Cremona, city of art and of music, homeland of illustrious musicians and composers,
such as Claudio Monteverdi and Amilcare Ponchielli, has always been considered the world capital of the violin. It is above all for the construction of stringed instruments and the great families of violin makers of the past, that the city deserves this title, also recognized by UNESCO as of December 2012, which decreed that traditional violin craftsmanship in Cremona deserved inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Everything in Cremona speaks about music and violin making. The approximate 140 violin workshops, of which a third are foreign owned (25 are non-European), hand down the tradition of the old Masters. In addition, the historical collections present, and their importance in the area of music, contribute to make of Cremona a unique center of violin making at the international level. These collections have both a scientific and educational importance that allows both the students and the Violin makers to increase their competence in this field. Among these collections, that of the antique instruments, belonging to Andrea, Girolamo and Nicolo’ Amati, Giuseppe Guarneri (Son of Andrea), Antonio Stradivari, Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu’, Francesco Ruggieri along with Stradivarian finds, that preserve the shapes, patterns, tools, drawings and projects from the workshop of Stradivari. Both are now exhibited at the Museum of the Violin in Cremona,by now the most important reference point for the international violin making world. Numerous are also the various institutions that deal with the art of Lutherie. In addition to the aforementioned Museum of the Violin, the Center of Musicology Walter Stauffer has been operating in Cremona since 1970 : proprietor of four instruments part of the collection belonging to the Museum of the Violin, of which said organization is also a founding member, the Istituto Superiore di Studi Musicali “Claudio Monteverdi” and the Department of Musicology and Cultural Heritage at the University of Pavia, which is headquartered in Cremona.
In this context the Academia Cremonensis fits well: pursuing the same objectives of the institutions already active in the town, it gives an additional enrichment opportunitiy for enthusiasts and professionals. Almost like a big workshop, it gives the opportunity to those concerned to live the “secrets” of the Masters Violin Makers of the past and build the instruments and bows according to their techniques. The Academia is based mainly on Simone Fernando Sacconi for violins and Giovanni Lucchi for bows, who gave us reference points based on their in-depth study and their experiences based on the intimate knowledge of the great masters violin and bow makers who gave luster to this art. The close interaction between the student and the Master is aimed at the professional growth of both.
History of Lutherie in Cremona
In the history of northern Italy, 1530 is a very important date, a turning point, transitioning from a period of bitter dispute between France and Spain marked by wars, epidemics and total economic inertia to a period of affirmation for Spain, characterized by peace and a subsequent resumption of trade. Cremona, perhaps also because of its position in the center of the Po Valley and proximity to the river Po, becomes the second most important city in the Duchy of Milan, and as is usually the case, economic development creates the ideal foundation for a parallel development of culture and the arts. This is the golden period for Cremona, during which the city distinguishes itself for its artistic production and the increase of commerce. It is actually at the start of the XVI century, that these violin making workshops can trace their early origins, they are devoid of the charm and the magical atmosphere that will characterize them in the future, but have the efficiency and concrete characteristics of all the workshops of the period. Whether it was a shoe, a cloth, a piece of bread or a musical instrument, the product, with its process and its intrinsic value, was what ultimately mattered. The artisan fervor and high quality of the instrument making in Cremona would continue in the coming centuries, until approximately 1770. After this period, these violin making workshops effectively disappear, maybe also due to the fact that, unlike other artisans, the violin makers, were not part of a guild, and the work of the great Masters will be forever lost.
Contrary to what can be instinctively believed, this creates a vacuum but also a spasmodic search for that which has gone missing, but that now acquires significance and value. The artifacts of the great violin making families such as Amati, Bergonzi, Guarneri and especially those of Antonio Stradivari, along with their knowledge, their studies, their research become object of particular interest, professional for the violin makers and musicians and economic and more irreverent for the traders.
> Among this latter group, even Paolo Stradivari, the youngest son of the greatest violin maker of all time, who, unlike his brothers Giacomo Francesco and Omobono Felice, did not follow in his father’s foot steps and upon the death of his brothers, inherits the assets linked to the father’s workshop, and taking advantage of his business acumen, sells it in its entirety. The great majority, approximately ten violins and the all important construction equipment of his father’s workshop is purchased circa 1775 by Count Ignazio Cozio of Salabue, the first greatly recognized connoisseur and collector of musical instruments until this point. The Count, well aware of the extraordinary value of these finds, securely holds the collection together in its entirety, intending not to lose anything of this exceptional treasure while studying and analyzing it ever so passionately. But even in this case, as was the case with Stradivari’s youngest son, in 1920 after his death, his heirs sell the vast collection to the violin maker from Bologna Giuseppe Fiorini who fortunately takes not only great care in the transport and the complete safeguarding of the extraordinary finds from Stradivari’s workshop but also successfully replicates his violin making tools, thus handing down Stradivari’s techniques and methods.