A staple of orchestral ensembles, the violin has existed in its modern form for approximately five centuries. Its versatility can charm even the most sophisticated of audiences and, in the hands of an expert fiddler, bring life to any hoedown.

The violin, or fiddle in less formal settings, has been evolving since the days of the Byzantine empire, beginning with the lyre. The lyre gave rise to a bowed instrument called a rebec, an instrument that eventually transformed into a primitive fiddle during the Middle Ages.

Over its the years, the violin has not only enchanted patrons of of the arts with its euphonic tones, but has also found itself at the center of countless stories of bravery, heroism, and intrigue.

In fact, one of the most tragic of love stories of modern times centers around a violin. In 1910, a British violinist named Wallace Hartley received a violin from this fiancée as an engagement gift. Two years later, Hartley boarded RMS Titanic as the ship’s bandleader. According to witnesses, Hartley’s last moments were spent playing the hymn “Nearer My God to Thee” on his cherished violin. When Hartley’s body was recovered following the infamous sinking, his violin was said to be found intact in its case, fastened to his waist. The violin was returned to his fiancée; she remained unmarried for the remainder of her life. In 2006, after apparently being lost for several decades, the violin was found in an attic and subsequently auctioned off for $1.7 million.

A few years later, during World War I, another famous violinist named Fritz Kreisler used his musical abilities for a rather unorthodox purpose. Kreisler served in the Austrian Army as a captain, and his professional ability to accurately discriminate between pitches allowed him to identify the location of enemy artillery across the battlefield. Kreisler remained in the trenches for only four weeks until he was wounded and discharged from the army.

Aside from its storied history, the violin continues to appeal to music lovers with its plethora of mental and physical benefits. Studies have proven that playing the violin burns 170 calories an hour. Additionally, violinists often have larger brains, better memories, and faster cognitive processing abilities than those who do not play an instrument.

In need of a new hobby? Why not give the violin a try!

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