Let me introduce myself. My name is Violetta da Gamba, and I was born in Cremona on a chilly day in November, 1670. Contrary to the norm, I have no idea who my mother was, but I do know I had several famous fathers, among which Niccolo Amati, Antonio Stradivari and Giuseppe Guarneri. They were then members of the working-class, so that I had a rather plain childhood, as did my numerous brothers and sisters. We just hung around our fathers’ workshops, with the result that, although we had no formal schooling at all, we did hear quite a lot of good music.

Although I can’t be sure, as my childhood memories are fading away, I think I even heard Vivaldi himself fiddling around with one of my younger brothers. But we all later made our début in the world, many of us heading for magnificent palaces and gilded drawing-rooms, where we were caressed by skilled and loving hands. We all had quite our share of adventures. Some of my little brothers and sisters were kidnapped and murdered, others were luckier and were ransomed or simply found lying in attics, covered with dust and cobwebs. Some have survived, and thrive in the hands of great musicians. Others are less fortunate and hang around again, even if they do so in majestic surroundings, like the Royal Palace of Madrid (there are five of us there). The worse fate is to be imprisoned in glass cases in museums, silent forever. I cannot complain about my own destiny, although I could have wished for better circumstances. I now belong to an awful amateur who thinks she can play and saws away irresponsibly and hopelessly. But at least she takes care of me, I’m in very good shape and I was lucky enough to meet my companion, Oboe d’Amore, with whom I live very happily and, I hope, ever after.