9th out of 133 books — 59 voters
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The Violin Maker: Finding a Centuries-Old Tradition in a Brooklyn Workshop
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 ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published March 27th 2007 by Harper
(first published January 1st 2007)
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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 ...more
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 chronicli ...more
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 ...more
Dec 28, 2011 LadyHeather rated it it was amazing · review of another edition
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 S ...more
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.
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.
Jun 13, 2008 Carissa rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Radiohead fans and classical music lovers
Recommended to Carissa by: the library
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 ...more
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 ...more
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, whi ...more
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 viol ...more
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 ...more
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.
Nov 05, 2015 BrocheAroe rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Shane
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.
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.
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.
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.