Giuseppe Fiorini

This article is taken from The Strad March 2006.
Written by Sean Bishop, Photographs Richard Valencia

Maker Giuseppe Fiorini
Nationality Italian
Born Bazzano, 1861
Died Munich, 1934
Instrument Viola
Date Munchen 1899
Label Text Giuseppe Fiorini Munchen 1899

Giuseppe Fiorini is regarded as one of the fines makers of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. He Studied violin making with his father, Raffaele, in Bologna and set up his own workshop in Italy before moving to Munich. He lived and worked in the city for the next 25 years, but moved to Zurich during the First World War returning to Italy in 1923.


This beautiful viola shows Fiorini at the height of his powers. It follows Stradivari model, a slightly larger version of the 1690 ‘Tuscan-Medici’, and displays a high level of craftsmanship combined with a magnificent golden-orange varnish.

Fiorini’s violin-style scroll – the original Strad scroll resembles that of a cello – is well proportioned to the rest of the instrument and still has traced of the original black varnish on the chamfer.

The instrument possesses a large tone that can be heard to good effect on the numerous recordings of its owner, Hartmut Rohde. Fiorini is probably best known for donating Stradivari’s workshop tools to the city of Cremona.

His great success made him a wealthy man and he bought the relics in 1920 from Marquise Paola della Valle, heir of Count Cozio di Salabue, who had acquired them from Straivari’s son Paola.

Annibale Fagnola

This article is taken from The Strad October 2006.

Written by Sean Bishop, Photographs Richard Valencia

Maker Annibale Fagnola
Nationality Italian
Born Bazzano, 1866
Died Munich, 1939
Instrument Viola
Date 1928
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.

Marino Capicchioni

This article is taken from The Strad April 2009.
Written by Sean Bishop, Photographs Richard Valencia

Maker Marino Capicchioni
Nationality Italian
Born Santa Mustiola, 1895
Died Rimini, 1977
Instrument Viola
Date 1950


Marino Capicchioni was born in 1895 in the region of the Republic of San Marino, and spent most of his working life in the seaside town of Rimini on the east coast of Italy. His father Bernardio was a carpenter and from an early age Marino learnt this trade. Music was important to the Capicchioni family, a fact that probably influenced Marino’s eventual career as a violin maker.
No known maker was associated with Capicchioni and his making style does not resemble that of any of his local contemporaries, so it is safe to assume that he must have been self-taught. From the mid-1940s Capicchioni’s son, Mario, assisted him in his workshop. After Capicchioni’s death in 1977, Mario continued to make violins based on his father’s model. During his lifetime, Capicchioni’s instruments belonged to many famous musicians including Yehudi Menuhin, Salvatore Accardo, and David and Igor Oistrakh. This viola was owned by a Swiss collector until 2008, when it was sold to the British violist John Thorne.

untitled strad-capicchioni-2a


Capicchioni always chose spruce and maple of a very high quality, and he regarded his wood as an important factor in the tone quality of his instruments. The top of this viola is quite unusual in that the grain is not always straight up and down – there is a small wave or kink near the eyes of the soundholes. On the back a mineral stain is quite evident, yet somehow in Capicchioni’s hands these minor flaws in the wood become key features of this viola.


The alcohol-based varnish sits on a beautiful light red ground, and Capicchioni’s treatment of the top seems to accentuate the grain lines. This treatment, which he uses on all his instruments, gives them the slightly softened look that is difficult for new makers to achieve. However, one could not claim that the varnish has an antique appearance.


This viola is based on a Stradivari model, and for a relatively large instrument it seems very in proportion to the eye. Capicchioni was also one of the few Italian makers to use the Tertis viola model; he even used this form for some violins and cellos. These are out of fashion among today’s musicians, but they are quite curious to come across, if rather difficult to play.


The scroll is a work of art in style and proportion. The finely carved volutes are evidence of a maker of the highest order at work. The chamfers and eye of the scroll are slightly rounded over, like the edgework of the outline of the viola, to give a softened look.


The f-holes sit very straight up and down the viola with a rather large bottom eye. Very much in keeping with the Stradivari model, they are executed with clean perfection and lend the sense of grandeur that this wonderful viola demands.

Vincenzo Postiglione

This article is taken from The Strad January 2008.

Written by Sean Bishop, Photographs Richard Valencia 

Maker Vincenzo Postiglione
Nationality Italian
Born Naples, 1831
Died Naples, 1916
Instrument Violin
Date 1891

untitled strad-postiglione-3a


Made in 1891, this instrument is a typical example of Postiglione’s work from 1890 to 1910, and it is in excellent condition. Its first, early certificate is from the Amsterdam firm of Max Möller, and the violin seems to have spent most of its life in Holland. It is now played by Matthew Denton, leader of the London-based Carducci Quartet.


As with most Postiglione violins of this period, this violin is a mixture of models. We can see Gagliano-form as well as a dash of Guadagnini, particularly through the C-bouts.


The arching of this violin and most Postiglione violins in general is quite low, which contributes to the overall large tonal power these instruments possess.


The fine purfling goes into a beesting end, elevating the beauty of this violin.


The f-holes are highly characteristic of Postiglione’s style, which incorporates a mixture of influences from Stradivari to G.B. Guadagnini. They are somewhat straight-up in style with rather large bottom stems that show elegant fluting.


The fine two-piece back is of highly figured maple with a descending curl. No pins can be seen in this instrument although other Postiglione examples sometimes have them. The maker often used internal and external brands, sometimes on the back button. His instruments also often feature a signed dedication and drawings.


Probably the weakest element of this violin, the scroll seems very much a Gagliano copy, tightly fisted in style but saved by elegant, deeply fluted volutes that still have a sharp edge.