraction, born in 1920, died in 1987. The content of the film assumes musical knowledge and was probably produced for students in their first year at university or conservatoire.
Manoug Pariakian introduces the violin –a four-stringed instrument played with a bow. He describes it as the ‘aristocrat but at the same time the humblest of musical instruments used by great artists and humble fiddlers.’
He goes on to explain that stringed instruments are known to have existed at least from 2000BC, but that we have pictorial records only from the 2nd and 11th centuries. Two drawings show players of that time. The instruments had different names in different countries. By the 15th century, the viol and the violin were equally popular. Manoug shows their differences in shape and construction with one example of each lying side by side. By the 17th century the violin had triumphed, having greater brilliance of tone and scope for the composer.
Manoug goes on to describe the construction of the bow – the importance of a well-made stick which will last for many years, and the use of horsehair which can be tightened or loosened by the use of the nut at the end. The expert violinist will look for the curve and angle of the head and the strength, resilience and balance of the whole bow.
From the mid-16th century the strings of a violin were tuned in fifths. Everything for the violin until the end of the 17th century could be played in 1st position so the shorter length of the neck was not important. Manoug then demonstrates the different hand positions on the neck from 1st position up to the 7th. For the first hundred years of its development, most composers were violinists and most violinists had to be composers as there was no repertoire.
An early work for violin was a Giovanni Gabrieli concerto in 1587. In 1610 Monteverdi extended the range of the violin by introducing pizzicato and tremolo, which were later used extensively by Paganini. Strauss was also to make use of pizzicato in his Pizzicato Polka. Pizzicato was later used for further effects: up and down chords, single pizzicato on one string with part of the finger and pizzicato tremolato devised by Elgar. Contemporary composers make the string rebound against the fingerboard.
The first known published solo for violin was Romanesque by Italian composer (?). It
was musically poor but first used the shake or trill. Later the trill was often used to announce the end of a cadenza. In 1627 Carlo (?)Carini used chords in double and triple stopping. No composer used better the resources offered by the violin than Bach who demands, technically and musically, the utmost from violinists. There is now a demonstration of technique when Manoug plays a work by Bach.
By the mid-17th century, works for the violin were no longer played only in the first position. The range was extended to the 6th position. At this stage the violin was played largely in groups.
The famous maker Antonio Stradivari of Cremona was now making instruments which had never been better and he continued until he was 93 years of age. Manoug shows one of his violins which was made in 1687.
A violin’s construction is now described in detail with photographs of the interior showing the blocks, strengthening and sound post under the bridge all of which prevent the instrument from collapsing under extreme pressure. The position of the label naming the maker is now shown.
Tartini, the great violinist/composer/teacher contributed largely to the development of bowing technique and, by this time, bows were no longer convex. By the end of the 18th century violinists began to hold their instruments under the chin on the left rather than on the right as had been the case.
One hundred years later Pagannini developed the left hand pizzicato and the one-finger slide.
Manoug then ends the film with a taster of some music of the Romantic period –
“. . . . . but that’s another story.”
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