Arts, society & culture

Music maker

Mass-produced instruments won’t suffice for serious musicians. Leading violinmaker Helen Michetschläger tells Abi Millar about the traditional techniques involved in hand crafting a high-quality violin.

Three hundred years ago, an Italian artisan named Antonio Stradivari was nearing the end of his career. A master luthier (violinmaker), who crafted over a thousand instruments during his lifetime, Stradivari set a new standard for what a violin could sound like. Widely described as ‘bright’, ‘sweet’, or ‘brilliant’, his instruments were more than a match for a new era of concert-going – their dulcet sound carrying easily through a large concert hall.

Little has changed today, in terms of what musicians prize. Many of today’s most renowned violinists still play Stradivarius instruments (‘Strads’), with some reaching as high as $16m at auction. What’s more, in a world of rapidly changing tastes and technologies, the art of violinmaking may appear curiously timeless. Around 160 luthiers have set up shop in Stradivari’s native Cremona, using very similar methods to the old masters.

Helen Michetschläger, one of the UK’s leading violinmakers, has been applying these methods – albeit enhanced with modern technologies – for the last 40 years.

Read the rest of this article in the Sept-Nov 2021 edition of Overseas magazine

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