Elisabetta Giordano, the out-of-the-box voice of lutherie

by Viola D'Ambrosio

Elisabetta Giordano is an out-of-the-box voice in modern lutherie. She is a versatile and tenacious artist, as only women who have had to make their way in a world such as lutherie, still predominantly male, can be. She explained to us that when an instrument is built "it is not the measurements that create the harmonies but the harmonies that give life to the proportions and therefore to the measurements".


Your work has always been considered almost exclusively male. Can you tell us how you approached this profession?

Certainly being a woman was a drawback but I see it more as luck in the sense that a woman must always demonstrate more, consequently, if you can achieve important results you certainly have an edge. I believe that one of the prerogatives of women is to aim for quality, not so much quantity. And I'm one of those who focuses a lot on quality.


Cremona was the birthplace of the great masters of violin making, still revered today all over the world. Have you ever felt conditioned by this centuries-old tradition?

There is no doubt that in Cremona there were the greatest luthiers in the world, and this leads to continuous comparisons. We try to get closer to their idea but they were different times and it is very difficult to have the same creativity they once had. In the past, being surrounded by great artists was the norm, so you had to be a perfectionist. Today, however, everything is more standardized and I am very sorry because I need to distinguish myself, not only in strengths but also in defects. There is this idea of ​​building all the instruments with the antique technique and it is a shame because there is the risk of over-homogenizing lutherie.


I know that you are a frequent visitor to the Violin Museum where you can study the great instruments at close quarters. Thanks also to this experience, your way of conceiving lutherie has undergone a turning point. Can you tell us how?

For me it was fundamental and in recent years I have been going every day, sometimes I also brought with me the shapes and my tools. I started a study that has been going on for six years now, because I was dissatisfied with the results I was seeing and I started to craft with the method of the great master luthiers which today is barely used anymore, because the various phases are very long and elaborate. To do this job you also need to be a bit of an artist: you need to know how to draw, you need to know the proportions and harmonies and currently this is a bit set aside. Today I can make two violins a year while before I used to make five or six because the process is much longer and more elaborate.


I know that you are currently studying Guarneri del Gesù’s method.

Yes I am, and in these instruments, which apparently seem defective, there are incredible harmonies and proportions. They can also be crooked and not have perfect measurements but they are masterpieces. While Stradivari was a perfectionist, Guarneri becomes a bit like a Caravaggio, able to represent his daily life, also representing the ugliness of society. The musical instrument as we build it today is simply a sounding instrument while the great masters of the past represented it as if it were a living thing; therefore, a slightly crooked eye did not mean that it was wrong: there was beauty but there was also imprecision.


You are very close to the figure of the Renaissance artist: you love painting, sculpture, art, restoration. How does this versatility influence your work?

As a young girl I had great learning difficulties and probably had a form of dyslexia. Nothing serious, but at the time it was not known. To compensate for what I perceived as a lack, when I was a child I drew a lot. Furthermore, my father has always been an antiques enthusiast, he fixed watches, restored objects, while my mother is a seamstress. I grew up in a family that has always used hands as a tool for fixing and creating objects. I can say that from an inadequacy I built my strength and made my hands the tool of my profession.


At Cremona Musica you are at home, what importance does the fair have for you?

One of the things that satisfies me most is the chance to meet my clients. We are essentially talking about musicians who, on this occasion, come to visit me. They often bring other friends and it becomes a way to consolidate existing relationships and establish new ones. I confess I am a little angry with Cremona and some Cremonese luthiers who over the years have boycotted the exhibition with the excuse of the costs. Mondomusica is an important event for the city and we should all play as a team.