Small Italy town has spent centuries making string instruments | WNYT.com

Small Italy town has spent centuries making string instruments

AP
Created: October 25, 2021 02:22 PM

For nearly 500 years, Cremona - a small town in northern Italy - has been the center of the world of stringed instruments.

Ever since Andrea Amati designed the first violin in the mid 1500s, the city has never lost its supremacy in this field.

There are over 140 workshops in Cremona in which artisans of all nationalities design and make instruments.

Even today, the instruments continue to be made in time-honored tradition.

Certainly the most famous violin maker outside Italy is "Stradivarius", but the numerous statues in the city celebrating his genius are labelled "Antonio Stradivari", his Italian name.

He, Andrea Amati and others made the instruments which, to this very day, are the most coveted.

The modern town boasts a Museum of Violins with a concert hall dedicated exclusively to the music of string instruments.

Virginia Villa, Director of the Museum of Violins, says that in 2012, 'Traditional Violin Craftsmanship in Cremona' was added to the list of UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

"Yes, maybe it is the musical instrument which has changed least over time as far as construction is concerned. And above all, Cremona has been listed by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage for the luthiers' skills, therefore the skills of the luthiers at work as with the skills of the past and the present skills, this history is important, these rules are important, and the fact that the violin is to this very day a nearly perfect instrument says it all."

The violin makers had close ties with the courts of Charles IX of France and Philip II of Spain and travelled to these countries to introduce the instruments to musicians.

One of the reasons for Cremona concentrating on instruments of this type is because the city has always had a strong tradition in wood sculpting.

Today, artisans and musicians come from all over the world to learn about the art of violin-making and to acquire instruments.

The work is demanding, and a typical luthier may make only a dozen violins in a year.

Luthier Bruce Carlson of Carlson and Neumann says handmade violins possess a personality which industrially made instruments will never have.

"I think a handmade instrument versus, let's say for example, an industrially made instrument, the main difference is attention to detail. Obviously when you are producing large quantities of instruments it is not possible to be so meticulous in every detail, you're trying to be efficient so that you can produce large numbers of instruments. Some of the efficiency is lost, but at the same time the handwork also gives a certain personality to instruments that I think a lot of industrial instruments don't have."

Street signs point to luthiers' workshop, which can be found in almost in every street.

Centuries after they were first created here, this is still the home of the violin.


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