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About “Petrus”…

Firma Guarnieri

Quartet Petrus owes its name to one Petrus Guarnerius, the violin that Pablo Saraví uses in the group thanks to the generosity of an anonymous patron who has loaned the instrument. Petrus Guarnerius (Pietro Giovanni Guarneri, so-called “of Mantua”) was one of the greatest craftsmen of Cremona, belonging to one of the famous dynasties of Italian luthiers which produced highly sought-after instruments possessing an exceptional sound. The violin dates from 1690.

 

¿Guarnerius o Guarneri?

The surname Guarneri (sometimes appearing as Guarnieri) was transcribed into Latin along with the city and the year of construction, in accordance to the custom of the time. Therefore a typical label with the following text:

Petrus Guarnerius Cremonenfis filius Andreae /

Fecit Mantuae fub tit. Sanctae Terefiae - 1690

Means:

Pietro Guarneri from Cremona, son of Andrea /

Made in Mantua under the protection of Saint Teresa- 1690 

Other craftsmen also Latinised their surnames, like in the case of Stradivari (Stradivarius), Amati (Amatus), Roggeri (Rogerius) and many others.

 

The Guarneri Dynasty, Master Luthiers

The first luthier of what today we call the “Guarneri Dynasty” was Andrea Guarneri (1623-1698), who came from a small town in Casalbuttano, close to Cremona. He was a student of the celebrated Niccolò Amati, a magnificent craftsman and absolute and undisputed point of reference for violin builders of the time and of many consequent generations. The young Guarneri did not only achieve a very good level as a craftsmen but managed to secure himself a comfortable economic and social position; on the one hand due to his own talents and on the other thanks to his marriage to Anna Maria Orcelli in 1645, who was the niece of the well-known violinist, Giovanni Pietro Orcelli, who in his time performed at St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice under the direction of the distinguished Claudio Monteverdi (another celebrated child of Cremona). Later, Orcelli was active in Parma as an organist. Thanks to the prosperity of the Orcelli family, Andrea Guarneri and his wife received properties of certain relevance, which included a couple of houses, each of them with a residential section and a workshop, or “bottegha”, and both in Piazza San Domenico. In fact, on the neighbouring corner stood the Amati house. Before this, in 1680 and as if to complete the celebrity neighbourhood, another talented liutaio called Antonio Stradivari, acquired a house with a “bottegha”, just a few meters from the Guarneri house on the same side of the street. 

Andrea Guarneri fathered three children: Pietro Giovanni, Eusebio and Giuseppe Giovanni Battista. Of these, only the first and the last continued with lutherie, whilst Eusebio, in spite of having begun ecclesiastical studies, discontinued these, married and had children.

Andrea’s oldest son, Pietro Giovanni Guarneri (1655-1720) is generally considered as the most precise and refined –from the point of view of construction- of all the craftsmen of his family. In addition to learning the trade from his father, he was a professional musician, and in this character abandoned the family home and left for Mantua between 1679 and 1680. In this beautiful city the conditions that the orchestra of the Gonzaga court offered to its musicians were attractive, and it was there that he was hired. In the following years, his career developed in diverse ways: in music, as a luthier and as an instrument and strings trader.

The third child of Andrea Guarneri, Giuseppe Giovanni Battista (1666-1740), is known as “Giuseppe (or Joseph) filius Andreae”, as he figured on his instrument labels in this manner. Giuseppe stayed in the family workshop as the principal assistant of Andrea and was also, like Pietro Giovanni, a professional musician. In 1690, Giuseppe “filius Andreae” married with Barbara Franchi. In their marriage they had a total of six children, three boys and three girls. Unfortunately, none of the girls survived infancy. The oldest of their sons, named Andrea after his paternal grandfather, was born in 1691. Later, in 1695, they had another child baptised Pietro, after his uncle. And in August of 1698, Bartolomeo Giuseppe was born, who would later be known across the globe as Giuseppe “del Gesù” (“of Jesus” due to the letters IHS in his labels). He was baptised in the Parish Church of Saint Matthew and his godfather was his uncle Pietro (Petrus) Giovanni (today known as “Pietro of Mantua”) who found himself in Cremona at the time (1698), to arrange with his brother Giuseppe the terms of their eventual inheritance from their father Andrea.

Presently, the name Guarnerius is celebrated amongst interpreters and connoisseurs of the violin world, not to mention that the very Paganini used an instrument constructed in 1742 by one of the Guarneri luthiers.

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