Preserving the culture of lutherie, with Lorenzo Frignani

by Salvatore Sclafani

 

The luthier Lorenzo Frignani has been dealing with crafting and restoring stringed instruments (both bowed and plucked) for more than 30 years. In the last four years, he has been president of the ALI, the association of Italian luthiers, founded in Cremona in 1980. We interviewed him to talk about his professional activity and his work in events devoted to the culture of lutherie.

 

The restoration and the conservation of instruments are a big part of your work. Which responsibilities does it impose?

I am a crafter of instruments, so for me the restoring is oriented to the conservation of the instrument for future generations, trying to preserve the original aspect of the instrument. My work is led by the idea of carefully transmitting the culture of lutherie, without altering the features of the instruments I deal with.

These are some of the aspects of my work. I also collect ancient and rare instruments. I am really into the historiographic aspects of these instruments, also without considering the current consumerist attitude: for me, having access to these treasures does not have a commercial implication; I have kept almost all the instruments I have collected over the years. Some of them (about twenty) will be then added to the collection of the Civic Museum of Modena.

 

Do you have any particular story about your career?

I have an interesting story about the Stradivari “Sabionari” guitar, now preserved at the Museum of the Violin in Cremona. After a large restoration made in France, in which the guitar was partly rebuilt, there was a big problem during the recording of an album concerning the gluing of the bridge, which came unstuck and tore away  part of the board. I already knew the guitar, and I knew who had made the first intervention, Giuseppe Marconcini from Ferrara, a luthier whom, like others, I have helped to make known, thanks to my constant investigations on the historiographical aspects of musical instruments. The owner contacted me in an emergency: whoever had taken care of the previous restoration was not available at that time and I was therefore asked to find a suitable solution for the precious and rare instrument.   

 

You are often invited and consulted during musical instrument exhibitions. What do these events mean for your job?

I am not an organizer, but I am often contacted by experts, maestri and enthusiasts for the preparation of cultural initiatives. Thus, I was invited to Cremona Musica, an event that is also extensively devoted to the dissemination of knowledge, and not only to the commercial aspects of lutherie. Being an active part in these shows and exhibitions is one of my complementary interests, to which I gladly dedicate myself. I am very interested in the growth of the Italian lutherie sector and, with this spirit, I have also dedicated myself to research, writing articles on the subject and related publishing.

 

In which role will you be present at Cremona Musica?

For some years I have been invited to exhibitions and debates, which constitute a significant part of the rich and heterogeneus programming of a fair capable of attracting an important and passionate public, and of putting them in direct contact with culture. I was also very happy to have helped bring the A.L.I. back to Cremona Musica in 2021, after many years. A significant comeback, especially for the commercial promotion of our members.

Cremona Musica is an extremely important event and it is essential, in my opinion, to contribute to its success in a proactive and participatory way, with particular attention to the interests of enthusiasts, luthiers and performers. And I am pleased to do my part in creating positive and fruitful situations, as in the case of the collection of historical guitars; moreover, since last year we have been focusing in particular on the historical evolution of the mandolin. In the future, working on stringed instrument exhibitions would also be an interesting prospect.

 

What does Cremona Musica represent for you?

Certainly, for lutherie, one of the most important showcases at an international level. A fair like Cremona Musica offers quality presentations, and is committed to enhancing the characteristics and potential of Italian products. From the beginning, it has remained the reference for Italian violin making. I am pleased to note that Italian plucked lutherie is also beginning to get more space in the fair, and is increasingly present and exhibited in the world.

 

What is the direction of contemporary lutherie in Italy?

It depends on the area: the classical lutherie of bowed instruments is quite consolidated; plucked instruments, on the other hand, are still experiencing an experimental phase, in an evolutionary dynamic. A priority for all of our lutherie is the consolidation of identity. Italian lutherie can count on an important history and tradition: Italian luthiers have been inspirational throughout the world, defining certain cornerstones of the craft that are still valid today. In this sense, tradition is fundamental: it is an essential basis for any future evolution. We must be aware of where we come from and we must be careful not to follow trends that, perhaps, make it easier to sell an instrument but do not take into account other important identity factors. It is our responsibility to preserve the Italian identity of our fine lutherie.