The Violin Master's Monologue

After all, we live in a strange time, a strange time, above all, in a kind of rampant immorality. If one of our great predecessors had asked me to characterize these times, I would have answered as follows. Today, any kid with a knack for hoof tapping on a soccer ball is rewarded ten times more each year than the Nobel Prize in Physics. We are talking about a prize behind which stands the grandiose work of a lifetime of a great scientist. And this is not just a financial bottom line - it is blatant evidence of the total destruction of society's institutions of morality and honor. All of us are witnesses to, and sometimes active participants in, the collapse of the fundamental humanitarian norms of civilized society. We do not even want to talk about the imminent apocalyptic consequences of this savage coven.

My profession is that of violin-maker. For more than thirty years I have been restoring and creating new bowed musical instruments. The number of representatives of the noble violin family made by me has long ago passed three hundred. They wander all over the world and, I hope, give a lot of pleasure to their owners, along with countless listeners. My track record allows me to judge the state of musical culture quite expertly.

It is by no means my intention to expand on the apparent decline in musical morals and the devaluation of the criteria of contemporary performing excellence. Which, of course, has its place. However, I do not think it possible for me to remain silent about the disturbing trends that manifest themselves in the community of indefatigable workers in my restless workshop. I am referring to the increasing attempts to discredit the unsurpassed achievements of the violin masters of the classical Italian period.

The instrumental masterpieces created by the efforts of the great Italians are essentially a blatant reproach, the greatest irritant to all subsequent generations of masters. And very often, instead of the deepest appreciation and appeal to their own perfection, Italian monuments evoke in today's coryphaei of the violin craft, reactions not of the noblest kind. We have forgotten how to appreciate with dignity, we are unwilling to pay tribute to the true sons of valor who have bestowed the world with the bounty of their talent.

The current state of affairs in the community of violin makers is such that about half of my colleagues, puffing their cheeks, shamelessly declare that they create exclusively in the context of the technology of the old Italian masters. And there seems to be nothing wrong with that. But for some reason they never bother to explain themselves to the musical public - and in what, in fact, is this mysterious Italianity of theirs expressed?

And how, for example, does it differ from German technology?

With the same, if not with greater success, such miracle-workers can declare themselves aliens, aliens from the constellation of Alpha Centauri. How do you want to treat such fabrications? In general I want to see on the stage an acknowledged virtuoso, from Perelman or Zukerman cohort, pleasing enthusiastic public with his performance on a modern "balalaika".

By the way, the other half of the homegrown grief-strativists hold a completely different point of view. These guys claim with amazing serenity that there are no great secrets in the technology of the old Italian masters at all. And the remarkable concert properties of the Italian monuments that have come down to us are due to the time factor, that is, time has influenced them in such a way that they have become masterpieces. Such masters are seriously convinced that their own instruments, in a couple or three centuries, will sound no weaker than Paganini's notorious "Cannon". The indestructibility of this sweetheart position is reliably protected by a deferred payment plan. Indeed, try to disprove such a beauty, prove that his brainchild will not pull a stunt in three hundred years and will not wipe the snot off the arrogant Italians.

Among all kinds of nonsense, endlessly discussed by modern violin masters, the most honorable place is taken by the story about so-called "whistle-blowing experiments". This is when a cheerful company gathers together, and among the incognito listened to new-made instruments, a real Stradivarius is put up. And there you have it: "Eureka!" - the famous Italian, to my shame, takes a humiliating last place. I do not judge what is more in such comedies - naivety or ignorance, but all together testifies to the greatest dullness of many representatives of the motley violinist camp. In this regard, I find it necessary to explain to my colleagues, that is, violinists, what the classical Italian violin is and what the gulf is between it and, how should I put it more delicately, their own creations.

For the first time in my life I heard an authentic Italian violin, moreover a Stradivarius, about forty years ago. It happened in the city of Lugansk. A famous Georgian violinist Nani Yashvili came to our philharmonic society with a concert. I, of course, can not remember, and then could not grasp all the subtleties of sound of her outstanding instrument, but forever remained in the memory of incomparable feeling of musical obsession. The illusion arose as if the presence of the violin sound in the auditorium had nothing to do with the instrument playing on stage. This sound existed as if by itself, it completely dominated, dominated over the audience, and I could not believe that the source of this musical richness was a small violin in the hands of a performing artist. Later in my life there would be many more shocks from dealing with Italian instruments, but that first impression was forever imprinted as an unsurpassed perfection of the highest order.

I suppose there is no need to list once again all the enthusiastic epithets that experts use to describe the sound quality of a good-quality, well-preserved "Italian". But I think it is important to talk about the extremely complicated, almost conjugal relationship between a true musician and a full-blooded Italian violin, without which it is impossible to understand the deep essence of these great works of human hands.

The fact is that playing an authentic Italian violin is not easy; it is an art that requires thoughtful and persistent study. A person who has never played an Italian instrument is usually perplexed the first time he touches it. He simply refuses to believe that one of the wonders of the world is in his hands. This is due to the fact that the full voice of the Italian violin requires a special manner of playing, a very specific work with the bow, which does not allow for any violence on the instrument. A performer accustomed to extracting sound from a non-Italian violin inevitably encounters a number of significant technical difficulties, which will require a lot of effort and time to overcome. Incidentally, it is this very reason that leads to the paradoxes that naïve masters love so much about "whistle-blowing auditions. After all, young musicians, most often students, who have never even held a decent violin, are involved in this sacred activity. It's like putting Seliphan, a horseman in Chichikov's stable, behind the wheel of a 600 Mercedes.

If you ask me what the main advantage of the old Italian violin is, what distinguishes it from all other geographical origins, I will answer without the slightest hesitation. The main advantage of a well-preserved instrument of noble Italian blood is the inexhaustibility of its musical fund. An Italian is always ready to respond, to brilliantly reproduce any of your emotional messages. Any other violin, even a very decent non-Italian one, bears the unavoidable stamp of primordial staticity. That's exactly what it is and no other. The Italian instrument is always ready to be anything, as varied as the performer's talent and skill allow. No matter how much the musician grows, no matter how much he develops, the Italian will always be at his skill level, always able to reproduce the most rapturous, the most quivering nuances of the confessional soul without any pangs. This can only be compared to reading the Bible. No matter how much you grow wise with age, no matter how much you improve, the great book will always be at the level of your development, always bestowing comfort and offering a comprehensive answer to any question you may have.

To be perfectly consistent, one cannot help but say that the breed, that the quality of an instrument is, for a professional musician, his destiny.

When we deal with an Italian, almost always the measure of diligence and talent invested in making a violin far exceeds the measure of diligence and talent of the musician who owns the instrument in question. The violin then becomes a faithful partner and even a mentor, constantly inspiring and dragging the performer along, not allowing him or her to descend into creative indifference. A violin that is inferior to a musician's talent in performance is bound to lead to emotional indifference, because it, like a woman who is fully acquainted and no longer excites a man, loses the magic of attraction at some point.

The artistic fate of the violist Bashmet is quite telling in this respect. In my deep conviction, he was one of the most talented, most promising musicians of our time. And it was only the absence of a truly great instrument at his disposal that prevented him from realizing his talent to the full. Yuri Bashmet plays on a well-preserved Italian instrument made by the famous master Testore, to be precise, a specialist not of the first order. There is no doubt that in the creative biography of the violist Bashmet there was a borderline situation in which the measure of his great talent exhausted the measure of the talent of the violin master Testore. It was necessary, whatever the cost, to switch to a better instrument, most likely a Stradivarius. And then a qualitatively different horizon would have opened up before the artist Bashmet, and the musical world could have been faced with a truly great artist, I would not be wrong in assuming that he was on the scale of Oistrakh or Menuhin. In fact, the secret of the creative longevity of all the greatest virtuosos lies in the genius of their instruments. Perhaps only Paganini alone was able to exhaust the genius of the Guarneri Del Gesù. To his great regret, nothing of the sort happened to Bashmet, for various reasons, and then other events inevitably followed, already as a consequence of his creative dissatisfaction.

Perhaps it is time to remember that I am only a violinist. So I propose to turn directly to my beloved craft. Some inveterate hunters of Stradivarius' secrets in their innocence naively believe that the old Italians knew the recipe for the miraculous elixir with which one should only sprinkle an ugly little violin and it would turn into a beautiful princess like a frog. I have to disappoint you right away. Raising a real Italian pedigree is quite a troublesome business, it requires considerable effort, inquisitive mind and firmness of spirit. The unique acoustic possibilities of old Italian instruments, the inexhaustibility of their musical fund, are the results of a whole series of brilliant, unusually witty technological methods. It is just these technological wisdoms that I intend to share with contemporary violin-makers. And right away I would like to state that I will do it not out of mercy or compassion for today's masters, but only and exclusively out of love for art, for its majesty, the Music. I hope that armed with my recommendations, violinists will be able to properly organize the creative process and significantly improve their skills.

According to my long-term observations, the acoustic quality of a future instrument depends by thirty percent on the correct execution of carpentry work. This includes the careful fitting of all the parts of the violin, the shaping of the vaults, the choice of thicknesses and, of course, the glue assembly. Sixty percent of the sound quality of the instrument will depend on the impregnation primer used by the master. This is the most important, most sacramental operation, the quintessence of the whole creative process. If even a violin that is not the most successful, in terms of carpentry, is impregnated with the right primer, it will sound quite decent. But if you leave it without primer, even if it's first-class woodwork, you'll get an unimpressive, unborn child. The remaining ten percent I give to the ability to prepare a special varnish and carry out a proper coating. This is also the sequence listed above, and I will try to argue what the classic Italian technology consists of.

So, having gathered our thoughts, let us begin the carpentry operations. Usually the master uses an auxiliary violin block, on which he begins to form the frame cartridge of the future instrument. He glues four corner and two straight (upper and lower) flaps onto the block. Then he takes blanks for the shells, in the form of thin maple plates, and begins to bend them on the heated iron, after a preliminary soaking. This method ensures exact conformity of the shape of the shells to the external outline of the auxiliary shoe.

And immediately, only at this operation, which is performed by all without exception, the modern master irrevocably ruins the future instrument. As a matter of fact, after bending the obverses on a hot piece of iron, continuing to build a violin makes no sense at all; such an instrument will never have a sound of its full value. The fact is that the great Italians never in their lives bent the shells the way modern craftsmen do, that is, they did not repeat the hot curvature of the shells along the entire perimeter of the auxiliary shoe. They did it in the following, incredibly witty way.

First of all, the Italian bent two small blanks for the esses and immediately glued them between the corner flaps. After drying, the master shaped and sharpened the corners adjacent to the esses. Next, he took two long blanks for the shells, which will frame the upper and lower oval, and bent on a hot iron (please note) only the places of contact of the shells with the corner flanges. That is, the entire plate still remained straight, and the curvature was subjected to limited extreme zones, repeating the radius of the corner flanges. After such a preliminary operation, the master glued a blank of the future, let's say, the upper oval, to the upper clot. He waited until the glue had dried well, and then (please note) with force, without any wetting and heating, pulled the curved end of the straight shell to the corner bracket. I fastened the tightened end with a screw clamp and was sure that this shell would forever work in my future violin, as a kind of acoustic spring. This was how the entire violin frame was shaped in an unconventional way.

Unlike today's hot-tempered, disfigured oboes, Italian violin frames are full of energy from the very inception, capable of performing the very important function of auxiliary springs, greatly enriching the sonic palette of the future instrument. By the way, well-aged maple has an excellent structural memory. There was a time when even the movements of wall clocks had springs made of maple wood.

It should be clear that then this whole, full of internal energy, frame construction was glued to the made bottom soundboard, after which the auxiliary violin block was safely removed. The violin half-body obtained in such a witty way turned out to be much more reactive than today's semi-finished products devoid of inner energy. It only remains for me to congratulate all violinmakers that they have moved one step closer to the Italian coryphaei.

Incidentally, I am not inclined to praise Antonio Stradivari's services to the world of music so unconditionally. You have to realize that young Antonio, at a very early age, was taught the sacred Italian technology in a completely finished form by his teachers. If any contemporary master had been in his place he would probably have been able to produce works not much inferior to the famous Stradivarius. The merits of the Italian school of violin playing for world art cannot be overestimated. Without the Italian timbre, all composition would have followed a far more primitive course. But this is not the merit of some particular individuals, albeit very talented ones, but of the entire Italian violin school.

For myself, I have come to the clear understanding that in addition to his abilities as a magnificent carver, Antonio Stradivari has two major achievements that require separate consideration. He was the first to reject decisively flat plate obblanking. I, of course, do the same. With Stradivarius, we made billets for obelisks in a special jugular shape, that is, with a small radius. That is why on instruments of Stradivari's golden period, and mine as well, you can always find a certain convexity on the upper and lower oval, as well as a distinct concavity on the essays. Jugular shells are much more springy than flat ones, they have extra dynamic reserve, which has a noticeable effect on the acoustics of the future instrument. Among other things, jug-like shells provide a springy interface between the top and bottom soundboard, as opposed to the rigid perpendicular interface of a flat maple shell. This, too, contributes to the overall advantage of Italian instruments.

The second of Antonio Stradivari's undoubtedly successful contributions to the art of violin construction is his alignment of the upper and lower decks to which the cloches are attached. By this method, the master aligned the frontal line of active wave vibration propagation across the violin decks, between the upper and lower cloches. That greatly improved the resonating responsiveness of the instrument. It should be borne in mind that any curvature along the wave vibration propagation front, according to the laws of physics, leads to their dissipation and damping.

In all other respects, Stradivarius adhered to the technology common to Italian violin makers of the time. Except that he was more artistically refined.

Thus, the traditional mistake of all contemporary violinmakers, without exception, is the totally unfounded notion that when making woodwork robots, the main requirement is to avoid internal stresses in the body of the violin. These tensions are bound to have a negative impact on the acoustics of the future instrument. Meanwhile, the great Italians solved the acoustic problems of the violin exactly to the contrary. They gave their instruments a fantastic reactivity, a willingness to respond immediately to any timid touch of the bow, precisely by giving them the right tension. In general, I believe that the complete absence of any tension is found only in the dead. Therefore, without exception, I reckon all the offspring of contemporary violin masters as stillborn.

And here's my first piece of advice. Look for, put the right tensions into your instruments. Do it during any carpentry operation; there are plenty of such opportunities in the process of making a violin.

Once upon a time a very clever Russian writer rightly remarked that "it's easy and pleasant to tell the truth". It is therefore very easy and pleasant to tell all violin-makers that the famous Italian primer is the usual liquid marble. As a small addition I would like to add that my personal way to this liquid marble stretched for twenty long, full of excruciating searches, years.

The problem of the Italian violin ground is the greatest enigma in the history of instrument construction. As a matter of principle, there are no satisfactory theoretical generalizations about this enigma, so it is not necessary to refer to authoritative sources. All that I intend to set forth about the Italian soil must be taken as the result of my personal observations and inferences.

Marble, both as an artistic and as a building material, has held a predominant, exceptionally honorable place in the life of Italians since ancient times. For a long time Italians tried to get liquid marble. They wanted to learn how to coat earthenware and wooden household furniture with liquid marble for beauty and durability. They wanted to be able to glue together with liquid marble, firmly and invisibly, unsuccessfully broken off pieces of material, when making marble sculpture, when constructing ancient temples. Many things the Italians wanted to learn how to do with liquid marble.

As you know: "If you suffer long enough, something will work out. The Italians, too, of course, were sure to get something. What we sometimes contemptuously call "alchemy", in fact, was once a developed science, with a whole complex of knowledge accumulated over the centuries, some of which we have lost for ourselves irrevocably. Much of what the forgotten alchemists did masterfully, we still do not know how to repeat, at least to get the same violin primer or varnish. As a token of my appreciation, I always have a reproduction of the famous painting "The Alchemist Discovering Phosphorus" in my studio.

If you peruse Simone Socconi's book The Secrets of Stradivarius, be sure to note the place where he describes covering the monumental cabinet and panelling in the choir of an ancient Renaissance cathedral, even before the violin age. After careful research, Socconi came to the firm conclusion that the substance of the soil on the fifteenth-century furniture was the same as that which was later so brilliantly used by classical violin makers. To question Socconi's conclusions hardly seems possible. He was a specialist with an impeccable reputation and unsurpassed practical experience with unique Italian instruments. From which it inevitably follows that the violin-makers had nothing to do directly with the discovery of obtaining liquid marble. They only very skillfully used what had been accumulated by their predecessors in the form of tireless alchemists.

In reality, it is probably not so important who first learned how to make liquid marble. It is much more interesting for us to establish whether the violin makers knew how to make the instrumental ground with their own hands or did they acquire it in ready-made form? It seems to me that no violin-maker has ever been able to make liquid marble and hardly had any idea how this unconventional action takes place. This is evidenced by the following objective facts.

First, it should be borne in mind that the practice of using marble preparation fell out of Italian violin technology literally overnight. The time is known with certainty, in the second half of the 18th century, when an insurmountable boundary arose between the classical period and the entire subsequent world culture of musical instrument construction. There was a real collapse of quality, a complete degradation of the acoustic parameters of the violin, which was caused solely by the absence of the Italian ground.

One cannot ignore the fact that in the second half of the XVIII century in Italy there were hundreds of musician's workshops fully working and a great number of masters were giving out their production and all of them, without exception, used liquid marble for instrument priming. A legitimate question arises: why did all the masters all at once give up the priming with liquid marble, if this method was a decisive success in their technology? And if we consider that in many workshops worked whole dynasties of violin masters, we have to admit quite incredible, as if the fathers refused to pass the secrets of skill to their children. All together we are convinced that the violin masters did not possess the secret of obtaining liquid marble, but rather acquired it in finished form from others. In fact, the fathers had no sacred knowledge, they had nothing to pass on to their children, which is why the glorious period of the great Italian violin came to an end at the end of the 18th century.

Secondly, it is necessary to realize that the technology of obtaining liquid marble is incredibly difficult. Suffice it to say that even modern academic science is not able to reproduce the Italian soil, although many such attempts have been made. All of them remained inconclusive. It is fair to doubt that every violinmaker who worked in virtually medieval Italy had the necessary set of knowledge, and indeed the technical means, to carry out the full cycle of necessary chemical reactions, if even a modern scientist is not able to perform this in his laboratory. As a person who has overcome the whole multi-way way of obtaining liquid marble, I categorically do not allow the possibility of making the ground by the violin-makers themselves.

However, someone in Italy was engaged in the production of liquid marble for the needs of violin-making? Of course, was engaged, and here is my version.

In Soviet times in our country was widely known popular magazine "Knowledge is Power". Even earlier, the Roman Catholic Church followed this rule more consistently than anyone else. The Roman throne did not hesitate to defend its monopoly on knowledge, even at the fires of the Inquisition. What can we say if, before the great Reformation, the ordinary reading of the Bible was strictly forbidden to ordinary citizens. There should be no doubt that all sacramental technological knowledge, which included the production of liquid marble, was under the indefatigable Catholic patronage.

And now the moment of truth. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the production of violins in Italy took on the scale of a developed industry, which was accompanied by considerable money circulation. The Church has at all times distinguished itself by its indifferent attitude toward the golden calf. For the possession of people's souls is certainly a pleasant business, but with abundant sustenance and luxury, it is doubly so. The hierarchs concentrated in their monasteries a closed production of liquid marble and safely supplied it to violin masters for a good payoff. In such a simple way was restored a fair balance in nature, because here you have a papal indulgence and a kind of income tax in favor of the Holy See. The technology of production of liquid marble is quite multitrack, therefore the whole process was scattered on different monasteries and only the limited circle of persons had full representation about all chemical transformations. All together, at a certain closedness of monastic life of those times, provided the monopoly with reliable protection and an enviable income. Such fruitful cooperation between violin makers and the Catholic Church lasted until the second half of the eighteenth century. And isn't this what the author's etiquettes on the violins of the great Italian masters attest to. If you look around, you will find all the signs of the Catholic will on the etiquettes of Guarneri and Stradivarius. That is to say, not only did the Church not hide its participation in the creation of the Italian violin, it openly pointed it out with prints.

From the middle of the eighteenth century, enlightened Europe began to be overwhelmed by the restless waves of bourgeois revolutions, prompted by the urgent need to reformat civil society. Inspired by impending social change and guild solidarity, violin makers began to refuse to pay exorbitant fees from their income to the church, through the purchase of liquid marble. In all likelihood, at first they tried to bargain, reasoning that the lion's share of the labor fell on their shoulders and, therefore, the main credit for the triumphant march of the Italian violin belonged to them. The Church, for its part, believed that without its inestimable knowledge, without its secret technologies, the Italian violin was worthless. By the way, it believed quite reasonably. The Church is the kind of authority that has no right to concede, by definition. Therefore, the cordial alliance between violin masters and Catholic celestials was safely dissolved. That was the end of the great era of the unsurpassed Italian violin.

I am convinced that the first violinmakers who used liquid marble as a primer for their instruments hardly counted on such a phenomenal effect. They did so by sticking to traditional furniture techniques. Here his majesty "Chance" showed itself in full force. We were all incredibly lucky that the marble so successfully transformed the acoustics of the violin.

The dry, well-aged wood is phenomenally greedy to absorb liquid marble. Suffice it to say that the finished maple soundboard, infused with liquid marble, becomes 10-15mm wider in the lower oval, depending on the grade of material used. As it dries, the soundboard shrinks, of course, but never returns to its former parameters. There are always two to three millimeters left over, which indicates the presence of very powerful excessive forces in the structure of the wood. The marble embedded in the violin soundboard as if from the inside expands it, giving the future instrument its unique Italian reactivity. The internal energy brought with the help of the ground turns out to be so impulsive that the soundboard literally flares up in the assembled instrument at the slightest excitement. And here is my next piece of advice to all violin makers: be sure to prime your instruments with liquid marble. Don't be afraid of oversaturation, because "you can't spoil your porridge with oil."

What else can I add? For those who wish to make their own violin primer based on my recommendations, the most natural first step is to try to dissolve a piece of marble. The easiest way to do this is with acetic acid. The chemical reaction will give you calcium carbonate acetate, which, in principle, is not difficult to impregnate the wood with. Just don't be in a hurry to triumph "victoria." Be aware that my twenty-year search just fell within the distance from calcium carbonate acetate to liquid marble.

I have long observed with great internal irony the stupidest dispute, which has been going on for more than two hundred years, about whether Italian violin varnish was alcoholic or oil-based? The fact is that this formulation of the question has nothing to do with the problem of ancient Italian varnish at all. The varnish of Italians could be anything: either alcoholic or oily. All the unique advantages of varnish, with which classic Italian instruments are covered, are due to its composite nature and nothing else. The difference between an ordinary varnish and the varnish of the great Italians can be best illustrated by the difference between mortar and structural concrete. As you know, structural concrete is always composite, because in addition to mortar, it also contains crushed stone, i.e. insoluble fractions. Similarly, Italian violin varnish, whether alcoholic or oil-based, is filled with insoluble crystals: if the varnish is colorless, then the crystals are colorless, if the varnish is colored, then the crystals are intensely colored.

Remember Socconi, who states with certainty that if an Italian deck is wiped with a tampon soaked in alcohol, it leaves a rough surface that is easily soiled. Here is a direct confirmation of the presence of insoluble fractions in Italian lacquer.

The idea of composite violin varnish itself is by no means new. Mention of recipes for such mixtures can be found, for example, in Davidsen or Meckel. They cite specific compositions of alcohol varnishes in which a large amount, up to thirty percent, contains ground glass. Specialists are familiar with Charles Reed's critical discussion of the "glass powder" in Davidsen's Cremona varnish.

Curiously, the same Charles Reed, it seems to me, made remarkably accurate observations on Italian lacquer which confirm with absolute certainty its composite nature. Charles writes that when examining Italian coatings we have the sensation of looking through a colored magnifying glass at the texture of a violin deck. This extremely subtle and correct observation, from the point of view of physics, must be seen as a manifestation of the effect of double ray refraction. If I may say so: as a manifestation of the "Icelandic spar" effect, which gives an optical magnification on a flat surface.

The birefringence of Italian lacquer is also indicated by the presence of dichronism, which can be observed on the best classical instruments. This is when the color palette visibly changes, depending on the ambient light. Again from a physical point of view, a homogeneous medium will never provide the effect of birefringence; this requires composite conglomerates whose structure contains elements with different angles of light refraction. So, the secret of Italian lacquer is quite simple - it is due to its composite nature, and in the selection of the formulation you should be guided by the effect of birefringence.

I must confess that I personally have never even tried to make lacquer according to the recommendations of Davidsen or Meckel, because ordinary glass is simply unable to reproduce the effect of birefringence. I always understood that for this purpose it is necessary to learn how to grow special crystals artificially, which, in combination with the lacquer mixture, are able to give the appropriate optical effect. And I learned how to grow such crystals.

Simone Fernando Sacconi provided invaluable assistance in my search for the technology of growing colorless and colorless crystals. He was extremely precise about the initial ingredients for growing lacquer crystals: calcium carbonate, potash and aluminous alum. However, Sacconi certainly did not manage to reconstruct the full Italian technology. Still, my third piece of advice is to be friends with Sacconi; undoubtedly he was a knowledgeable man.

I do not think that Italian violin makers knew how to grow crystals of different colors for their composite varnishes on their own. The technology of obtaining this preparation is quite complicated and most likely the same system was involved here as with the supply of liquid marble. On the whole, however, the case was probably not without continuity. As far back as medieval Italy, artists used special pigments to trowel the unrivaled Venetian oil paints. The secret of the preparation of these paints has long since been lost. But the connection between the recipe for Venetian paints and the ancient Italian varnish undoubtedly exists and is even visually traceable.

I see my real help in matters of making Italian lacquer in the fact that I am ready to send to any violin-maker samples of intensely colored composite crystals that I obtain artificially. These crystals are great for coloring any varnish and give a wonderful optical effect. Contact through my personal site

Always ready to respond to a serious request.

Boris Dmitriev.