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Another Invention.

Another device has been added to the long list of inventions intended to improve the fiddle of the present day. It is called “The Grienauer Diagonal Tension.” Its inventor, Mr. Grienauer, is a violoncellist residing in New York.

In a circular which he has recently issued Mr. Grienauer claims that his Diagonal Tension is “a new and useful improvement of the tone-quantity and quality of stringed instruments,” and, with the earnestness and enthusiasm of the inventor who really believes in his own invention, he endeavors to convince others that the child of his brain possesses virtues which no unprejudiced mind will fail to recognize.

Foreseeing opposition to his invention, Mr. Grienauer appeals (in the circular mentioned) for fair treatment from professional players of stringed instruments. “There is now one consummation devoutly to be hoped for,” he says, “and that is that in passing judgment on the newest invention of a ‘Diagonal Tension’ justice will have the first word to say. This word ought to be: ‘We will test it, and criticise it without prejudice.’” All of which is sensible enough and should bear some weight with those who are interested in such matters.

The advantages claimed for the “Diagonal Tension” are as follows:

1. An enhancement of value through increase in the volume and beauty of the tone, amounting to from 100 to 200 per cent. 

2. Greatly increased responsiveness.

3. Very clear and euphonious (!) harmonics. (The parenthetical exclamation is our own, not Mr. Grienauer’s.)  

4. Immunity from the influence of extreme changes of weather.

Before commenting upon Mr. Grienauer’s invention we wish to quote from his circular two paragraphs which will probably impress our readers as forcibly as it has impressed us.

“One of the finest Amati ‘cellos (Hyronimus and Antonio) was given to Mr. Grienauer for a trial of his invention. It is of large size, highly arched, very well preserved, of very strong wood; it had been sent to seven different workshops (including four in Berlin and Dresden) for improvement of its abnormally feeble tone. The instrument sounded thin and weak in tone, often responded poorly, and its tone did not carry, the result of which was that it was absolutely useless in the concert hall.

“After the lapse of a fortnight, during which time Mr. Grienauer himself applied the Tension to the ‘cello,’ he played on it in a concert of the Rubinstein Club at the Waldorf-Astoria with the most brilliant success. It had the unexpected result that a well-known gentleman in the audience offered $1700 for the instrument which, because of its poor tone-originally, had changed hands for $100.”

These two paragraphs are obviously intended to win for the new invention the interest and confidence of all those who might possibly be skeptical of its merits or antagonistic to it on general principles. But do they really serve to fortify the inventor’s claims? Are they the kind of evidence which experienced fiddlers and lovers of the instrument are likely to accept at the same worth as Mr. Grienauer attaches to them? We think not. Mr. Grienauer earnestly pleads for justice and an impartial examination of his contrivance; but it is diffiult (sic) to understand how he can hope to advance his cause by methods which are, to say the least, so very injudicious.

Let us carefully consider Mr. Grienauer’s published statement. In order convincingly to prove that his Diagonal Tension is an invention of the first importance in the fiddle-world, he tells us that he has converted a worthless Amati ‘cello into an instrument of such fine quality that “a well-known gentleman” was eager to purchase it for the sum of $1700. He tells us that before he attached his Tension to this instrument it had an abnormally weak tone, and that, despite the efforts of seven different fiddle-repairers, it had remained a weak-toned, worthless instrument for which its former owner had gladly accepted the small sum of $100. Remarkable, even improbable, as this statement may seem to thoughtful and experienced men, we do not care to question its accuracy or to cast the vestige of a doubt on Mr. Grienauer’s veracity. An inventor’s enthusiasm may enable him to see and hear and understand what is invisible, inaudible, and incomprehensible to the ordinary individual. But there are some points in Mr. Grienauer’s general statement which cannot easily be gulped down by the most credulous amateur or the most liberal-minded connoisseur. We allude to that part of Mr. Grienauer’s statement in which he describes the instrument on which he experimented with his Diagonal Tension. He assures the public that it was one of the finest Amati ‘cellos in existence, “of large size, highly arched, very well preserved, of very strong wood”; and then he calmly declares that this very same instrument, “one of the finest Amati ‘cellos,” was “thin and weak in tone,” and “absolutely useless in the concert-hall.”

Now, we ask Mr. Grienauer, without a suspicion of ridicule or scorn, whether he really believes that a ‘cello could be one of the finest Amati specimens in existence and, at the same time, so poor and worthless an instrument that its owner would gladly part with it for the sum of $100? We ask Mr. Grienauer to reconcile these irreconcilable statements, and elucidate, for our benefit, how it is possible for an Amati to be what it is not. We feel that he would be equally lucid were he to tell us that a diamond, one of the finest stones in the world, of a perfect cut and exquisite luster, is neither brilliant nor beautiful, nor of more than insignificant commercial value.

Aside, however, from these two unfortunate paragraphs, we cannot resist calling Mr. Grienauer’s attention to the fact that, during the past century, misguided enthusiasts have invented many curious, but worthless, devices for the “improvement” of the Italian masters’ fiddles, and that the latter are still generally conceded to be creations of art which seemingly admit of no improvement. Whatever may be the achievements of future generations of fiddle-makers, our own investigations, as well as those of many scientific men before us, have failed to reveal the secret of the sphinx-like Cremona fiddle. That all true fiddle-lovers would eagerly welcome the man who could throw the faintest ray of light on this dark and mysterious question hardly requires earnest assurance. To doubt that this is so would argue puerility and unreasonableness. But the world of fiddle-lovers is surely not to be blamed because it extends neither welcome nor a helping hand to those who, having failed to solve the mystery of Cremona, insist that we accept, as a substitute for Italian art, freak fiddles and curious inventions.

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