Celebrating 30 years of lutherie with Stefano Trabucchi

by Viola D'Ambrosio

In 2022 the Cremonese luthier Stefano Trabucchi, a regular guest at Cremona Musica, is celebrating his 30th year of business. For this special occasion, he is working on a particular instrument, devoted to Italy. While waiting to meet him at Cremona Musica, we talked with him to know something more about his work.


You started studying violin at the age of 8: does this knowledge of the instrument influence your approach to lutherie?

Of course, it is an additional perspective, both when designing the violin and when testing it, since there is a musical approach that adds to the handcrafted aspect. Many of my colleagues come to me to let me try their instruments.


What is there behind the design of a string instrument?

The process starts with the study of the model on which you want to craft the instrument, the choice of wood is fundamental, and then step by step, with 30 years of experience in my workshop, you reach the final outcome. The most satisfying part is when you test it. Then you see if you reached the sound goal you had set, and if the instrument lives up to expectations.


You are one of the most renowned representatives of the Cremonese school. Have you ever felt the weight of this heritage?

Of course, when you travel around the world you have the spotlight on you since Cremona has the responsibility to carry on a tradition and quality of a very high level. However, this stimulates in me an ever greater commitment and, despite the decades of activity, I think it is very important not to rest on one’s laurels. My profession requires me to grow continuously, where the pursuit of quality is a constant.


Stradivari’s instruments are considered to be perfect and unreachable. Is this still true?

It is difficult to talk about the sound features of instruments because it is very personal. We need to remember that many Stradivarius have been completely modified over the years to adapt them to the violin techniques of the time in which they were played, so the completely original ones are not more than five. Outside they are the same, but the inner part has been transformed. Some Stradivarius play very well, others a little less well, just as all other ancient instruments.  


Can tradition and innovation coexist? What is their meeting point?

Our work is very traditional, and violins have a 5-century tradition than cannot be changed. Luthiers follow what they learned and what the great luthiers of the past handed down to us. Innovation is linked to scientific studies that might help us.


Speaking of innovation, you recently had the opportunity to do tomography on one of your violins. Can you explain to us what it is and what could be the repercussions on the study of ancient instruments?

I had the opportunity to work with the AQM Tomography Center near Brescia, where I had one of my instruments examined. Tomography is very important in the study of ancient instruments because it is possible to see the inside of the instruments, the various restorations, the possible presence of woodworms, the thicknesses, the measurements and everything that is difficult to do manually. This innovative technique processes and returns 3D images with which it is possible to reconstruct the history and state of conservation of an instrument.


This year you are celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of your activity: any particular projects?

Starting from the twentieth year of activity, every five years I propose a series of particular instruments, where in the upper part of the back, the nocetta, I insert a small gold jewel with my initials. This year I dedicated it to Italy: it is a jewel that has my initial in the center, on the left side there are emeralds and on the right side there are rubies, like the Italian flag.


How important is Cremona Musica for your business?

It is very important because, first of all, it is the fair of our city; it is a rewarding fair and has always attracted a lot of customers, including international ones. With Covid there was a setback in the sector but I think this year will be a great edition. I think this also because the Frankfurt fair, which is usually held in spring, was not held and the people coming mainly from the United States and Asia will all converge in Cremona. There will be a great movement and it will be a great opportunity for all participants. I have always encouraged my colleagues to participate in the fair because it is an important opportunity to support our city and to establish professional relationships.