This article is taken from The Strad October 2006.
Written by Sean Bishop, Photographs Richard Valencia
Maker Annibale Fagnola
Born Bazzano, 1866
Died Munich, 1939
Label Text Hannibal Fagnola Fecit Taurini Anno Domini 1928
Annibale Fagnola is today regarded as one of the finest makers of the 20th century.
Born just outside Turin in 1866, he came to violin making relatively late in life, at approximately 30 years of age, after working for a few years in various jobs, including bakery. Little is known about his training and he is generally regarded as being self taught, although he had access to Turin makers of the period (perhaps through the Marengo Romano Rinaldi workshop) as well as the instrument collection of Orazio Roggiero, a well known collector and dealer. Fagnola died in Turin in 1939 having achieved worldwide success.
It can prove difficult to attribute his early instruments – those prior to 1905 – to him, particularly his copies of Pressenda and Rocca. But from this time onwards he began to develop his own model, while still looking to the old Turin School as a reference.
This violas an example of Fagnola’s work and is in near-mint condition. Normally his violas are under 16” (406mm) but this rare example is 16 1/4” (412mm). Made during perhaps his finest period, 1920-30, it has a luxurious coating of red-brown varnish.
The back is constructed from a single piece of quarter-sawn maple, with a shallow but regular flame descending from the bass side. The ribs, scroll and neck are from matching wood. The front is made from two matched pieces of spruce with fine and straight grain, broadening slightly in the flanks.
The instrument has a very fine and powerful tone, which is used to good effect by its owner, Francis Saunders of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra.