Read The Violin Maker: Finding a Centuries-Old Tradition in a Brooklyn Workshop by John Marchese Online


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 anHow 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....

Title : The Violin Maker: Finding a Centuries-Old Tradition in a Brooklyn Workshop
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780060012670
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 240 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Violin Maker: Finding a Centuries-Old Tradition in a Brooklyn Workshop Reviews

  • Nooilforpacifists
    2019-05-15 18:30

    Since Stradivarius and Guarneri died in the early 18th Century, the world has been frustrated: "I wish Strad had left us a little book or something." He didn't, and John Marchese (whose avocation is jazz trumpet), does what dozens have done before him: try to find the secret. He describes with amusement some quack violin builders' (luthiers) claims to have learned the mystery of Strad, or to have uncovered a long buried notebook. But no such thing exists, and no one knows why, not too long after the instrument was invented, three or four craftsman in Cremona, Italy in the late 17th-early 18th Century produced the best violins (cellos too) ever made.Of course, violin making didn't end in 1750. But this book isn't just about research and the obligatory trip to the Po Valley. Rather, the author follows the making of a modern violin based on older models for Gene Drucker, a member of the (former) Emerson Quartet. This is a new approach, and Brooklyn's Sam Zygmuntowicz is the top of that trade. It's an interesting gambit, but ultimately unsuccessful. Readers will learn more about string instrument construction. Yet, for one thing, Sam and others admit most of a luthier's work is ordinary carpentry: "All we really do is make boxes. The thing is, they're magical boxes." And that's the second problem: sound isn't just indescribable, it's personal. The finest Strads and Guarneis are worth up to about $5 million. Sam charges under $100,000 for an instrument that attempts to combine the best features of those 250 year-old boxes. And modern violins aren't so prone to abrupt changes in tone corresponding to heat and humidity--picture, for example, successive concerts in Helsinki and Houston. Tremendous advantages, in theory.The other three members of the Emerson Quartet like Sam's creations better than their prior instrument (though none previously were playing a Strad). They also liked the new one created for Drucker. No professional musician could tell the difference between Drucker's Strad and his new instrument in concert or recording--Drucker used both when the Quartet overdubbed itself to record Mendelssohn's Octet. But what matters is what a violinist "hears beneath his ear." Sound is so personal that the writing is incidental to the idiosyncratic decisions of the player. There's a little, but not much, of a book in that.

  • Megan
    2019-04-22 23:27

    I don't happen to be any sort of music expert. I listen to classical music when I work. I took piano lessons for 13 years and still have trouble sight-reading. I played the trumpet for almost as long and was just kind of okay. I took blues guitar lessons and promptly forgot everything I ever learned. But I love music nonetheless, and especially the violin. And, I love stories of quiet, passionate people making beautiful things. This is both a history of violin-making (Stradivari) and a chronicling of a new violin being made by one of America's foremost artisans for one of America's greatest violinists. It's fascinating, inspiring, obsessed, funny, detailed, kind...all the things a good history should be. I went the library afterward and checked out too many CDs and wasn't sorry. I pretended I could hear the nuance, the years of practice, the love and history in the instruments. Really, it just helped me pay more attention, be more aware of the great gift that music is--and the great gift it is that we have people willing to spend their lifetimes perfecting both making and playing instruments.

  • Emily
    2019-05-11 19:23

    wonderful! this reads like a novel while also going into great detail about violin making and the legends/history of Stradivari. Slightly unsure if non-violinists would enjoy it quite as much, as my violinist mother lent it to me, but I think many would at least enjoy it!

  • Charles
    2019-05-21 17:26

    This is a difficult book to rate. I enjoyed it very much because-I love violins,-I love the Emerson Quartet,-I know of no other book quite like this, and-I like when knowledgable people who can perform Bach capably refer to their $25,000 instruments as "fiddles"For all these reasons, I'm tempted to give the book four or five stars, but it just doesn't seem like that kind of book. I think the story is made better by the fact that the author is a trumpet player with very little prior knowledge of stringed instruments. He reveals details as he learns them, giving the reader a solid overview of what goes into making the instruments, but falling far short of any actual instruction. Because he doesn't get bogged down in those details, he keeps things moving and creates a fairly compelling narrative. However, there were no moments when a reader is likely to pause and clasp the book to his/her chest in wonder, or to interrupt the spouse to read a particularly moving passage. In the end, it comes off as more of a satisfying long-form article than what I would rate as a 5-star work of nonfiction. Also, the book itself was an odd size. Tall and slender like those soft cover city guides I used to get before the days of Google, TripAdvisor, Yelp and the like. But this one was hardcover, and It felt like it needed more space for the binding.

  • KennyO
    2019-05-08 00:38

    I'd recently read Clapton's Guitar (Allen St. John, Free Press) and I later read a mention of John Marchese's The Violin Maker in an online discussion of luthierie. The notion of Old World/New World kinship intrigued me, so I bought the book, poured some wine and settled in with my hopes high. Reading The Violin Maker was as pleasant a journey as I've made through a book. To my mind there is enough technical enlightenment (materials and techniques), enough history (a visit to Cremona, Italy, the home of Stradavari, Amati and Guarneri) and enough character study (the luthier and his clients) here and all are in a satisfying balance. The Violin Maker is written for an interested general audience that has a modicum of knowledge about musical instruments although people with deeper knowledge are quite likely to enjoy it as we'll. Marchese's descriptions are complete, clear and presented without the author intruding on his story. Curiously, I have a feeling that I've come to know the violin maker's work without getting to know the man but the feeling is not discomfiting. Upon closing the cover at the end I felt as if I'd finished a conversation with an intelligent and respected friend and I came away satisfied. Recommended!

  • Arda
    2019-05-12 22:36

    Loved the book from the start! It was engaging and easy to read. It grabbed me and I would have finished it in one day (if I didn't had to sleep and/or work ;) ). John Marchese combines historical facts about violin making and violin makers with his own observations and feelings about his journey into the violin building world and tales about/from Sam Zygmuntowicz (a renowned Brooklyn violin-maker) and Gene Drucker (violinist of the Emerson Quartet who plays a Stradivarius and who commissioned Sam to build him a Zygmuntowicz violin). This might sound like a lot of different objectives but for me it worked well in this book and made it a fast past, interesting read!Some photographs would be a great addition to this book. It was fortunate I recently took a good look at this photo documentation of building a cello, which made the parts about the building process come alive for me.

  • Nemanja
    2019-04-25 20:40

    A short, level-headed introduction to the world of violin-making. If you're already familiar with the matter, you might not get much out of this book, as the technical information is quite basic, and anecdotes and trivia that can be found on various online forums are much more amusing. However, I appreciate the author's effort to dispel some prevailing myths, mystifications, and outright lies, and it's certainly worth a read if you haven't come across the subject in the past.

  • Eugenea Pollock
    2019-04-25 22:28

    Following the process of making a fine violin was fascinating, and this craftsman is superb. The identity of two of his customers/clients attests to that fact: Joshua Bell and Yo-Yo Ma. Read this and get as close to Stradivarius as possible.

  • David
    2019-05-14 21:28

    Beautiful story and well done!

  • Reagan Brasch
    2019-05-11 21:43

    This book made me nostalgic for this book that I read when I was young called the Violin Hunter. I thought it was great to follow the violin making process and get a violin history lesson at the same time! Now I want to get recordings of the Emerson Quartet to hear the violin that was center stage in the story.

  • Elizabeth Desole
    2019-05-09 20:31

    It's a bit obsessive but in a way that I love. This book profiles a highly respected modern violin maker ( in my neighborhood no less). It simultaneously described the obsessiveness of the author and his subject that I found very engaging. I'm not at all interested in Stradivarius violins but the writing was engaging and I do enjoy peering into another's mind.

  • Richard Pearson
    2019-04-25 17:28

    Enjoyable readNot that I play violin or even new about this deep topic. I have a music background and this was an enjoyable read.

  • Len Knighton
    2019-05-05 19:36

    THE VIOLIN MAKER may not sound like a particularly exciting book, but as one who has been involved with music in one way or another for more than fifty years, it caught my attention and imagination. I am in constant awe of those who are among the best at what they do and this book features a number of “the best” including two men who have been dead for over two hundred years. I can tell you that I will never watch a strings player again without thinking of his musical talent and the work and skill and dedication of the person who made his instrument. The reader is introduced to the world of Stradivarius, considered the greatest luthier (maker of violins) the world has ever seen. We learn the step by step process of making a violin. We learn the variety of adjectives used to describe the sound that comes from a violin, sounds that the average listener, I dare say, would not be able to distinguish. The book documents a project, the making of a violin for one musician, one of the best, but, in the end, only that musician can say whether the new instrument is right for him. I prefer short chapters but most of the chapters in this book were a little too long for me and oddly, my Kindle did not show chapter breaks in the book line so I didn’t know how long I had to read to finish a chapter. Nevertheless, this is a book I thoroughly enjoyed and would highly recommend, especially for musicians and/or lovers of music.

  • Carissa
    2019-05-04 00:22

    Having spent lots of time hanging out with my boyfriend in his attic woodworking shop, I enjoyed this reflective exploration of what it means to make a "perfect" violin from scratch. The author spends months following a Brooklyn woodworker as he fulfills a commission to make a violin for Gene Drucker of the Emerson Quartet. Always friendly and never technical, the book affectionately describes all the decisions that go into making a great violin -- selecting the perfect block of wood, aging the wood, cutting, varnishing, etc. Along the way, there's a side trip to Cremona, Italy, ancestral home of master violin maker Stradivari, and a close encounter with Bach's Chaconne (which I am now very interested in getting to know better).Ultimately the book serves as a love letter to beautiful music and to the craftsmen that pour their hearts into creating remarkable musical instruments.

  • Don
    2019-05-09 18:48

    Marchese chronicles the crafting of a new instrument by renowned Brooklyn violin-maker Sam Zygmuntowicz, under commission for Emerson Quartet violinist Eugene Drucker (who plays a Stradivarius, and is extremely sensitive to the inexpressible sonic qualities of the box of wood under his chin). The author travels to Stradivari’s hometown of Cremona (where a modern revival of violin-making has emerged), spends many hours observing the increasingly detailed work at Zygmuntowicz’s studio, and attends a conference of violin-makers (where discussions run the gamut from the arcane to the absurd). In the end, many questions are raised about whether or not new violins sound as good as those made by the old masters.

  • Michelle
    2019-05-09 16:29

    Another of my favorite genre, obsessively niche nonfiction. It tells the story of contemporary luthier (violin maker) Sam Zygmuntowicz in an industry that so venerates the old. Marchese (a musician himself -- trumpetist) paints a vibrant picture of a maker of new violins -- one of the first to make a modern violin rivalling the old Italians. The book follows Zygmuntowicz during the intensely personal and meticulous process of designing and building a violin commissioned by a noted violinist, while at the same time exploring the mystique of old violins.Bonus: Zygmuntowicz's studio is apparently just down the street from my current apartment! It's completely nondescript.

  • Moe
    2019-05-20 20:49

    As a violinist I found this book inspiring, uplifting and informative. John Marchese gives a window into a world few, even professional performers ever see, the workshop of a world class luthier. There has been a renaissance in violn making in recent years and one of those leading the way is American luthier Samuel Zygmuntowicz.Charged with the task of creating a violin worthy of internationally acclaimed violinist Eugene Drucker, Zygmuntowicz draws upon a lifetime of study and 300 years of violin making history to create the "perfect" violin. Marchese chronicles this process expertly his writing in engaging and vivid it flowed from beginning to end.

  • Bonnie
    2019-05-21 18:31

    An interesting journey following the crafting of a custom violin for Eugene Drucker (Emerson Quartet. Also gives some insights to the history of the Luthier craft. The process is beautiful, but I couldn't help feeling that Marchese had an agenda (to write a book) and wasn't as personally interested in the art. Of course, he's also a trumpet player - and he didn't even try playing a violin instrument, which would have given him more insights into the strings world. Worth a read, but I doubt I'll re-read it.

  • Ronan O'Driscoll
    2019-04-22 17:34

    Great book. Part practical account of a master fiddle-maker at work. Part travelogue (liked the Cremona chapter). Part insightful documentary on the rarefied world of classical musical instrument production. Part biography of the mysterious Stradivari himself. All written with a light touch. I sensed Sam Zygmuntowicz (the maker) was a little exasperated at times with the author but that shows how well he characterized his subject. Really enjoyed it.

  • Jimt43
    2019-04-23 22:28

    Interesting from a 'how violins are made' perspective. Less interesting and compelling from the story telling angle. The author couldn't decide if he was telling a story or chronically history. I would have preferred the former. With all the technical details of violins and violin making I would preferred a bundle more illustrations. A map of Italy might have been nice also. Overall, though I am glad I read it.

  • Judy E. Barksdale
    2019-05-09 17:50

    Observations at a craftsman's elbow.Easily accessible read into the craftsmanship of building a violin. Without jeopardizing the trade secrets of Sam, it would have been great to have some pictures or a link to an online video of the process. I am now going to look inside my violin and as a novice will be more observant of the sound under the ear.

  • BrocheAroe
    2019-04-26 16:25

    This book is a wonderful story about the art form of violin making. Though the writing itself often seems like it has two authors - the lyrical dreamer sometimes gets overwritten by the research historian - the story is a delightful mix of an ancient craft practiced in a modern era. If you have an ounce of musical interest, this book is a fascinating read.

  • Carlos Kemeny
    2019-05-06 16:26

    As a violinist, I appreciated the journalistic approach of Marchese. While the reporting of the violin making process is a little slow at times, the author does a great job at combining historical fact with the creation of a new instrument. I would certainly recommend this book to violinists and classical music lovers.

  • Alan
    2019-05-10 19:29

    Non-fiction story about violin making and violin makers. Marchese, who is a trombonist, became fascinated with the violin and arranged to spend time with a violin maker who was beginning a new project making a modern violin copied after the style of Guarneri for Emerson Quartet violinist Eugene Drucker. Well worth reading if you are a string player or are just interested.

  • Therese
    2019-04-24 17:41

    As a violinist I loved the story of the author's journey into the world of the violin maker Samual Zygmuntowicz who made a violin for Eugene Drucker of the Emerson String Quartet. Its very down to earth and explains clearly many things that were a mystery to me in the past.

  • Caroline Stagg
    2019-04-29 18:22

    Enjoyed reading, esp. Since i made a dulcimer, and could hear the wood and smell the wood. I liked the was the new old master napped in the drying room, and had a polar bear blanket. Smooth interesting musical reading

  • Marion
    2019-05-18 21:39

    Author's adventure of spending time with Sam Zygmuntowicz while he is creating a violin for Eugene Drucker of the Emerson String Quartet. Gives a not often seen side of musicians and others in the field. One will have a different view of blocks of wood after reading this.

  • Melanie Garrett
    2019-05-06 22:35

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, given my obsession with all things violin, I thoroughly enjoyed this little gem of a book. It rips along like a novel, but is full of wisdom on all manner of creative angst.

  • Lora
    2019-05-19 22:45

    Marchese's charming narrative of violin-making and its history reminded me of the movie The Red Violin. Even though I don't play, I found myself turning these pages obsessively. It's a gem of a book.

  • Holly
    2019-05-11 16:42

    good read