It is not my intention to write a long essay about the history of violinmaking, which can be better understood from competent literature on the subject. Some of the most interesting reading, in my opinion, are the books by Dr. John Huber, such as "The Violin Market" or" Emerging National Styles and Cremonese Copies".
The history of violinmaking passed through many waves of activity and almost total standstill, locally and generally. The main reason behind these changes has been the economical and political situation of the countries in question.
The highest concentration of extremely gifted and well-trained violinmakers was found in Cremona during the period 1650 to 1750. During these years, the violin found its true expression in the size and shape still in use today. This peak of activity was followed by a slow decline of violinmaking in Cremona during the second half of the eighteenth century.
Towards 1790, in the midst of the French revolution, a new musical center developed in Paris. In the meantime, musical composition continued to evolve, and virtuoso violinists such as Viotti were no longer satisfied with baroque playing techniques. A collaboration between Viotti and the violinmaker Nicolas Lupot resulted in structural modifications to the instrument, which allowed freer movement on the whole fingerboard by changing the position and shape of the violin’s neck. A new bow concept was developed by François Tourte, thereby further developing ease of playing, and promoting the virtuoso style of the 19th century. In the years following, many old Italian instruments were altered. A few years later J.B. Vuillaume purchased all of the instruments in Stradivari’s estate from the dealer Tarisio. The instruments were subsequently modified in Vuillaume’s workshop. No violin made before 1790 that is played in a modern style retains its original neck. Only now have the more linear and flatter arched violins by Stradivari and Guarneri revealed their full significance.
In the course of violin-history, Italian violins were distributed internationally and achieved highest appraisal everywhere. Thus, the classical Cremonese violin, and later other Italian schools, became the standard for ideal beauty and sound. An unfortunate result is that other beautiful “schools” of making like that of Prague, and other early French, Dutch, and English instruments – to name a few – nowadays are not normally classified with a value owed their quality. Of course, not all of them produce a volume of sound comparable to a Strad, but the sound is often of the finest quality.