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The Rise of the Violin

A Minute with Miles
Mary Noble Ours
SC Public Radio

Have you ever wondered how the violin came to play such an important role in the history of classical music? Well, it starts with singing. The invention of opera, in late 16th century Florence, marks the beginning of the Baroque period in music, and with it the rise to supremacy of the musical style known as “melody and accompaniment.”

But  the melodies weren’t for everybody: the ruling aesthetical ideal of the Baroque was that high voices should carry the melodies, and that ideal carried over from vocal to instrumental music.  Meanwhile, starting in the 1500's, craftsmen in Italy had been perfecting the form and sound of the modern violin. The result was an ideal marriage of technology and art:  the combination of beauty and brilliance that the high-voiced violin had to offer made it the standard bearer of the Baroque musical ideal, and brought the instrument — and the music written for it — to a position of prominence that it’s never lost.  

This has been A Minute with Miles – a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.

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Miles Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players, with whom he regularly tours the United States, and the Virginia I. Norman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Chamber Music at the Schwob School of Music, in Columbus, Georgia. He has appeared as viola soloist with orchestras across the country, and his solo performances on YouTube have received well over 700,000 views.