You are welcome to skip down to those videos, but for those who are curious about the small city in northern Italy that has meant so much to violinists and string players, here is the little history: Cremona was the birthplace of some of the world's finest violins, carrying names such as Amati, Bergonzi, Guarneri, Ruggeri and Stradivari. But after its glory days of violin-making in the 16th, 17th and early 18th centuries, Cremona's violin-making industry fell into relative obscurity for a long period, going well into the 20th century.
What's notable is the way Cremona is working on a comeback this century -- in a big way. In 2013, the €10 million Museo del Violino opened, giving the city a focal point for its celebrated history with the violin, with high-tech exhibits; displays of important historical instruments by Stradivari, Guarneri and Amati; contemporary instruments; and a recital hall where these instruments are played in special recitals. Cremona currently has two schools for training violin makers: the Academia Cremonensis and the Cremona International Violin Making School. And makers are flocking there -- at this point, there are more than 140 violin-making workshops and hundreds of makers.
So what do the new violins from Cremona sound like?
Last week Beaver demonstrated 30 violins made in Cremona, many carrying the seal of the Cremonese guild, the Consorzio Liutai, which certifies qualifying instruments with the hallmark Cremona Liuteria. That certification ensures certain standards: that instruments are handmade by a trained luthier, made with certain materials, using certain techniques, etc.
Martin Beaver gave an objective demonstration in which he played each instrument for several minutes and made a good-faith effort to get to the tone in each one. I hope you enjoy discovering the sound of these violins and that it widens the scope of possibilities for those looking for a new instrument at a reasonable price. Thanks to Mike Kelley and Metzler violins for providing the raw video.
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