Trabucchi: Technology? The luthier’s hand is irreplaceable

For more than 25 years the luthier Stefano Trabucchi has worked in his workshop in the heart of Cremona, inspired by Stradivari’s tradition. We interviewed him to talk about the importance of living in Cremona and of taking part in Cremona Musica, where Trabucchi is a regular fixture, as well as the role of technology in lutherie and the maintenance of music instruments.

You are one of the leading exponents of the great violin-making school of Cremona, can you tell us which features of this tradition we can find in your production?
I take inspiration from the classic models and follow their steps, trying to continue the tradition in my personal way. This tradition is almost legendary for luthiers and violinists, as we can see also from the market of Cremona violins.

You worked with some of the greatest violinists, for whom you built and restored instruments. How does the personal relationship affect your work?
To get the most from the instrument it is very important to try to get along with the artist. We test it together, and sometimes the violinist starts from the basis of the project, picking the type of wood personally according to its aesthetic and acoustic features and then following the rest of the creation.

Can you tell us the strangest requests you had from the artists?
Working with musicians is always very challenging, because sometimes they have some singular requests. For instance they sometimes want the sonority of one string to prevail over the others, or want the soul moved, the setting of the bridge or the nut changed… but after all they are reasonable requests and we must try to satisfy them.

Is thereone innovation you are particularly proud of?
Recently I produced a series of decorated violins, including the one for the King of Thailand Rama IX, one with the Italian emblem and one with the emblem of the City of Cremona. It is a particular production taking inspiration from the past centuries, when noble families wanted their emblems on the instruments. I wanted to revive this tradition with Indian ink, paints, gold and silver leaves. The outcome is really particular and appealing.

What is your opinion on the latest technologies and software for luthiers?
I do not use them. Lutherie is a really traditional field and I am too. It is ok to use sound comparison software to study the instrument, but I think that the experience of a luthier that has been doing this job for decades is more important. The hand of the luthier is incomparable.

What is your advice for violinists that want to maintain their instruments perfectly?
I always say there are few small adjustments that are needed. With a common cotton cloth you can easily clean it from the pitch and rosin of the bow. You must also be sure the bridge is not bending on the fingerboard, with a simple gesture. There are no other adjustments needed, besides cleaning it from sweat.

You have attended Cremona Musica for many years: what does this Fair represent for you and what opportunities does it offer for Cremona luthiers?
The next should be my 20th participation. I think this is a great opportunity for Cremona luthiers: local luthiers should be a little more proud of taking part in this exhibition, because it has an International appeal and the presence of local luthiers enriches it. In the last years the Chamber of Commerce also gave us some aid. I like to be here to let musicians try my instruments and to compare myself with colleagues. It is a varied and pleasant environment.

This year Cremona Musica confirmed the presence of its International Media Lounge, with more than 30 journalists from all around the world. Do you have a message about the Cremona tradition for them?

Cremona is considered the capital of lutherie, andthis is true. The presence of more than 150 workshops in town may be a problem for the competition, but it is a key factor to keep the quality of the local instrument always very high. It is a something unique in the world. If journalists want to discover the world of lutherie they must visit Cremona, interviewing luthiers, operators and also the common people.