Antonio Pazarini violin, Genoa, 1739
The 18th century saw a proliferation of violin makers throughout Italy, with all the major economic centres laying claim to a handful of influential makers. Today the well-known names are those makers who were most prolific and those who were successful in their own time. But for every Gagliano and Goffriller there are dozens of 18th-century makers whose names are known to us only through rare original labels and archive records.
One such unsung hero was Antonio Pazarini, evidently a collaborator of the dominant Genoese luthier Bernardo Calcani. Little is known of Pazarini beyond a handful of 18th-century labels that attest to his association with Calcani between c. 1720 and 1740.
One such violin is the instrument played by Rachel Podger for the past 20 years. With an intriguing manuscript label dating the violin to 1739, we have few reasons not to accept the instrument as genuine, but a definitive attribution remains elusive thanks to the extreme rarity of his surviving instruments. The model and workmanship are Germanic, which can perhaps be attributed to the influence of Martino Heel and Cristoforo Ruttig, the two German makers who dominated Genoese violin making at the turn of the 18th century and are presumed to have taught Calcani and perhaps also Pazarini.
But whether or not this violin can be responsibly attributed to Pazarini is in many ways irrelevant when in the hands of an artist such as Podger. If a cigar box sounds good when played by a great artist it doesn’t really matter what name we call it.
Commentary by Jason Price
Rachel Podger, Wigmore Hall, Saturday 28 September. Read our interview with Rachel Podger about the process of returning her violin to period set-up.