All Stradivari had to do was to make new fiddles.
Luthier Sam Zygmuntowicz, on the other hand, has to make a new fiddle that will look, feel, and sing like an old one, and not just any old one. His client is Emerson String Quartet violinist Eugene Drucker, a violinist whose very soul has been shaped by his relationship with his Stradivari violin.
Zygmuntowicz's job is considerable: to make a companion violin that will be interchangeable with Drucker's beloved 1686 Strad.
What a set up!
We get to go along for the ride, thanks to author John Marchese, whose book, "The Violin Maker" is out this month. It's one of those books that violinists will love, and also one that helps explain our little obsession to the rest of the world.
Marchese spent a year shadowing Zygmuntowicz as he turned one of his finest pieces of wood into the violin commissioned by Drucker. Marchese manages to both delve deep and to explain it with a simplicity that both violinists and non-violinists will appreciate.
Early on, Marchese discovers that the violin he's following has its roots not only in Zygmuntowicz's shop, but also in an entire world of lutherie and violin lore. His curiosity for these details leads him to Cremona, Italy, Stradivari's hometown, in search of the age-old secrets to violin-making. It leads him to Drucker, who explains what he hears when he plays his Strad. Drucker leads him to the Bach Chaconne, which he listens to until he hears in it "a monument to the human spirit."
Does he find the secret of Stradivari? Does Zygmuntowicz give him his favorite recipe for varnish? Does Drucker fall in love with his new violin and sell his Strad?
I don't think I'll be giving anything away if I tell you what happens:
Zygmuntowicz makes a beautiful, new violin. And we understand the incredible complexity and importance of this art form, and why we still, after 400 years, need the Violin Maker.
Note: Check back tomorrow for my interview with Sam Zygmuntowicz!Tweet
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