John Marchese
Harper, New York, 2007, English
Nonfiction, Product/Industrial Design
ISBN: 9780060012670

From the Publisher. How does a simple piece of wood become a violin, the king of instruments? Watch and find out as Eugene Drucker, a member of the world–renowned Emerson String Quartet, commissions Sam Zygmuntowicz, a Brooklyn craftsman, to make him a new violin. As he tells this extraordinary story, journalist John Marchese shares the rich lore of this beloved instrument and illuminates an art that has barely changed since the Renaissance.

Marchese takes readers from start to finish as Zygmuntowicz builds the violin, from the first selection of the wood, to the cutting of the back and belly, through the carving of the scroll and the fingerboard, to the placement of the sound peg. Though much of the story takes place in the craftsman's museum–like Brooklyn workshop, there are side trips across the river to the rehearsal rooms of Carnegie Hall and Lincoln center, and across the world. Stops on the itinerary include Cremona, Italy, the magical city where Antonio Stradivari (and a few of his contemporaries) achieved a level of violin–making perfection that has endured for centuries, as well as points in France and Germany integral to the history of the violin.

A stunning work of narrative nonfiction that's also a finely crafted, loving homage to the instrument that most closely approximates the human voice. 

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Richard Sachs

It might be unfair to compare craftsmen at all, much less folks whose eras never overlapped. But Samuel Zygmuntowicz, in this book, is written about as the incarnate of the renowned violin makers of Cremona many centuries ago. It’s refreshing (to me) to read the maker’s thoughts about his studio work, minus all the lore that’s typically attached to a legend who has long since passed. The writer and the violin maker both talk about the craft and the business in very pragmatic terms. Of all my titles, I have spent the most time with this one, hoping to find parallels with the trade I am part of.

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