Antonio & Girolamo Amati, Cremona, 1607

Viola: 40070

Back: One-piece, with cherubic painting

Length of back: 39.6 cm

Upper bouts: 18.3 cm

Middle bouts: 12.6 cm

Lower bouts: 23.2 cm


"In 1959 Saskatchewan farmer Steve Kolbinson sold a set of rare 17th century Amati instruments to the University of Saskatchewan for a nominal fee, with the understanding that they would be used for the benefit of the people of the province.

At the time Murray Adaskin, a world-renowned composer and violinist, was composer-in-residence at the University, and had hoped from the beginning that acquisition of these fine instruments would lead to the establishment of a resident string quartet. Finding the right musicians proved difficult; but with Adaskin, Norma Lee Bisha, Michael Bowie and Edward Bisha, the Amati Quartet was able to make its first public appearance on 2 February 1969.

Steve Kolbinson was himself an excellent musician and clearly, an exceptional collector. As an editorial noted, he wanted the people of Saskatchewan "to have the pleasure of enjoying [these] rare instruments and the satisfaction of knowing [the province] is home to such exquisite pieces."

It was, then under some controversy that the University loaned the instruments to the Lafayette String Quartet in 1992. Although the Quartet -- an acclaimed ensemble -- toured Europe with the instruments and used them in recordings, the very fact they had been allowed to leave the province provoked fears that the instruments might be sold. At the end of the loan agreement in 1998 a special concert was arranged to celebrate the instruments’ return. Ticket prices were kept intentionally low. As his granddaughter said, that’s what Steve Kolbinson wanted: "to strive for the best" but keep the best accessible.

The four instruments, built by members of the Amati family between 1607 and 1690, are the only Amati quartet in Canada and one of the few in the world."

Events in the History of the University of Saskatchewan

"The unusual Amati viola was commissioned by the famous Italian Borghese family, whose head at that time was Pope Paul V. The instrument was completed in 1606 by the Brothers Amati, and the back features a painting of the Borghese family coat-of-arms. It is generally believed that the instrument is cut down from its original size."

Four women for four Amatis, Barbara McDougall, The Strad, November, 1993, London

"After the abdication of Napoleon, Camillo Borghese sold a great part of the works of art owned by his family to the French government. It is not known whether the viola was included in the sale, however it was in France for many years where, according to the famous French violin conoisseur, R. M. Millant, it formed part of several private and famouse collections of instruments. This viola was purchased by Stephen Kolbinson in the early Spring of 1958 from Walter Simmenauer's private collection in Paris. It was purchased to replace another Amati viola which, along with other instruments was stolen from Mr. Kolbinson."

The Amatis' DNA, Fausto Cacciatori, Bruce Carlson & Carlo Chiesa, the Amatis' DNA: A Dynasty of Stringed Instrument Makers in Cremona, Cremona

Known players

Geoff Cole, Joanna Hood



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