Ludovico Rastelli: the Paganini Connection?

Ludovico Rastelli, the 19th century violin maker, worked in the old medieval town of Genoa. He arrived some time before 1835 from the village of Castelletto Scazzoso, now known as Castelletto Monferrato which lies about 60 miles north of Genoa. 

Moving to Genoa must have been a pretty exciting prospect to young Ludovico; a brilliant new concert venue, the Teatro Carlo Felice has just been built (in which Bellini’s opera Bianca e Fernando was premiered on the theatre’s opening night) and of course, Genoa was the home of perhaps the greatest virtuoso ever, Niccolo Paganini.

As is well known, Paganini’s influence was far reaching, in terms of boundary pushing violin technique, virtuosic compositional style, and his influence on guitar music. However, his decision to play on a Guarneri del Gesu had a profound effect on violin making.

As late as 1816, the great violin collector Count Cozio declared that Guarneri del Gesu's violins were ‘second rate’ and could be bought for a twentieth of the price of an Amati. This was undoubtedly due to del Gesu having a somewhat idiosyncratic approach to violin making in comparison with the consistent perfection of the Amati family before him and of course his great contemporary, Antonio Stradivari.

So what changed? After Paganini lost his Amati due to compulsive gambling, he was given a del Gesu which he named 'il Canonne'. Paganini’s allure was as much to do with his mystique, (having supposedly sold his soul to the devil, his gaunt features, and womanising ways) as it was to his violin playing, and this proved to be a winning match with the wild and varied violins of del Gesu. 

Three  f holes by del Gesu, 1736, 1739 and 1744

Three f holes by del Gesu, 1736, 1739 and 1744

This instrument by Rastelli demonstrates clear evidence of him basing his working style on that of del Gesu and shows a similar sense of freedom and confidence in its DNA.

No doubt Rastelli knew of Paganini and his violin that was as loud as a cannon: this violin, although not a copy of ‘il Cannone’, possesses the same characteristics of punch and projection as Paganini’s violin. This is an extremely exciting violin to play. I find it goading me to search for an ever bigger and better sound when playing it – I can really feel it working with me to improve my playing! 

Please find below some more pictures of the gorgeous Rastelli we have for sale. More details can be found on our 'Violins' page.



F hole by Rastelli

F hole by Rastelli