Prof. Marco Malagodi is going to explain some of the secrets that science unvealed about the construction of stringed instruments….
The collections of the Violin Museum
The Antonio Stradivari Violin Museum foundation was born in 2013 and represents an essential step for the creation of the integrated cultural system that today characterises so deeply the city. It collects the Stradivarian objects, the recreation of a luthier workshop and above all two priceless collections: the Treasury and Friends of Stradivari, besides a collection focused on the expression of the world’s best contemporary lutherie.
The Stradivarian relics
These are tools, wooden forms, paper models for violas, violins, cellos, harps, lutes and stringed instruments that Antonio Stradivari generally used to realize instruments in his workshop: a unique collection in the world through which it is possible to retrace the technical details of making bowed string instruments according to the genius of the great master.
After his death, all the material – almost 1.300 pieces – was sold to private owners and passed from hand to hand until the last owner, the luthier Giuseppe Fiorini, who donated the whole collection to the city of Cremona, with the restriction that the relics were exposed and the city established a school of lutherie.
Presently the relics are subject matter of in-depth studies: during the various passages, indeed, the owners have introduced changes to both paper and wooden relics. They are mainly writings, drawings or annotations, that today the scholars are studying in order to date them and consequently ascribe them definitely. The investigations are led according to two approaches: a palaeographical one and a diagnostic and scientific one, both entrusted to the university of Pavia.
The first one, led by the Department of Musicology and Cultural Heritage, consists of the comparative study of some writings definitely ascribed to Stradivari with others of doubtful ascription. The second one, conversely carried out by the laboratory of non-invasive diagnostic investigation, analyses chemically inks, in particular the presence of iron, copper and zinc: the relationships between these elements allow, indeed, to characterize different inks and compare them with the results of the palaeographical study.
The luthier workshop
The luthier workshop is a curious and somehow magic place, where you can be attracted by skilful and wise gestures of artisans that, today as in the past, can draw from wood and paints a sweet and melodious sound like the human voice. The workshop is an essential stage of the museum tour that holds a very precious cultural value.
The collection, exposed in a suggestive room in the core of the museum, collects the 12 most significant instruments of the great Cremona school of lutherie, from the first half of the XVI century to the first half of the XVIII century. The oldest one is Carlo IX by Andrea Amati of 1566, the most recent is the violin by Simone Fernando Sacconi of 1941. Thanks to the contribution of the collection of the Municipality of Cremona and the Centre of Musicology Walter Stauffer, the museum exposes the highest and most complete evidence of bowed string instruments of the school of Cremona, like no one else in Europe.
Friends of Stradivari
This is an international network between those possessing, using or holding masterpieces of the great masters of Cremona. Within the framework of this program it was promoted the permanent exhibition inside the museum of important instruments of the great masters of Cremona, belonging to public and private collections of the whole world: the privilege to possess an artwork finds its best use in the ethical choice of sharing. In this way, masterpieces usually not available for the public can be today admired, studied and above all listened to; often unpublished competence and information can be exchanged and diffused by incentivizing new chances of knowledge and meeting.
Permanent collection of contemporary lutherie
It collects the instruments awarded with a gold medal at the Triennial International Contest of Stringed Instruments “Antonio Stradivari”. Established in 1976, the contest is so important to be considered the lutherie Olympic games. Only the professional luthiers for the categories violin, viola, cello and double bass can participate, and the works are evaluated by a jury composed of musicians and luthiers selected among the best and most famous of the world. The craft qualities and the acoustic performance of instruments are evaluated and the gold medal is awarded only to models excelling in both sections.
The work of the best master luthiers of today expresses a continued research of stylistic values and constructive solutions, underlines the modernity of the school of Cremona and demonstrates the eclectic liveliness of a more and more global art.