The story of “Colofonia Galeazzi Modo III”, or why I decided to produce my own rosin based on a 200 year old recipe
For many years I have been interested in finding a rosin made from a historical recipe, which could be used with every sort of string instrument such as the violin and the viola, but also for viola da gamba, violoncello, violone, etc. I once found one in the Opera House in Lucca (Tuscany), where you can probably still find a very large and unique block of rosin dating from the end of the IXXth Century. It was placed at the entrance to the mystic gulf, for the use of all strings players, who simply needed to pass their bows over it before playing.
I was and still I am convinced that a baroque bow, especially one with black hair, when used with thick, historical gut strings, needs something special that cannot be provided by a normal, commercial violin rosin. I have experimented with cello rosin but this also didn’t prove to be completely satisfactory. I have also been disappointed with many products marketed as “historical”, because they are often simply inspired by historical recipes, but do not follow them exactly. These “historical” rosins often use modern substitutes in place of original ingredients, or modify the historical ingredients to obtain something “better”.
In 2004 I used a real historical rosin for the first time. This rosin was made by a friend of mine, a bowmaker named Antonino Airenti. The rosin was created following the third recipe given by Francesco Galeazzi in his treatise, “Elementi teorico pratici di Musica” (second edition, Ascoli 1817)*. When I used it I realized it was exactly what I had been looking for, the perfect one. At this time Antonino was no longer able to produce the rosin in his own laboratory, so I decided to try to find a way to produce the rosin myself. After a concert in October 2007, I formed a partnership with a very talented amateur viola da gamba player, instrument builder and restorer, maker of homeopathic products and pharmacist. Together we developed the idea to produce a historical rosin following traditional recipes, unifying his very specialized laboratory with my historical knowledge.
We first tried to produce the “Modo II” rosin from the Galeazzi’s treatise, but were unable to find the right answers to some of the historical ingredients, including their relationships and measurements. After one year of failed attempts, I decided to ask Antonino to permit us to produce the “Modo III” rosin, using a recipe which consists purely of a very elaborate cooking procedure for the “Trementina Veneta”. Then it was simply a matter of finding the right consistency for a product which can still be found today, the resin of the Larix. After some experimentation we reached our goal.
The “Colofonia Galeazzi Modo III” rosin can be used with all types of string instruments, but should be used very sparingly. I suggest applying the rosin to the bowhair after playing, and not before, since the “warm” hair permits a better hold of the rosin and avoids unnecessary dust. I still hope to produce the “Modo II” rosin as well someday, since it was, according to Galeazzi, the preferred rosin of Nardini. I will keep you informed of my success.