The telephone, the secador and the tree trunks

Thursday, 21 June, 2012

Giovanni Battista Rogeri (ca. 1642 — ca. 1710) was born in Bologna and was sent to Cremona to be apprenticed to Nicolo Amati. After surviving the terrible years of the Plague, he started his own workshop in Brescia and there made some of finest violins in history. All of this, and more, can be found in The Violin: Its Physical and Acoustic Principles, by Paolo Peterlongo, a copy of which our cousin Mike Daly picked up recently for “a fiver” at an auction in Castletownroche.

One page 113 of his book, Paolo Peterlongo concludes that the so-called ‘secrets’ of Italian violin making consisted of a combination of factors and experience “which we may imagine but can hardly reproduce.” And why not? Because our world today is not like the Cremona of yesteryear. “The telephone, nose and ceaseless interruptions nowadays make it far more difficult to concentrate and to work with the sort of enthusiasm and inexhaustible patience necessary to raise this craft to the state of a noble art.” Given that many contemporary instrument makers live in urban areas and must struggle with high rents and confined spaces, Peterlongo asks this pertinent question: “And how many violin-makers would today have enough room in their workshops to accommodate whole tree trunks, or have at their disposal a granary in which varnish could be dried to perfection, as in Stradivari’s secador?” Sam Zygmuntowicz, who makes fine violins in Brooklyn, has neither a secador nor a website, but he’s got the craft and the art.

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