PHILOSOPHYHistorically, a Luthier’s job was to both make and repair instruments.
Great masters of the 17th, 18th and even 19th centuries often simply replaced the damaged parts of an instrument with new ones.
Today our view on the preservation of these beautiful instruments has changed significantly.
So too, have the demands placed on musicians and their instruments – and, consequently, on the luthiers who work with antique violins, violas and cellos.
For the musician, stringed instruments are tools. Yet these tools, which are often in daily use, may be up to 500 years old.
Working in the contemporary music industry places rigorous and diverse demands on musicians and their instruments.
Concert touring, for instance, with its dramatic climate changes, large concert halls and venues, and extensive repertoires, presents myriad problems.
This new reality poses new challenges and demands new solutions.
Accordingly, a successful restorer observes an instrument over time, through the changing seasons (and concert tours).
Along the way, they will notice differences in conditions and sound, and make decisions regarding repairs where and when necessary – for example determining if there is a need for intervention, or simply for the instrument be left to ‘acclimatise’.
A restorer will, of course, also undertake extensive restorations where necessary.
Instruments undergo many changes during their lifetime; heavy use, accidents and (all too often) failed attempts at improvement may compromise their stability, appearance, sound or tonal quality.
The first task therefore is to establish whether there is a genuine need for restoration.
Questions include whether the instrument is stable, and sounds as it should. Or whether there are aesthetic issues that detract from its appearance.
Other considerations include the ultimate objective of the restoration: how the instrument will be used in future: whether it will be played, or will form part of a museum or private collection.
If the decision to restore the instrument is taken, the restorer is obliged to respect the intention and style of its maker, and to preserve as much of the original material as possible.
Knowledge of violin making schools, styles and methods is essential.
If the instrument is to be played, it should be restored to a playing condition that enables the musician to express their own sound.
Finally, the restorer will strive always to preserve the instrument as an ‘art object’ in its own right – for the generations of musicians, luthiers and audiences to come.